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At the time, as a result of the gold rush, Melbourne was one of the richest cities in the world; individual and community wealth exploded in the late 19th century and the establishment of new public institutions and commercial enterprises flourished in line with the confident mindset of the people.
However, many of Victoria’s newly wealthy families and business owners did not necessarily live or spend all of their time in Melbourne. Or indeed, in the thriving regional centres in Victoria that were home to the gold fields, or the farming properties that buzzed with activity to keep up with demand for food and goods from a burgeoning population. Many spent long periods of time back in the UK.

It was a time when management of property and finance was men’s business, and the males in the household controlled the finances – although they often did not outlive their much younger wives. If the head of the household died, the family’s security was at risk.
And so, the necessity of the trustee – and trust structures – was born alongside the development of estate planning as a necessary part of a financial plan to secure family succession and security of assets. They were services which enabled those charged with the responsibility of taking care of a family and building the family wealth, to lock in protection and leave clear directions for how it should be managed in the absence (through death or long overseas journeys ‘back home’) of the head of the household.

For a multitude of reasons, the idea of engaging a specialist trustee made sense; then as now, family dynamics can be complex and so can the financial structures that support them; circumstances can change. The difference back then, was that it was less likely there was extended family in Australia to leave responsibilities to – and certainly the fact that money was held physically in cash ‘somewhere’ heightened the risk of loss or theft.
The circumstances were right for Equity Trustees, which began offering not only estate planning services but also estate administration, trust management and various trust structures including testamentary trust, family trusts and perpetual charitable trusts. These services remain at the heart of Equity Trustees today – indeed we are fortunate that some of the families we served at our very beginnings, we still serve today.

What is very different today is that the division of decision maker and beneficiary is thankfully no longer split along gender lines.

Equity Trustees acquired ANZ Trustees in 2014, inheriting a national footprint, and a much more diverse client base which presented new opportunities to adapt our core expertise to service contemporary requirements for a trustee. This included not-for-profit investment services, Indigenous and community trusts, active philanthropy for those wishing to give during their lifetime and granting and compensation trusts.

“We are privileged to be able to work with First Australian communities by assisting them to manage their wealth as they look to build capacity and security for future generations, while acknowledging the important connection they have with their traditional lands,” said Ian Westley, Executive General Manager, Trustee and Wealth Services.

“Our business is full of great stories of where we have made a difference often in what are very difficult circumstances. For example our compensation trust team work with individuals and families, where someone has suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of medical negligence or a transport accident, to ensure the funds sustain them, and any medical or health needs they have. It’s a high-touch service – usually involving partnering with family and a network of carers, specialists, therapists and health professionals.”

Ian believes Equity Trustees’ history and success is based on a clear and unwavering focus on our fiduciary responsibility, which ensures we put the immediate as well as long term interests of clients first.  “We’re always very careful to prioritise our clients – they are people just like us, and they deserve best quality service and security.”
Hear Ian talk about the development of Equity Trustees’ services by watching this short video.