Martin Wurth and Kristof Meynaerts (Clifford Chance): Helping clients focus on their core business
What opportunities do you see in the financial sector?
Kristof Meynaerts (KM): Luxembourg is the second largest fund domicile after the U.S and the largest investment fund centre in Europe, reaching record assets over 4,5 trillion EUR, and that is only taking into account the regulated funds. Luxembourg being a global hub for funds, attracting fund sponsors and investors from all over the world, we are best placed to assist clients with global fund raises. We bring local expertise but in a global framework. Clifford Chance also plays a leading role in the financing of investment funds, and our funds and banking departments work very closely to deliver bespoke solutions to our clients.
Martin Wurth (MW): These funds require the servicing of various needs and in particular financing needs, where we assist a number of funds, as well as banks in the development of their activities. Our funds and finance teams are excellent at collaborating to deliver the required cross-practice financing product to our clients, be it borrower or lender side. Secondly, Luxembourg remains a well-recognised hub for wealth management and private banking within the EU which is likely to further grow in this space for high and ultra-high net worth individuals including in view of relocations to Luxembourg because of Brexit. Luxembourg has clearly also been a location of choice for operators in the insurance and reinsurance sector, which has known a tremendous development over the last years. Other opportunities reside in the fintech space where a successful cluster of operators has been established in Luxembourg.
“As a large firm, Clifford Chance invests in the latest technology and enjoys the benefits of its scale.”
What challenges does the fund and finance industry currently face?
MW: Some of the main challenges that we see, come from the tensions that have their origins in different political and regulatory pressures with which all financial institutions or other large organisations need to cope. On the one hand, there has been an increasing regulatory convergence and also regulatory pressure, which organisations need to deal with as the integration of financial markets continues across Europe and the OECD. As a result, there is more and more complex regulation which poses a risk for operators in case of non-compliance. Given this convergence, it is very important for our clients to get highly specialised regulatory advice but on a global level, which we as global law firm are ideally placed to seamlessly deliver. On the other hand, there are tensions that go into the opposite direction and originate from geopolitical movements that threaten to reverse globalisation and will result in a regulatory fragmentation of markets. Brexit is of course a prime example here, but also the prospects of new trade barriers, protectionism and even trade wars. For any player with operations on an international dimension, it is becoming more complicated to operate and invest. Assisting in the navigation of these waters is where clients turn to us and look for solid, yet pragmatic advice.
KM: I agree with Martin. One of the biggest challenge for our clients remains increasing regulation and growing business complexity regarding both domestic and cross-border issues. It is important to keep in mind that our fund clients’ primary business is asset management, not compliance. Thanks to the resources and expertise of our firm, and our strengths in the US, the UK, Asia and Continental Europe's main jurisdictions, we can provide seamless service to allow our clients to focus on their core business.The war for talent is also very strong. Luxembourg is an attractive place for local and international talents, but there is still room for improvement. Clifford Chance has a strong position in the international market and remains a leading law firm of choice for the talent of today and tomorrow.
“Thanks to the expertise of our firm and our strengths in both the UK and Continental Europe's main jurisdictions, we can provide seamless service to address our clients’ needs of complex legal advice.”
How do you help your clients respond to new trends?
KM: The technology solutions we use to deliver legal advice to clients are developing exponentially and are embraced at all levels in our firm from senior management to junior lawyers. As a large firm, Clifford Chance invests in the latest technology and enjoys the benefits of its scale. In addition, Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, the legal digital tech unit, continues to address our clients' regulatory challenges and to develop products to serve them better through in-house contract automation. Our clients recognise the ease of use of our platforms and this constitutes a clear competitive advantage on the market.
MW: Clients' requirements are individual and are also evolving. So we listen, then aim to provide the best mix of legal talent, support across the firm and technology for each matter. Our goal is to set new standards in the delivery of client service by applying our global expertise, embracing innovation and investing across the network in legal technology.
Clifford Chance Banking and Finance partner, Martin Wurth and Investment Funds partner Kristof Meynaerts say the firm’s technology solutions, along with its range of resources and skills across its network, are helping clients cope with increasing regulation and business complexity.