The independent Jersey Monterey Fund Report has confirmed Mourant's leading position in Jersey's funds market, with the legal and governance services firm named as the leading legal adviser to funds by assets, advising on 815 funds with an overall value of US$384.5bn, US$63bn higher than their nearest competitor, and jointly leading the new business table in 2020.
Monterey's annual independent assessment of regulated schemes provides the only comprehensive survey of service providers for all investment funds serviced in offshore jurisdictions such as Jersey.
Mourant, The Lawyers Offshore Law Firm of the Year for 2020, saw its core client areas all remain active, with the firm's new fund launches in 2020 68% higher than 2019.
Head of Mourant's Global Funds Practice, Ben Robins, said the volume of work undertaken in a uniquely challenging year shows the Mourant team and the Channel Islands' wider funds industry are resilient and servicing an increasingly diverse range of products, in an increasingly competitive market.
In a conversation with the Express, Ben explains what has kept the Mourant Jersey funds team and the wider Jersey funds industry busy through 2020.
Whilst there was a huge amount of market uncertainty and some anxiety as the reality of Covid-19 emerged in early 2020, the financial services industry globally and locally has shown great resilience, and thankfully that was reflected in a busy year for our Jersey funds team. As our joint leadership position on the Monterey new business table for the island demonstrates, a fair amount of what kept us busy was new fund formation work, for a combination of long-standing and new clients, and regular down-stream investment structuring and financing work. The market disruption of Covid-19 also gave rise to restructuring, refinancing and equity-raising work in some distressed sectors where clients had to manage liquidity issues or draw on new or additional sources of capital.
Highlights of the year included assisting CVC Capital Partners, leading private equity and investment advisory firm, with the launch of CVC Capital Partners VIII, which closed with a hard cap of €21.25bn and over 500 global investors. The successful launch was all the more remarkable given that it was achieved over a matter of weeks set against the backdrop of Covid-19, with global investors admitted in a series of 'virtual' closings. We were also delighted to advise Ardian on the establishment of the world's largest secondaries platform, which attracted $19 billion of commitments from 275 investors from nearly 40 countries. The scale of these transactions demonstrated the agility, resilience and innovation of all the service providers involved, including the Mourant team. We also advised another long-standing client, international investment firm, Triton, on the launch of its Debt Opportunities Fund II, which exceeded its initial fund raising target by 50%.
Whilst the core areas of private equity, venture capital, real estate and secondaries remained active, our new fund launches in 2020 also included technology, infrastructure, special situations (both real estate and corporate), debt and hedge funds. In private equity and venture capital, well-established managers were able to fund-raise relatively easily and deploy capital successfully in favorable buyer markets. We also assisted a higher than usual number of new, "spin-out" managers launching funds across these and other asset classes.
New real estate fund launches were quieter, as was transactional activity in the UK office and retail markets, but we worked on some key infrastructure projects (eg the acquisition of a £340m portfolio of non-core property assets relating to Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports; numerous Legal & General build to rent housing projects around UK cities and a new student accommodation fund) and, as home deliveries have come to the fore, the creation of a number of logistics investment platforms.
New and existing client managers raising or investing from debt or special situations fund platforms have also found themselves particularly busy as corporates sought alternative sources of funding against the back-drop of Covid-19 market disruption.
As our workflow for 2020 demonstrates, we and the wider Jersey funds industry are servicing an increasingly diverse range of fund products, which is very positive, but in an increasingly competitive fund domicile market, particularly in the context of European business. The availability of flexible, innovative regulatory products like the Jersey Private Fund has helped us as a jurisdiction attract and retain that diverse business, as has the quality and experience of our regulatory bodies and service providers, which has enabled Jersey to assimilate burgeoning global regulatory and reporting requirements, whilst continuing to on-board new structures and complete client transactions efficiently. There has been a levelling of the regulatory and operational playing field with the British Overseas Territories (the OTs) this year as they've adopted new private fund regulation and substance requirements, and this has created an up-tick of interest in Jersey structures from U.S. and other traditional OT users.
The team has responded magnificently and we're very proud of them. Covid-19 has left some facing tougher challenges than others, but all have shown amazing resilience and positivity and adapted brilliantly to home-working. The team's ability to complete smoothly the significant "virtual" multi-investor fund completions referred to above is testament to their commitment to their clients, colleagues and intermediaries.
Our team's approach is to work as supportively and seamlessly as possible with the fund service providers we partner with, and we're delighted to see our own team's resilience reflected across the Jersey and wider Channel Islands' fund industry throughout this difficult period.
Our confidence in home working now presents us with an exciting opportunity to offer our team greater work/life flexibility.
In the short term, the Covid-19-related trends of private equity, debt and special situations funds thriving is likely to continue, but in the medium term we anticipate, vaccines-permitting, signs of post-Brexit inward investment in the UK, particularly from Asian and US markets, driving a resurgence of interest in offshore structures for UK real estate and infrastructure transactions. The technology and remote-living trends that have emerged will continue to drive the creation of and investment by technology funds. Strong interest in ESG as an asset class definer and asset management discipline will only increase and we will be working to assimilate the new regulatory reporting requirements of partnership substance and mandatory disclosure reporting.
Life never stands still but these topics will throw up great opportunities!
Pictured top: Ben Robins, Head of Mourant's Global Funds Practice