Julie joined Highvern in September 2018 as a Senior Manager, bringing with her 14 years of experience in the fund services space. Julie discusses her journey from languages graduate to Highvern, the impact of consolidation within the sector, and her outlook for the industry.
The Drawdown (TDD): How did you get into fund administration?
Julie Gallon (JG): I’ve always loved languages so I decided to study German and Italian at university, but when I graduated I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Financial services is a big industry in Jersey, and both my parents worked in the sector, so I started looking for trainee positions, and that was how I came to work at Aztec. I was then hired as their very first trainee fund administrator.
I worked there for more than 11 years, progressing from trainee to client relationship manager, working on significant client relationships across private equity and venture capital. During my time there I became a Chartered Secretary, having studied through the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA). I moved to Elian in 2015, which later became part of Intertrust.
TDD: How did your move to Highvern come about?
JG: I had seen some of Highvern’s marketing and press releases regarding the launch of the funds business and it really appealed to me. It actually reminded me of the early days of Aztec; an innovative and client focused, owner-managed administrator.
Unfortunately, Highvern weren’t hiring at the time, but I was really keen to join so I sent over my CV in the hopes they would consider me if something did come up. Thankfully, it turned out fairly soon afterwards that they did need to bring in more people, and that’s how I ended up joining.
TDD: Your current title is Senior Manager, what does that entail?
JG: It’s a similar role to those held at my previous companies. I am a Senior Manager in the funds department and I run a team overseeing a portfolio of private capital clients.
I’m responsible for our overall client service levels, as well as managing client relationships. I also make sure the team are doing their jobs; guiding and mentoring them on their roles and providing them with access to training so they can develop. I’m also involved in day-to-day administration as and when the need arises, which is a natural aspect of being part of a senior led organisation.
Furthermore, I sit on some of our clients’ boards, which is beneficial as I get both points of view; I understand what the board and client wants and also what the administrator needs from the boards.
TDD: What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
JG: There are challenges in respect of project management to ensure we keep on top of all deliverables. To tackle this, we’ve developed an effective and manageable way to track data and at the same time provide clients unfettered views into our operations through live access to our systems. Our clients can monitor live activity our team is working on, monitor progress and drill down into every ledger posting, run multiple reports and export data. These systems have been a game changer for my team.
TDD: What is the most enjoyable part of your role?
JG: Every day is so different and varied. There’s the day-to-day, business-as-usual activities, and then a transaction happens and it’s all hands-on deck. While this is challenging, it’s also the most enjoyable aspect of my role – it can be as tiring as it is energising. There’s a lot of excitement and then it’s back to business as usual.
That kind of variety is also the most enjoyable part of my role. The work we’re doing can be so different from one day to the next, and with that comes new opportunities to learn and gain new skills. It also provides a chance to share my knowledge and experience from previous roles and studies as well.
TDD: How do you see your role progressing?
JG: I see the progression in terms of expanding my team; having more than one team report to me, which will come as we continue to take on more clients. In turn, that will lead to my role being more about oversight, which means as I move up, I can move my team up too.
TDD: There’s been a lot of change in the fund administration space recently, what are your thoughts on the sector?
JG: Yes, there has been a lot of consolidation over the past few years. I experienced it first-hand when working at Elian and we were acquired by Intertrust. It was an enjoyable and interesting experience, but in the end I wanted something different. I think consolidation in the space will continue; we’re heading towards having just a few big players in the market.
But, from what we see and hear from our clients, bigger isn’t always better. It’s clear to the people we deal with that they want a more boutique approach from their administrator in order to maintain a closer relationship. They’re very concerned about the relationship; they want to know that the team who pitches for their business is the same team they will work with throughout.
Outside of the consolidation boom, another big shift we’re seeing in the industry is around transparency. Initiatives such as the Cost Transparency Initiative, ILPA, and public beneficial ownership register highlights moves towards greater transparency, and with that, more accountability. Transparency is at the forefront of how Highvern delivers work to our clients and their investors and this is very important to us.
Advances in technology and cloud-based systems have provided us with a means to deliver client service and transparency, which would not have been possible otherwise. Every administrator needs robust and efficient systems to work effectively. We’re lucky at Highvern as we can move quickly when it comes to new technology and implementation, which means we can stay at the front of the pack in this regard.
TDD: What do you see as the key challenges for the sector?
JG: Cyber risk is high on the agenda for every industry. It’s not a new development but it’s certainly much more front of mind for people. There’s a lot of focus on developing the right policies and procedures and implementing robust IT infrastructure and defence systems for combating cyber-crime. Constant education, raising awareness and training is also key. It’s comforting to work at an organisation that takes this very seriously.
Looking ahead, continued uncertainty is something we’re all dealing with. Fear of the unknown is making people question where to invest, where to set up fund structures and so on.
TDD: What are you most optimistic or hopeful about?
JG: From a Highvern point of view, I’ve only been here a year, but the amount we’ve achieved in that short space of time is brilliant. It’s beyond what I expected. I really believe Highvern has cornered a market that was a bit neglected. We’re a bright, innovative team and I’m so excited to be part of it.