TMF Luxembourg's Paul Akkerman explains how he's adapted to life at the company amidst the disruption caused by Covid-19 and how he sees the funds sector evolving.
Paul joined TMF Group in late 2019 as Commercial Director, Fund Services, and is based in the Luxembourg office. With a wealth of experience in various markets, and seven languages under his belt, Paul assists clients and prospective clients in understanding the complexities of a multi-jurisdictional environment. He helps to create bespoke solutions for asset managers, from fund formation to SPV coordination.
Paul arrived at a time when TMF Group is ramping up its capabilities in the funds sector and investing heavily in technology solutions and service capabilities. His role is really about spending time analysing the global asset management sector and getting to grips with the ever-evolving needs of fund managers.
As such, Paul was busy travelling to different offices and meeting with colleagues and clients to explain TMF Group's fund capabilities. Then the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit. Businesses have had to adapt, and quickly. Paul discusses his first six months at TMF Group, how he's helping clients through Covid-19, and what's next for the funds space.
What attracted you to TMF Group? What made the fund services practice stand out?
"It may sound like a cliché but TMF Group's global reach is what really stood out for me. I grew up in Luxembourg, which is a melting pot of nationalities, and attended an international school from the age of six, where we learnt to understand different cultures and perspectives. As a result, I now speak seven languages – English, Dutch, French, Italian, Luxembourgish, German and Spanish. So the international nature of the job was a key attraction for me."
"TMF Group also has a real hunger and desire to grow its funds business, so the company is making massive investments in people, systems and technology. It's an exciting time to be involved."
How can TMF Group help fund managers to navigate this difficult operating environment?
"Covid-19 or no Covid-19, fund managers need to be able to focus on their core activity, which is investing. We help fund managers by taking away the burden of the day-to-day noise that prevents them from focusing on that core."
"Specifically, we help managers throughout the lifecycles of their funds, from set-up of the actual fund, to set-up of the underlying structures, the administration and reporting that comes with those structures, and the onboarding of investors. We provide the whole package. For me, that's not just a business plus but a personal plus, because working on all the different pieces throughout the lifecycle makes my job fun, interesting, and varied."
"We're all, of course, having to switch to remote working, but I honestly don't think that makes a huge difference to our service offering. Fund managers just want their funds to be administered well. It doesn't matter how and where. Our switch from 8,000 people working in over 120 offices around the world to virtually everyone working from home was seamless, thanks to the diligent planning and excellent execution from our global IT and Ops teams. We're well connected and the client remains at the centre of everything that we do."
What new trends are you seeing emerge in fund management?
"The sector is getting bigger. Bigger in terms of fundraising amounts and bigger in terms of the number of funds. Luckily, because TMF Group is so big, I have thousands of colleagues that I can tap into to help me find the right solution for each client."
"Luxembourg is strengthening its position as a funds hotspot. It's blessed with a progressive regulator that listens to the market. For example, the creation of special limited partnerships in Luxembourg, which mirror Anglo-Saxon limited partnerships, has boosted business because US and UK fund managers understand this structure and it takes away the pain of operating in a different jurisdiction. Total Assets under Management [AUM] is approaching $5 trillion, an amount which is second only to the US. That's not bad for a country of 600,000 people.
You've got the first six months under your belt. What are you expecting in the next six?
"Hopefully, I'll be able to travel again soon. There are still plenty of offices, colleagues and clients I'd like to visit. I'm looking forward to seeing colleagues face-to-face again. Of course, no one knows exactly what the future will hold but I'm expecting to see significant action in the fund space later this year. There is an immense amount of dry powder that can be put to work."
"The Dutch have a saying – 'nietkletsen, maar poetsen". It roughly translates as 'don't talk about it, do something about it'. I think it's important not to linger too long over the impact that Covid-19 will have. I'm not trying to downplay it, but let's try and not be crippled by it either. That resilient mentality is very much TMF Group's approach and I feel very comfortable in such an environment."
Working with TMF Group
As our clients and their investors globalise, they are shifting from generally using one main fund jurisdiction to raising multi-domiciled funds structured as a series of parallel vehicles. Present in all major financial centres, we meet the increasingly varied and international needs of asset managers both on- and offshore.
Wherever they are needed in the world, our global and local fund services support the structuring, formation and administration of investment funds and their underlying investment structures.
Our comprehensive fund services for private equity, infrastructure, real estate, securitisation and private debt funds cover fund domiciliation, including set-up and SPV management, fund administration, fund accounting and NAV calculation, fund governance and fund reporting, fund depositary, transfer agency and fund trustee services.
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