Chris Kennedy is “an impressive insolvency practitioner” with a wealth of experience in the field. Sources note: “Chris is very commercially minded and always has an excellent grasp of the detail on any job.”
Chris Kennedy is a chartered accountant (Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ireland), and an associate of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment in the UK. He specialises in providing distressed solutions to the financial services sector, in corporate advisory, restructuring and insolvency, and also acts as a director in distressed situations. He has been appointed as an official, provisional and voluntary liquidator to numerous Cayman registered entities. Chris has significant experience in multi-jurisdictional matters, as well as in litigation, asset tracing, recovery and realisation.
What do you enjoy most about working as a restructuring and insolvency specialist?
I love the variety of work and constantly facing new challenges in diverse markets and jurisdictions worldwide. While the objective is generally the same, the path to getting there is always different, which keeps the work exciting. This is particularly true being based in the Cayman Islands, which is home to groups and companies from around the world. As you move from case to case, you learn about the specifics of different industries and the intricacies of operating in countries from East to West in a distilled period.
What do you find most challenging about acting as a director for structured finance vehicles in distressed situations?
One key challenge is operating within the (generally) relatively restrictive terms of the governing documents, as regards the powers of directors. As a provisional or official liquidator, you can be afforded fairly broad powers by the court to take the steps needed to achieve your objective. With CLO/CDO-type vehicles you tend to find that ISDA agreements do not bestow broad powers on directors, and do not anticipate directors taking an active role in the day-to-day management of the vehicle. That said, it is always an enjoyable challenge to find ways to work with noteholders and the governing documents to address issues and resolve the distress.
How key has your experience of various court systems around the world been to your success as an insolvency practitioner?
I think breadth of experience, from both jurisdictional and market perspectives, is vital in developing an insolvency practitioner’s skills. IPs are required to analyse information, quickly cut through red tape and discard irrelevant issues, often under pressure, just to get an understanding of the situation in which they find themselves. Being exposed to the different approaches to business practised in the USA, Europe and Asia, and the differing viewpoints of their court systems and jurisdictional sensitivities and considerations, has helped me develop an appreciation for how business works and, more importantly, how people work.
Do you think globalisation will play a part in resolving issues created for businesses by covid-19?
Yes. The cross-border sprawl of business has driven the globalisation of restructuring processes and the need for greater cooperation among restructuring practitioners internationally. It is no secret that some countries are moving away from globalisation towards a more inward focus; however, large-scale debt/corporate restructurings create issues requiring access to courts in multiple jurisdictions and “boots on the ground” to manage and supervise operations in different countries. We don’t know where covid-19 will ultimately leave global economies; however, it is already apparent that it has pushed companies that were previously on unsound footing into bankruptcy and has brought entire sectors to their knees. These are global issues that will undoubtedly, require global solutions – cooperation among specialists on the ground, with a proper understanding of the nuances of local operational factors, will be critical.
Are restructuring and insolvency experts prepared for the wave of restructurings coming their way? How are you preparing as a firm?
While the severity of covid-19 on global economies could never have been foreseen, there have been indications of a global downturn for some time. At A&M we have been preparing for this by expanding our jurisdictional coverage, continuing our investment in internal training to upskill existing staff and adding local expertise. From an offshore perspective, A&M set up its office in the Cayman Islands, which now houses a team of 15, of whom 14 are specialist insolvency practitioners. We have also invested significantly in Hong Kong, traditionally a key pathway for Chinese investment though offshore vehicles.
What were the challenges of setting up a new office in the Cayman Islands?
We were lucky that we had great support from A&M and in particular our operations team; but we were still involved in everything, from the office design and refit through to the local licensing application. The most important challenge for us was building the team. The goal was to bring in the best talent with Cayman Islands experience, while recognising that a cultural and personal fit was of equal importance – striking that balance was probably the toughest challenge. We’ve been fortunate to get it right so far and, of our achievements to date, I’m proudest of the individuals who form our team at Alvarez & Marsal Cayman Islands.
If you were an investor in distressed markets right now, what moves would you be making?
For the time being, I would stay out of the markets and preserve cash. I don’t think the full impact of covid-19 has filtered down through economies yet. The immediate damage to industries such as travel and oil and gas has grabbed the headlines; but the waterfall effect on the industries that rely on them, and the feeders to those industries and so on and so forth, has yet to play out.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I’ve been very lucky to have had some great mentors and some excellent colleagues so far in my career. I’ve had opportunities at a young age to build teams, and now with A&M to get in at the start and establish an office in the Cayman Islands. I am incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had these opportunities. My focus now is to contribute to the success of A&M by building and consolidating our position in the Cayman Islands and, more broadly, offshore.