Sandra Legrand (Alter Domus): a people-driven industry
While technological development is an important factor in remaining competitive, our services are above all about human capabilities and relationships, says Sandra Legrand,
Alter Domus Country Executive Luxembourg.
How has Alter Domus developed over the years?
Our company was created 15 years ago as a spin-off of one of the big four, and initially employed 80 people providing mostly Corporate Services. Today, we count more than 2,000 employees spread across 19 countries and over 29 offices and we offer a wider range of services, dedicated to clients active in the alternative fund industry. Our aim has always been to support our clients’ needs and this is reflected also in Alter Domus’ geographical expansion over the years: a combination of organic growth and developments in countries where our clients have needs. The opening of our Australian office is a perfect example. It was initiated as an answer to the needs of one of our largest clients, satisfied with our services in Luxembourg and Jersey, who prompted us to establish a presence in its home market. This does say a lot about our commitment to satisfy our clients, I presume. More recently, our latest acquisitions in the US -Carta Fund Services and Cortland Capital Market Services- have really helped us becoming global. While Alter Domus remains headquartered in Luxembourg with approximatively 800 employees, we are now pleased to count over 400 colleagues in the US and more than 250 in Asia.
“We are where our clients need us to be.”
How does your vertical integration strategy operate in practice?
Our vertical integrated model is fairly unique in our industry in the sense that it aims to support all the needs of asset managers, besides advisory functions of course. From Investors’ on-boarding, fund domiciliation, depositary and Management Company services, NAV calculation and regulatory reporting, we have the necessary skillsets, experience and people to support all of our clients’ needs from simple to more complex structures, both locally and globally. . Our aim is to always add value and enable asset managers to focus on their core functions. This is clearly crucial for our clients, but can only be achieved thanks to our people and the good relations that we are building every day with our clients. This is essential, especially in our industry where human relations still play an important role.
What trends do you see emerging in the future?
In Luxembourg, the alternative fund industry is extremely active, with strong demand for new structures in asset classes including real estate, debt, private equity and infrastructure. Last November, we moved into our new building in Luxembourg, but it is already too small to accommodate all of our people under one roof – which we could not foresee 5 years ago when we started looking for a new Headquarters’ location. As always we had to accommodate and this is what we will always do to satisfy our clients’ needs, address upcoming regulations and face any market turmoil. This is part of our DNA. With the advent of the Brexit, we do believe in the ever-greater attractiveness of jurisdictions such as Luxembourg, Ireland but also France and The Netherlands – countries where Alter Domus does have a strong footprint.
In the US, asset managers are slowly starting to outsource the administration of their funds, which has historically often been carried out in-house. We count on our extended footprint in the US to capitalise on this trend. With over 60% of our current clients headquartered in the US, we believe we are well positioned to take advantage of this new trend and eager to bring our 15 years of dedicated alternative industry expertise to the US. While confident for the future, we have to remain watchful. As Country Executive Luxembourg, I always need to anticipate the possibility of a future downturn and seek ways to secure our business and our employees’ future. Technology? As the others, we are continuously monitoring, assessing and considering new ways or means to remain competitive, but don’t get me wrong – it is people, not technology, who drive everything in our industry.