(Vandenbulke): Post-pandemic opportunities await for private equity
Head of corporate and partner Hida Ozveren discusses why she and her colleagues Séamus McCallion, Karine Lazarus and Luis Alberto Aguerre Enriquez decided to join Vandenbulke and says the outlook is bright for Luxembourg’s private equity sector.
What attracted you and your private equity team to Vandenbulke?
After 10 years with Loyens & Loeff in their Luxembourg and New York offices, and having ascended the career ladder, I felt the need to leave an institutional environment for a more entrepreneurial firm. Having gained professional maturity and the trust of my clients, I was ready to serve them in a new setting. Vandenbulke offered me the opportunity to incubate and develop our growing private equity practice, and benefit from their high reputation in the legal market for corporate finance. Luis Aguerre and Séamus McCallion were both enthusiastic to take up the challenge, and senior paralegal Karine Lazarus completed the team. We were drawn to Vandenbulke’s organisational approach and vision of the legal profession, as well as an open and collaborative environment, a long way from paternalist law firms or those with top-down management. The firm has a horizontal management approach, cultivates its independence, and maintains high quality standards while breaking down barriers between the corporate, finance and tax practices. This philosophy matched ours perfectly: we believe that the working environment in our profession must evolve towards greater teamwork, multidisciplinary advice, agility and premium services. Finally, clients are sensitive to cost and are no longer ready to pay high fees for junior advice.
"This is exactly how we work at Vandenbulke, where we can rely on a dynamic international team with members from all over the world who enjoy working together."
What specific skills and organisational capabilities does private equity require?
Obviously, technical skills and excellent legal capabilities are vital, but exposure to multiple transactions is essential to understand and embrace industry and market practice. A corporate lawyer must be highly organised, responsive and flexible at all times. Clients expect to be served at the snap of their fingers, and because they are located in many different time zones, reactivity and availability are a must. We also need to work together efficiently. My team has always been and will always be very important to me. Lawyers and other staff members are the primary asset of any law firm, and we need to build and maintain a strong team spirit to foster co-operation and keep enthusiasm and motivation on each project high, even during the sleepless nights. The client’s perception of the team’s attitude should never be underestimated. This is exactly how we work at Vandenbulke, where we can rely on a dynamic international team with members from all over the world who enjoy working together.
What challenges and opportunities do you see for Luxembourg’s private equity market in the medium term?
During the past decade, Luxembourg has emerged as a leading hub for private equity capital-raising and transaction activity. Brexit has led to further growth in the market, as many private equity firms have taken the opportunity to strengthen their presence in the Grand-Duchy. However, the challenges faced in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have been unprecedented, and private equity firms have not been immune from the general uncertainty. These are challenging times for the industry. Deal flow has diminished, and lockdown and restrictions have made it challenging to carry out due diligence and conduct deals when we cannot meet physically. However, we sense optimism and resilience in the private equity community, and our experience tells us that high-quality transactions will continue. There are still many private equity firms with plentiful cash available for investment, and the pandemic is likely to lead to opportunities for discounted deals – which should mean that private equity management companies will keep us busier than ever.