Back in February this year, Alan Booth became the Managing Director of Ocorian UK—an award winning alternative investment, corporate and private client administrator. As well as being a qualified lawyer, Alan comes from the Deutsche Bank’s Corporate Services Division. He has twelve years’ experience in structured finance, private equity and real estate structuring, meaning that he plays a key role in driving Ocorian’s enhanced corporate services offering, as well as driving the future of Ocorian forward.
In the following interview, Alan talks through his views on what the biggest challenges are going to be for financial firms, where disruptive tech fits into the future of financial firms and what the future of the sector looks like:
As a trained lawyer, what attracted you to a career in the financial industry?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, who went from a poor farming background in rural Ireland to each being successful in their own right, either through property, textiles or construction.
I always had a passion for the law and a strong business acumen. Working in a global bank for nine years and moving into the role of running the UK business for Ocorian, I’m lucky that I can continue to use my legal background to the benefit of the business: understanding and mitigating the risks in the industry and those affecting clients, whilst using my experience of working in a bank to constructively help clients navigate the myriad of detail when establishing their investment structures.
What has been the biggest change you’ve seen within the industry, in the last 12 years of your experience?
Banks retrenching from providing the full suite of transactional products such as fund administration, corporate trust and corporate services due to regulations, and the re-focus of banks on to core competences either in investment banking or retail banking.
This opens the market to increased competition from the bespoke and focused providers who, through a mix of infrastructure investment and consolidation in the corporate service provider market, have reached a level of sophistication with their offering to support complex transactions.
What impact has digital had on shaping the industry so far, in terms of your clients and their expectations?
Blockchain and the opportunities it provides to our corporate and fund client base requires us to be a responsive partner and we are looking to continually invest in how we transact and interact with those clients.
We are aware of the disruptive competition the likes of AirBnB has had on the hotel market, and search engines like Trivago on the travel agent industry, so we are not sitting still in ignorant belief that the corporate services industry is immune to going digital. As an example, we are investing heavily in our compliance technology to tailor and automate the KYC process.
What does it take for a financial firm to be successful in 2018?
Risk management is key to the success of all firms both today and in the future. The ever increasing levels of regulatory scrutiny, international transparency and data protection offer both challenges and opportunities for firms to differentiate themselves.
“Traditionally, what has been a very manual
industry is undergoing a substantial shift
with the use of robotics”
What makes Ocorian different?
Ocorian has been at the forefront of providing services to securitisations and structure finance transactions since the early 1990s.
Our highly experienced team, which includes qualified lawyers and accountants, manage a large portfolio of ABS, MBS, CLO, CDO and CP conduits. We have a broad knowledge in providing a range of services to complex and innovative structures.
Our capital markets expertise in London, Dublin, Luxembourg and Jersey along with our extended global footprint across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, enables our partners to consolidate their service providers into one conflict-free, independent provider for Corporate Trust and Corporate Services solutions.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for financial firms to overcome in the next decade?
- Regulations (GDPR, MIFID II, Securitisation Regulation) are all challenges not just to Ocorian and its peers but also to our clients. To reposition these challenges into tangible benefits and offerings to our clients is key to the success of our industry.
- Capital Markets Union – the focus of the EU to kick start the capital markets in Europe has its challenges for both the EU Commission and the market, particularly in the sphere of structure finance and the “skin in the game” requirements.
- Brexit – that Europe as a capital force does not lose market share particularly to the US, who will be able to drive market conditions without the considered input of the EU regulators and industry.
What would you like to see more of in the financial industry?
Greater equality and diversity. It has received a lot of air time of late, and rightfully so, but the gender pay gap in the finance industry—which in the UK is much wider than originally thought—must be addressed. We must prioritise diversity and inclusion. Not just within the larger financial and legal players but the small and mid-market players as well.
What are your thoughts on disruptive tech and its place in your industry?
What has been traditionally a very manual industry is undergoing a substantial shift with the use of robotics, which frees up employees to use their brainpower in solving problems.
Robotics allow us to efficiently and effectively support our clients 24/7/365. Ocorian has been developing and continually enhancing our robotic capability for over 25 years. Our robot “Ask Robert” can sensibly interrogate back end business, such as accounting, client take-on and banking applications and make consistently good, accurate, quick decisions and know when to hand off to a human. The efficiencies we can achieve translates in to a more agile and client centric operating model.
How does such a large global reach (with offices in Jersey, Guernsey, London, Dublin, Singapore, Luxembourg, Cayman, New York, Netherlands and the recent acquisition in Mauritius) affect the strategic development of the UK’s corporate services?
The UK is a key part of the Ocorian group and we are investing heavily into the UK business. We’re seeing a general move across the real estate holding and indeed the private client space to more ‘on-shoring’ of structures and the challenge is for Ocorian UK to be ready to support this shift.
On the corporate services front, we’re making strategic hires from investment banks and developing our capabilities in the corporate trust and agency industry. We’re seeing a seismic shift in banks retrenching from providing transactional services to securitisations and structure finance deals, particularly on the trustee, agency and SPV administration front.
We’re in the process of positioning Ocorian not just in the space of SPV administration, which we have been doing for over 35 years, but to provide corporate trust and agency. We believe that arrangers and originators would benefit from a responsive, agile, efficient one stop shop provider of trustee and SPV administration for their transactions. The geographical expansion of Ocorian into relevant jurisdictions makes this offering to clients even more compelling.
As thanks for Alan’s time, Propero Partners have donated £150 to a charity of his choice. Alan chose Headway as it’s a charity close to his heart. His brother has suffered from numerous brain tumours since he was three years old (now 30) and he has benefitted hugely by the Headway organisation due to the tremendous work they do in helping those who have suffered a brain injury or tumour achieve normality by helping them in to work placements. They also provide a forum for impacted individuals to meet others who have gone through similar trauma.
Propero chose Alan Booth as this quarter’s leader in professional services within the financial sector. If, when reading through this blog you’ve had someone in mind to win the leaders in professional services feature, then nominate them here for next quarter’s feature.
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