Hello and welcome to the Fides Weekly Update. Take a look at this week’s key trends, moves and developments in legal and compliance.
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1. Ropes & Gray downsizes in London
Four real estate and restructuring partners are understood to be leaving Ropes & Gray’s City office in the coming months, as management make the decision to better align London with its global client base.
Understood to be part of a strategic shift to re-focus these practices on the firms’ prized clients of asset managers, hedge funds, credit funds and direct investors, the partners were informed of the decision last week after they met with management who flew over from the US.
In addition to the managed exits, the head of the firm’s international real estate investments and transactions group Iain Morpeth will be retiring at the end of the year, in line with the firm’s retirement policy.
Despite this, such a move should not be seen as a sign of Ropes’ impending departure from the square mile. ‘No way is this a sign of retrenchment. Last year the firm overall had the best year ever. But when things are not working we need to fix them’ said London-based finance partner Mike Goetz.
The departures are also no reflection on the lawyers themselves, management insists.
The firm’s City branch has had a rocky time in recent months amid a number of partner exits and potential tensions arising from increased scrutiny from its US practice.
Having almost quadrupled the size of its London practice over the previous five years, last year saw Ropes’ City partnership shrink by 20% to 27 partners. Key departures include former London co-founder Maurice Allen, investment funds partners Monica Gogna and Anand Damodaran, who joined Dechert and Kirkland & Ellis respectively, and finance partners Mark Wesseldine and Fergus Wheeler to King & Spalding.
Despite this, the firm said its London base enjoyed it best performance last year amid firm-wide revenues of nearly $1.6bn for 2017 – a 7.5% increase on the prior year. It also points to the recent hires of Goldman Sachs loan negotiation group managing director Carol Van Der Vorst and Clifford Chance white-collar crime partner Judith Seddon as signs to boost its strength in London.
2. Prospects rise for Investec after announcing divestment of its asset management arm
After completing a strategic review of the business, South African bank Investec has decided to publicly list its asset management business in London, with a secondary float expected on the South African stock exchange.
The asset management division of Investec, soon to be listed as IAM, accounts for one fifth of Investec’s total profits, which currently holds £109 billion worth of assets under custody.
Looking to simplify the group’s structure, the bank have decided to focus its attention on the development of its specialist investment banking and wealth management divisions.
News of the restructuring comes after a major reshuffle in senior management for the bank. The bank announced in February this year that Investec founders Stephen Koseff (CEO), Bernard Kantor (managing director) and Glynn Burger (risk and finance director) will be stepping down from their leadership positions after 40 years at the helm, although will continue to serve as non-executive directors.
Koseff’s role will be replaced by former Investec chairman Fani Titi and founding CEO of IAM Hendrik du Toit, who are set to become co-chief executives of Investec. The pair will move into the new leadership roles on October 1, with Fani Titi expected to take charge of Investec ‘group’ and Hendrik du Toit to lead the new IAM business.
It is not yet know whether the spin-off asset management business will remain under Investec branding, and the demerger is still awaiting regulatory and shareholder approval. JPMorgan Cazenove and Fenchurch Advisory Partners act as lead advisers, claiming that the process should be completed in the next 12 months.
Investec’s shares rose by 11 per cent following the announcement.
Movers & Shakers of the week
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has appointed banking disputes partner Segun Osuntokun as London managing partner – the first for the newly formed firm
Clifford Chance has lured back a former associate Jeroen Plink to spearhead its technology unit and creation of new digital products
In a move that will significantly cut back the firms real estate and restructuring team in the city, four partners are set to leave the firm after discussions with management last week
Freshfields litigation partner Reza Mohtashami QC has left the magic circle firm for litigation boutique Three Crowns, in a move that will reunite him with several former colleagues
Ashurst has hired Chris Georgiou, the chief executive of Fieldfisher’s alternative legal services platform Condor, in a bid to expand its own offering
Osborne Clarke has added eight lawyers – including DWF head of employment Andrew Chamberlain – to its global network as part of a drive to strengthen its international bases
Brynly Llyr, the general counsel of prominent US blockchain network Ripple Labs has left the company to join cryptopayments company Celo
Former Serious Fraud Office (SFO) director Sir David Green has joined Slaughter and May, following months of speculation over his move to private practice
Fieldfisher has bolstered its regulatory practice ahead of Brexit by bringing in ex-UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s former legal adviser, Andrew Hood, from Dechert as a partner
Mergers & Alliances
Office Openings & Closings