Fast-growing offshore law firm Harneys has boosted its Cayman Islands funds offering by hiring a team from Appleby. Ian Gobin, one of the new partners, spoke to Cayman Funds about his goals and the opportunities he sees ahead.
Ian Gobin, partner in Harneys’ Cayman Islands office, is heading into 2016 with a spring in his step. He is a specialist in the legal and regulatory treatment of investment funds, private equity funds and management companies established in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands (BVI). He recently joined Harneys, where he is actively building the firm’s client base in North America.
Founded in the BVI in 1960, where it retains a large market share, and led by global chairman Peter Tarn, Harneys has expanded rapidly in recent years. Last year alone, the firm opened new offices in Bermuda, Shanghai and Tokyo and made hires across almost all of its offices. In all, Harneys now has offices in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Montevideo and Vancouver, as well as the key offshore centres of Cayman, BVI, Bermuda and Cyprus, with a further tie-in in Mauritius.
Gobin joins Harneys from Appleby, where he headed the global investment funds team, and was a partner at Walkers prior to that. He moved offshore in 2001, having trained and qualified as a solicitor at Clifford Chance in London.
Since joining Harneys, Gobin says he has been impressed by the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of the firm, as well as its willingness to invest.
“I pulled together an ambitious marketing plan for targeting North America, hoping they would be willing to commit to the level of investment needed to make an impact in that market. Rather than quibble at what was needed, they told me they were 100 percent behind the plan,” he says. “Harneys has placed tremendous faith in us.”
Gobin is joined by partner Matthew Taber and senior associate Jonathan Bernstein from Appleby’s Cayman Islands investment funds department. Business development manager Michelle Bolingbroke also joined the Harneys team from Appleby. They joined an investment funds practice already recognised for its commercial and practical client approach; independent legal directories have described Harneys as “a formidable team in the offshore investment funds space” and having “a very deep investment funds bench”. The firm’s growing profile in Cayman particularly has resulted in its winning of key mandates, a trajectory which Gobin and the others aim to leverage.
When news of Gobin and his team’s move first broke, Tarn commented: “We have been making significant investments across our transactional and contentious legal teams in the Cayman Islands and alongside that building capacity in our corporate and fiduciary businesses.
“The addition of Ian, Matthew, Jonathan and Michelle is another massive step forward in our ability to offer clients the kind of comprehensive and excellent service they need from a full service Cayman Islands practice.”
A refreshing change
Gobin stresses that Harneys has a real entrepreneurial culture which represents a refreshing change for clients.
“The more I get to know Harneys, the more I see that its culture is different. It is a very positive firm and has been very supportive of us during the move here.
“Part of this is because Harneys has no real legacy issues. It has never had to reinvent itself and has no delusions of grandeur. It is also a truly global firm with its management team spread across a number of locations, which is a good thing. It means the ethos of the firm is different—it truly thinks globally and treats all jurisdictions equally.
“The partnership is relatively young. It is a tight-knit team of ambitious individuals working directly in the business every day. I have also worked with a number of the partners at Harneys before, and I know the level of service they offer clients is fantastic.”
In terms of his plans to grow the practice in North America, Gobin explains that Harneys will be linking up with a number of other service providers who are aligned with the firm.
“I can’t give too many specifics at this stage but we will complement their businesses and vice versa, delivering exceptional levels of service to our clients,” he says.
Gobin will primarily target private equity firms and hedge funds. He notes that the expertise he can offer is unrivalled, and with a focus on partners and senior team members, the value proposition is tremendous. This is coupled with transparent and value-driven fees that truly align the firm with its clients.
"I have also worked with a number of the partners at Harneys before, and I know the level of service they offer clients is fantastic.”
“The level of service is outstanding and we are more flexible in the way we work depending on the situation. Whatever is agreed is what clients get billed at the end of the process. It is about offering transparency.”
Win it, keep it
With a global philosophy of “win work and keep it”, Harneys has succeeded in a tough and competitive market by winning clients and then keeping them.
“It is about building relationships,” Gobin says. “We aim to help, not hinder, our clients and offer them real advice, which may extend to suggesting something different for a product because of the way it might be better marketed. That is a true partnership—and what makes clients come back to us time after time.”
He admits that it has been, and remains, a challenging period for the market, but notes that markets remain extremely healthy compared with recent years. He stresses that the market is now all about performance, with managers needing to prove their worth to investors.
“I have seen managers raise $1 billion quickly but if you are starting out with $50 million you will find it tough. It depends on the space you are in and your track record,” he says.
“Everyone has been through restructuring and regulatory changes. Now managers just have to show they can outperform the market. We are seeing a lot of interest in new funds. It is all about performance now.”
Ian Gobin is a partner in Harneys’ Cayman office. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
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