Oliver Count of Wurmbrand-Stuppach, Founder of GWS Group tells us about corporate service provision.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Oliver Count: It is certainly a challenging time for everyone. Fortunately, everyone in my family is safe and healthy. Since we are spread over many countries and my private and business environment is also scattered around the globe, it is very interesting to see how different countries approach this subject in completely different ways. I live in Dubai myself. We have comparatively few restrictions here, and the government has done an outstanding job here.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GWS Group.
Oliver Count: I studied marketing in Germany and worked for one of the largest agencies before I found my way to the financial services sector – more by chance – and started my own business in this field as a trustee; first in the Principality Liechtenstein, and now for a few years, also in Dubai. We see very positive development, especially at our location in Dubai, as more and more entrepreneurs appreciate and use the advantages of a tax-free location.
How does GWS Group innovate?
Oliver Count: As a financial service company, we are constantly encountering new challenges – especially with regards to international tax law – pushing us to find innovative solutions for our customers. Topics like international structuring of companies, tax optimization, and advice on optimal tax strategies always require innovative and creative approaches.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Oliver Count: Unlike many other companies, we can look back on a very successful 2020. We saw a surge in business start-ups and relocations to Dubai, especially with European customers. During economically trying times, attractive framework conditions are of prime importance for companies and entrepreneurs. The cosmopolitan city of Dubai offers excellent framework conditions for this, supports innovative companies, and is also tax-free.
The United Arab Emirates does not have any taxation for private individuals or companies, which is of course very much appreciated by companies in the start-up phase. The tax burden in Europe and North America is often far too high, and start-up companies, in particular, struggle to keep afloat. With this in mind, we continue to see Dubai as the perfect location, which, by the way, had a very farsighted response to the pandemic. We don’t have a lockdown here.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Oliver Count: Since we can look back on a successful year, I am happy that we were able to conclude 2020 with the same team that we started the year with. We switched to a voluntary home office very early on, and so our entire team got through the year safe and healthy.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Oliver Count: The trust business is based on trust and personal contacts. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised that our existing and new customers switched to video calls and online meetings very quickly and without any problems, and an increasing number of customers have also started traveling to Dubai again. I am firmly convinced that, in our field, the personal exchange, the dining together cannot simply be replaced by a video call.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Oliver Count: Since we have 0% corporate and income tax here in Dubai, we cannot, of course, expect government grants to be handed out. However, businesses were offered discounts on rents and official fees. But since most companies were always open and operational anyway, the economy here suffered far less than in countries with a strict lockdown.
Your final thoughts?
Oliver Count: We live in dangerous times. The western world, in particular, is showing a strong drifting apart and division in society. In many places, the imposed policies have not managed to convince the population, and if we look at the enormous economic damage that has occurred and then realize that all of this has to be paid for by the taxpayer, then society should stand together and not be divided.
For an entrepreneur who sees his existence in ruins, it is of little consolation to know that he is “unfortunate collateral damage.” Certainly, you have to protect high-risk groups, but you shouldn’t forget that you also need a functioning economy, a free society, and perspectives, especially to get out of the crisis again. But if there is no perspective, many entrepreneurs will turn their backs on their current location or country and relocate their business to where the framework conditions are most attractive. Most heads of state have not yet understood that countries are in competition today more than ever.
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