International Powerwomen: the movers and shakers 2019
Meet the women behind the headlines. From leading on global mergers of trust and fiduciary businesses, to coordinating the evacuation and relocation of a business team due to Hurricane Irma, to undertaking management buy-outs. Citywealth shares an insight into the women and their leadership qualities.
Rawlinson & Hunter BVI
Demonstrating the importance of leadership when disaster strikes, Annie Peliwan has spent the last 18 months leading Rawlinson & Hunter BVI through the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and not only helping the firm retain clients and staff, but also growing the business.
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed the BVI. Annie recalls, “the greatest challenge for me in the early days was trying to juggle the different elements happening at the same time. On the one hand, immediately after the storm had passed, the most urgent need was to check, quite simply, that the staff and their families were alive, on an island where there was almost no communication. Then there was the need to remove those staff members that wanted or needed to leave - one of our team was 8 months pregnant with no visa to enter the US so that created its own unique challenges. I remember thinking, I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I'm just an accountant!”
“I also needed to assist those staying that weren't leaving as far as possible - I remember the company making a bulk order of generators and hoping they would reach the team; there were no guarantees of anything at that time”, said Annie.
The aftermath of the disaster required special care of staff but also a focus on continuing client work with the same professionalism and efficiency as ever, despite the circumstances. Annie said, “Alongside the logistics which was demanding in a time sensitive and intense way, was also the human element - the need to understand the raw emotion of what people had been through - and to balance it with the need to try and be practical and indeed commercial - we also needed to get the business going again, to show the world that the BVI remained open for business so that clients wouldn't panic and start to move their work elsewhere”.
Reflecting on it all, she said “I suppose if there is anything to be proud of now, looking back, it's that we got through it, we made it out the other side, and we are probably stronger for it and closer as a team. That does make me proud.”
Nina Johnston has been working on a transformational initiative in the DIFC to deliver a progressive end of service benefits plan which will impact thousands of employers and employees. The DIFC Employee Workplace Savings (‘DEWS’) Plan is an initiative brought to life by the DIFC Authority in conjunction with Equiom as Master Trustee. Nina drew upon her experience with similar plans in the Isle of Man and DIFC to work closely with the Dubai Financial Services Authority to shape the regulatory framework. The overall aim is to increase security for employees and create a platform for employers to attract and retain talent within their organisations. “Importantly, the funds will be legally held by Equiom as Trustee for the benefit of the employees as opposed to the funds remaining under the control of the employing company for them to utilise as they see fit”, explained Nina.
Discussing the initiative, she added: “there have understandably been a number of challenges (not least time management given the short timeframe to implementation!). However, the team and I have enjoyed working with the DIFC and the project teams at Zurich and Mercer to navigate the various hurdles. Furthermore, Given Equiom’s global reach we have been able to draw experience and expertise together from across the organisation to deliver practical solutions to drive this exciting opportunity forward.”
In August 2019, Fairway Group and Oak Group announced their intended merger. Louise Bracken-Smith is CEO of Fairway Group, which has nearly 100 employees focusing on trust, corporate, fund administration and pension services, with offices in Jersey and Bahrain. Louise said, "Expanding into multiple jurisdictions has been Fairway Group's strategy for some time so a potential consolidation fast-tracks these plans and will make us a more significant player." The merger is subject to regulatory approval.
Boston Multi Family Office
When Katherine Ellis, former Group Director at Boston Multi Family Office was told by the former shareholders that they were planning to sell the business, her first move was to persuade them to consider a Management Buy-Out as a potential exit for the business. “My next job was to seek advice on potential funders and consider the options available to us. Following this I put together a pitch for potential investors and presented our business to them. Once we agreed on the funder we wanted to work with, the next task was to negotiate on the buyside with our former shareholders to agree the deal and then work tirelessly on the transaction until completion, which included obtaining regulatory approval in the jurisdictions we operate in”, she recalls.
Katherine describes the fundamental leadership qualities for achieving a successful MBO as “Resilience, drive and determination – you must have faith in the business, your team and your own ability, not just to put together, fundraise for and complete the transaction, but an unswerving belief in the future sustainability and success of the business you are running”.
Her advice for others? “Explore all options when it comes to funding and potential partners, and make sure that you have the right team on your side.”
In 2019, three business were consolidated into Oak Group. One of these was Kreston IOM of which Tanya O’Carroll, was managing director. Reflecting on the merger, Tanya said “Managing the objectives of various stakeholders whilst simultaneously ensuring that the impact on day to day business was limited was a challenge but manageable. As a team we worked closely to ensure everyone had regular updates and the opportunity to feedback on issues – particularly any delays”.
Vital to its success was good communication, according to Tanya. “Communicating with all staff members was key to make sure they were engaged in terms of the objectives and to help allay any concerns they may have had. There was a multitude of cogs in the consolidation plan which would have had knock-on effects within the greater group so internal communication was important to update on any changes or impact on the plan. We made personal calls to key individuals and held face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to ensure the corporate message was being communicated to all our clients in a timely fashion”.
Of the skills required to achieve the consolidation, Tanya points to organisation, the ability to identify and seek solutions, being approachable and identifying the key skills required to build your team.
Farah Ballands is the CEO of global provider of funds, corporate and trust services, Estera. This summer it was announced that Inflexion Private Equity would be acquiring the business from Bridgepoint and merging it with their existing portfolio company Ocorian to create a global corporate service and fund administration leader of significant scale. The combined business will operate from 18 jurisdictions and have over 1,250 professionals serving over 8000 clients. Farah Ballands, Estera Chief Executive, said: “‘This is a really exciting next step for our business and everyone who works for it. We are delighted that we will be combining with Ocorian, which with Inflexion’s support, will help us develop and grow the business even further. We look forward to implementing an ambitious joint growth plan."
Jessica will soon be making history by becoming Guernsey’s first female Deputy Bailiff. She will succeed Deputy Bailiff Richard James McMahon who will become Bailiff in May 2020. She said, “I am very excited about this change in my legal career and to have the honour of serving the Bailiwick of Guernsey as Deputy Bailiff. On a personal level it means that I am leaving my firm of over 21 years and private practice after almost 25. On a more macro level it perhaps represents a step change in judicial recruitment in the Bailiwick as I am not from the same background, career path or gender as my predecessors.”
Having served as managing partner at Mourant in Guernsey, Jessica is well equipped for the new position. “My role, particularly as managing partner, has been one where I have had to take responsibility for decision-making and be confident in the decisions that I have made.”
Her advice for others considering a similar path? “Back yourself and don’t create your own glass ceiling.”