Jervis Smith (Vistra Luxembourg): growing vistas
A keen cricketer in the past, Jervis Smith, Country Managing Director of Vistra Luxembourg, strategises in terms of playing the game. Vistra’s new senior management engenders team spirit making work fun. The team will also do the right thing, play by the rules and, crucially, learn how to win.
How is Vistra evolving?
When you aim for a 15% market share in the next five years you need a strong management team. We have reinvigorated our top team with recent recruits - all new to Vistra - so they bring new and fresh perspectives and ideas. Now, for the first time, the team includes a full-time Risk Director, and a Legal Counsel. We also have a new CFO, two new Executive Directors to run Operations and a new HR head. We are moving from an M&A-driven focus to a more organic growth strategy by acting as One Vistra – focusing on global growth as one group; empowering employees; being client obsessed, and doing the right thing. The strategy is based on clear business lines and client segments of corporate services, private clients, capital markets, real estate and private equity that also encompasses private debt. When you talk about being an employer of choice, that is about “how to win.” When we talk about challenges facing clients, that is about “where to play,” – we are looking at client needs and how best to service them and provide strong value through our expert solutions and services.
“It is difficult to have a strong relationship with a client until you have shared a problem.”
How are you positioning yourselves as an employer of choice?
I want to make work fun. To attract and retain the best talents, you have to create an atmosphere where people want to come to work. We are not offering people a job at Vistra, we are offering them a career. We do not want a style of command and control. We empower our employees; helping them to think like owners. During the pandemic, we managed remote-working employees without seeing them in the office. That not only generated flexibility but also trust. That’s not just in terms of their output but embracing integrity and ethical behaviour which are hallmarks of the trust and regulatory compliance that characterise Vistra.
What challenges and opportunities do you identify for your clients and Vistra?
As any client obsessed organisation should, we start with our clients’ challenges and opportunities – this is even more important now as Covid-19 has had a very different impact across many sectors. For instance, there may be changes resulting from remote working in the risk and opportunity dynamic between commercial and residential real estate. Predictions may be exaggerated as people will go back to work in offices. However, opportunities may arise in residential locations from which it is difficult to commute. For example, in such locations, retail real estate demand could go up, and residential-retail hybrid models could also provide solutions.
At Vistra, we put ourselves in a client’s position so we can determine how best we can help. For example, often our people sit on the boards of our client companies. Some of those companies face challenges arising from the pandemic. Our approach has been to run a corporate health check and hold emergency board meetings. While we discuss the challenges Covid-19 poses and the risks firms face, we also consider the opportunities it creates in such areas as real estate repurposing, private equity turnarounds and fund development. I have always said it is difficult to have a strong relationship with a client until you have shared a problem – that strengthens our trusted partnerships.