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COVID has been a shock, but it’s time to look at the positives

5 March 2021

Daniel Jaffe

Managing Director Americas & ROW

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Daniel Jaffe

Managing Director Americas & ROW

View bio
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We’re excited to welcome industry veteran Thijs van Ingen to Intertrust Group. Thijs joined us in January 2021 as our new Global Head of Corporate Client Services, bringing with him nearly 20 years’ experience of working with some of the world’s largest multinationals, financial institutions and private equity and real estate fund managers.

Thijs has worked across many different disciplines and jurisdictions in both Europe and Asia, during his time in the financial industry, building up a clear picture of what firms need in order to be successful internationally. He’s arrived at a crucial time as we help our clients to navigate the complexities thrown up by the pandemic, expanding our core services with the client at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to act as a transformational partner to our clients and to help them run their global businesses seamlessly.

A month in, I sat down with Thijs to discuss his motivation for joining Intertrust Group, his initial impressions, his thoughts on how the industry is evolving amidst the pandemic, and what we need to do to remain at the cutting-edge of client service.

(DJ) So Thijs, if we start at the beginning – why did you decide to join us?

(TvI) Good question! I think both push and pull factors were in play. I’d been working around the world – in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, and Singapore – for the previous 16 years, helping multinational organisations from a client relationship and business development perspective.

Over that time, I got to know my company extremely well, and it was doing a fantastic job, but moving in the direction of primarily focusing on fund administration services. I wanted to continue my career in an environment where we provide a 360, holistic solution for various type of clients, encompassing the fund administration, but also corporate and capital markets services.

In terms of the pull factor, I was lucky to have interest from some of the top players in the administrative industry, and I picked the best! The industry is rapidly evolving and I like the fact that Intertrust Group is growing in the alternatives space from the bottom up, maintaining its strong background in SPVs and building good fund manager and investor relationships.

We wear a number of hats, which helps us to accelerate what’s possible for clients and support them in taking advantage of new opportunities. One client referred to us as ‘the Singapore Airlines of the industry’, which I thought was a nice touch.

We’re investing heavily in technology to stay ahead of the curve – what are your thoughts on technological advancements in the corporate services space?

Traditionally, it has always been a very manual space, but about six or seven years ago, the major players started exploring how technology could boost efficiency and introduce better oversight and transparency regarding core administration and reporting services as well as the increased regulatory and compliance requirements in our industry. Both from a client view and the regulatory perspective.

I’ve been impressed with our proprietary technology platform such as our IRIS Portal and our inhouse tech and reporting software for the financial industry, which is exactly what fund managers and multinational clients need in the digital and data-driven age. It provides clients with access on their terms – anywhere, anytime, any device – whilst enabling us to maintain and control the data for them.  It also has a strong emphasis on security, which is crucial in terms of protecting that data.

Yes, we made that pivot a few years ago and it’s been a great success. It’s underlined by our people, who we see as the gatekeepers of regulatory, client and investor relations; experienced professionals with the right skills.

The fact we have specialised teams on corporate clients, private equity & real estate clients and capital markets is very important. Each client type and investment area requires a specialist set of skills and industry knowledge. The industry has moved on and there’s an acceptance that a large multinational client has very different needs than a private equity or real estate fund manager. Another important point is that our people are well equipped and trained for doing business across borders; Our Luxembourg office alone speaks 21 different languages, which really helps our clients to communicate and do business with us globally.

These teams have the ability to deliver high-quality, tailored corporate, fund, capital markets and private wealth services – all with a view to building long-term relationships with our clients.

We have to mention COVID-19, of course. How do you see the pandemic playing out in our industry?

It’s been a shock, but I really think it’s time to look at the positives. The markets are sky high and I see a lot of new opportunities for ambitious fund managers in the more ‘COVID-resistant’ sectors, such as online retail platforms, the logistics business and utility providers. There was a lot of dry powder before the pandemic, and there’s even more now – some $2.6 trillion that needs to be allocated in the private capital space.

Even though 2020 was a rough year, there were still a number of positive developments for our industry. Ireland’s Investment Partnership Act, for example, modernised the law governing investment limited partnerships, making them a great option for implementing private equity, venture capital, private debt and real assets investment strategies in Europe. It positions Ireland as a challenger to Luxembourg, and this type of competition is healthy for the fund industry. Luckily, we have the privilege of remaining jurisdiction-agnostic, given our presence in all the world’s major funds hubs!

When it comes to communicating during COVID, what are your thoughts on virtual meetings? Any tips on boosting the creativity of virtual glasses of wine and cheeseboards!

Ha, I don’t know about creativity, but in terms of efficiency, I think the video chat platforms do a good job. The way we all communicate is evolving – it was doing so before the pandemic, and is now accelerating. Since I joined Intertrust Group, I’ve been involved in five pitches via Microsoft Teams and Zoom and was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it all went.

That said, we’re in a people business. I think online meetings do work well in terms of client relationship, business development and ongoing investments, portfolio management and so on, but when you begin a new professional relationship with a prospect or feeder it’s good to meet them in person. Hopefully, that will become possible again soon, and moving forward I think we’ll all use a more hybrid approach of in-person and online.

Finally, we’re all operating online at the moment, but where do you see yourself physically post-pandemic?

In my younger years, I lived in London, Luxembourg City, Hong Kong, and Singapore. All very exciting cities and regions – to work and live with my family.

Right now, I enjoy being in a global role in a central time zone in Amsterdam. It’s convenient and a great place for my family. I can have meetings with Asia in the morning, Europe in the early afternoon, and the US late afternoon/evening. Despite Brexit, I still see London as the centre of Europe due to its financial infrastructure and legal system, but the likes of Amsterdam and Frankfurt are strong challengers!