Head of UK Client Services, Nick Bland talks to The Drawdown to discuss his move from Deutsche Bank and the trend of consolidation within the fund administration sector. *
The Drawdown (TDD): You recently joined Ocorian from Deutsche Bank. Can you describe your time there and what prompted the move?
Nick Bland (NB): I'd started at Deutsche Bank (DB) as a part-qualified accountant in finance and wanted to learn more about banking products on the front office side before I jumped over to the business side. I was really attracted to it because I didn't just want to be an accountant.
After qualifying in 2003, I moved out of finance into DB's Corporate Trust business, working up through the ranks until I ran the EMEA structured credit client services team between 2013-2017. During this time, I adapted the corporate trust offering to what was termed CLO 2.0 - where complexity was removed: no pricey hedging, more rigid cash trapping structures and the like.
At the same time, DB was building its offering in the fund space, with my group acting as a loan servicing middle office because we had the infrastructure to do so. We developed this offering around servicing loans for private debt funds which became important at DB, especially to leverage technology in our service offering, so I spent time with the tech team building that up.
Finally, I spent the last two years moving DB's corporate services book over to the Vistra Group. Once I finished this project, I made the decision to look at pastures new and that's when Alan Booth approached me about joining Ocorian. I was really excited about the opportunity as I know that Ocorian is a dynamic and growing business and wanted to be part of its growth journey.
TDD: Your role is head of UK client services in London. Can you describe what this entails and what are your key focuses?
NB: I'm responsible for a team of 10 people who cover everything from private clients to corporate services, funds and corporate trust work. There's a big strategic focus on growing our private funds servicing franchise, as well as the corporate trust side of the business too.
Unlike my role at DB, which entailed two years of shutting a business down, our main focus here is building Ocorian's business up.
Following our merger earlier this year, we are integrating the Estera business, and the offices in Belfast and the Isle of Man really complement us in London. So we're very focused on that integration as well as building and scaling the business as a whole.
There's also a big focus on certain types of services and products emerging. Professional investor fund structures are currently going through legislation and we're taking the lead to work with all stakeholders across the value spectrum when they are launched next year. That way, we'll be extremely well placed to add this service to our product offering to clients.
TDD: In your most recent position at Deutsche Bank, as director - global head of client management, CIB - GTB corporate services, you led the divestment of the global corporate services business to Vistra. Can you talk me through this process?
NB: Like every other bank which divested such a business, it wasn't compatible with a capital markets/investment banking franchise. Vistra was a good fit and came to the table. From their strategic needs, they were looking for footholds, predominantly in places like Cayman and Delaware in the US, which they didn't have, as well as leveraging an operations model hubbed out of Mauritius.
A huge amount of work went into finding appropriate models for separation. In the end we had some 1,700 or so client structures we had to move. The main challenge was getting the legal documents executed in the various required forms because we had everything from debt issuance vehicles, employee benefit trusts, the works; everything across the private and public capital markets spectrum. We also had to get consents for various things based on documentation that often went back as far as the 90s.
From a regulatory perspective, we had to advise local regulators about our due diligence on Vistra in places where they didn't have a presence, so we helped them to build that out, demonstrating it could be done with minimal disruption to clients.
TDD: What is your take on the consolidation trend we're seeing in the fund admin space?
NB: There's a fast pace of change out there. If I look at our competitors, some have been on a rampant acquisition race. From our perspective, we're more considered and want to ensure we're doing the right balance of acquisitive bolt-ons and organic growth.
I think some of our competitors are having to digest and integrate quite a bit. That presents an opportunity to firms like us that we can use to our advantage.
Aggressive pricing is also another factor which does concern me a little, as I saw it happen in the corporate trust space. However, that's a life cycle matter and how it plays out as we await the tsunami of potential opportunities driven by the current environment, only time will tell.
Clients have to be at the centre of what we do. Adaptability is key, and whilst we don't run a book where every single thing is bespoke, there's still a lot of individual focus and attention.
I am really excited to have joined Ocorian. We have a great team and already we can provide bespoke fund administration and associated services in all asset classes; support across a range of capital market transactions throughout the transaction life cycle; and provide a full range of corporate and private client services. As we invest in our people, technology and infrastructure I know we will get even stronger and more successful.
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