Fortis builds on heritage to meet new client challenges
Fortis Prime Fund Solutions, the largest hedge fund administrator on the Isle of Man and one of the biggest worldwide, is building on an established heritage - down to the historic listed building which forms part of its complex of facilities in Douglas - as it plays a leading role in the island's development into a centre for the industry, characterised by innovation and high levels of service quality.
The Fortis group has grown from its roots in the Benelux banking and insurance industry to become a global financial services powerhouse. The Isle of Man operation has its own Dutch background, having been launched in the 1980s by Pierson Heldring & Pierson, a bank that which subsequently merged with Bank Mees & Hope. By the time Fortis acquired MeesPierson from ABN Amro in 1997, the Isle of Man office had emerged as a pioneer of the island's small but fast-growing fund services industry.
Since then, the fund industry, which gained momentum with the launch of Experienced Investor Funds and Professional Investor Funds nearly in the mid- to late 1990s, has undergone a comprehensive renewal with the introduction last year of Specialist Funds, adding to the island's appeal to alternative fund managers. In parallel, the presence of groups such as Fortis has created a critical mass of service providers and boosted the Isle of Man's total assets under administration to more than USD50bn.
Fortis Prime Fund Solutions has been able to carve out a substantial market share because of the range of additional services it can offer fund sponsors and managers by virtue of its position as a large global banking group, such as the provision of bridging and leverage finance.
In an environment where many alternative fund managers have suffered from uncertainty about funding, Fortis's increasing involvement on the prime brokerage side of the industry provides a comprehensive service offering and the solidity required by managers for long-term planning.
The group's global strength and its substantial resources base are reflected in the readiness of the Prime Fund Solutions business to invest in the state of the art software required to underpin high levels of customer service, having implemented Advent's Geneva for fund accounting and Koger's NTAS for transfer agency.
The ability to complement human skills with the most advanced technological facilities and a reputation for operational excellence is vital to provide fund managers with the levels of portfolio oversight and reporting capabilities they now come to expect. But the standing and capacity of a fund's administrator in areas such as asset valuation, NAV calculation and shareholder services functions is also an increasingly important factor when institutions such as pension funds and insurers are taking investment decisions.
The growth of the Isle of Man's fund industry over the past few years has been matched by the expansion of Fortis's operations and a nearly 50 per cent increase in staff headcount to 65 over the past two years. However, the office is also able to draw on the specialist capabilities and deep human resources pool of the group's global network.
To ensure timely and accurate delivery to clients of asset valuations, NAV calculations and other important information, Fortis is now able to link up its offices in different time zones. When the working day begins in the Isle of Man, key tasks have already been completed by staff on the other side of the world.
Kevin Doyle is managing director of Fortis Prime Fund Solutions (IOM)
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