‘Vistra 2020’ — Charting a decade that transformed corporate services

11 May 2020
Ten years on, what has Vistra’s flagship research programme taught us about the evolution of the corporate services industry? And, as we undertake the first study of the new decade, which trends are set to shape the industry’s future?

Origins in a fragmented industry

When we launched our Vistra 2020 study back in 2010, the corporate services industry looked very different to today.

The industry was heavily fragmented, with large numbers of single jurisdiction operators and niche providers servicing clients, often on a regional basis.

There were clear lines of separation between offshore, mid-shore and onshore jurisdictions — and the activities taking place within them.

Although myriad forces – political, economic and social – were reshaping the corporate services landscape, the industry was sorely lacking global, consolidated sources of insight into the changes taking hold.

Against this backdrop, we launched ‘Offshore 2020’, the first of our industry outlook studies. The aim was to bring together multi-stakeholder insights – from service providers and bankers to regulators and clients – to assess how the industry may develop over the decade ahead.

We wanted a big picture perspective. How would different jurisdictions fare? Which factors would exert most influence upon corporate and private clients when structuring future investments? Which regulations would have greatest impact? And how might the industry structure evolve?

Charting the corporate services transformation

It is testament to the industry’s appetite for an open debate about its future that we’ve seen participation climb each year and the report gain truly global reach.

As we’ve expanded our research over the last decade, we’ve brokered an industry dialogue, tracking and shedding light on key trends, such as:

  • Changing perspectives on key jurisdictions. As the industry has become more global and integrated, we’ve ranked the importance of key jurisdictions (see Figure 1). There’s been some blurring of the lines between offshore, mid-shore and onshore over time. But major finance centres have grown in sophistication, proving their resilience and long-term importance to the industry.
  • Shifting client priorities. In our 2010 study, privacy and tax planning were cited as the top drivers for the use of corporate vehicles. Yet by 2018, increasing client sophistication, asset protection and wealth planning were top of mind. While entities have remained fundamental to the global economy, the corporate services industry has observed important changes in underlying drivers for their use — and has responded to more complex requirements.
  • Regulatory transformation. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2010, a wave of politically charged regulation beset the industry. We’ve shed light on those developments with the biggest potential impact for the corporate services industry, from tax to beneficial ownership (see Figure 2).

New horizons — Vistra 2030?

The industry has adapted and thrived in a radically transformed environment over the last decade.

Our first study of the 2020s takes place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic with the world economy experiencing unprecedented strain. We will explore how industry stakeholders believe a series of disruptive – and often conflicting – forces will play out over the coming years.

  • Economic nationalism versus continuing globalization. How will the fallout from Covid-19, the rise in nationalist politics and the continued power shift to emerging markets impact global investment flows?
  • Regulatory convergence versus divergence. What should the industry expect next in areas such as economic substance, information sharing and international tax rules? Is global alignment becoming a more distant prospect?
  • Privacy versus transparency. Momentum behind financial transparency legislation continues to grow, but some provisions are being challenged on privacy grounds. How should legislators ultimately strike the right balance?

The report will launch later this year, with a new name and a fresh look as a clear statement of our intent to support the industry with research-driven insights for the decade ahead. We expect it will be every bit as transformative as the last.


Find out more about Vistra 2030 and download the report here