Interview with Paul Farrell – Since Walkers decided to open an office in Dublin last September the firm has grown steadily. There are currently 35 members of staff. Of these, five are lawyers working in the Investment Funds Group, which opened up for business 1 February 2011 with Walkers partner, Paul Farrell, at the helm.
Although it is never easy setting up shop in a new jurisdiction, a lot of research and planning, and identifying the right to people to recruit was done a few years beforehand.
As you'd expect of a leading global law firm, Walkers have hit the ground running in Dublin. Client interest is strong, with Farrell admitting that "we're seeing a number of clients moving over from domestic firms because they like the appeal of our global offering where they have one firm servicing their funds in the Caymans, BVI, Ireland, Jersey etc."
Given the strategic importance Walkers now places on Ireland as a jurisdiction, and the fact they've been there less than a year, developing the brand and not dropping the ball is key in Farrell's opinion: "We're recruiting ahead of demand and I'd hope that in twelve months' time we'd have double the number of lawyers in the Funds Group."
Client re-domiciliation, taking over other firms' clients and leveraging off the firm's global network have been the key business drivers for the Investment Funds Group so far this year, with Farrell explaining: "In terms of clients moving from other firms, we've handled about 10 mandates so far."
The firm is also assisting two clients as they look to re-domicile their funds away from the Channel Islands and BVI. Having offices in both locations is an obvious advantage and has "borne fruit" already in the context of clients looking to re-domicile to Ireland according to Farrell.
The reasons behind re-domiciliation are unique to each client, but broadly speaking UK-based fund promoters and managers with funds in the Channel Islands recognise Ireland's strong distribution capabilities because of the Ucits regime and investor familiarity.
In addition, certain BVI-based clients are now looking for a different level of regulation, either in response to investor demand, local regulator demand (e.g. France), or in some cases with large asset managers, simply preferring to launch more Luxembourg/Ireland products.
"We're assisting clients set up Ucits and complex alternative Ucits products. They have established platforms that they're simply adding to. We've also got instructions from clients in relation to managed account platforms, which are in the process of launching," explains Farrell.
Ireland administers roughly 43% of global hedge funds and is perceived as the leading European jurisdiction for alternatives. With the upcoming AIFMD causing managers to think more seriously about regulated products, Farrell believes it could well play into the hands, both of Ireland and Walkers. "We have a huge network we can leverage off in the US and the UK where managers are thinking about regulated products, not necessarily at the expense of the Caymans, but as parallel structures," says Farrell. "We're going to be in a perfect position to advise managers on how to meet AIFMD requirements."
"The key for us as a firm is ensuring that the lines of communication continue to be as strong so that clients, if and when they're contemplating moves, have spoken to the Irish office," adds Farrell.