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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Graham McNeill

Graham McNeill

FTI ConsultingLevel 35, Oxford HouseTaikoo Place, 979 King’s RoadHong KongHong Kong

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.

Graham McNeill is a senior managing director and head of the construction solutions practice in Asia-Pacific. He has broad experience in quantity surveying, dispute management, dispute resolution and litigation support across multiple sectors, working internationally. Graham is recognised by WWL as a Quantum Expert “Thought Leader” and “top-class expert who is highly respected in the international markets”. He is also cited for his “very comprehensive and well-reasoned report” and his “excellent performance on the stand”.

What inspired you to pursue a career as a construction consultant?

Both my father and my uncle were chartered quantity surveyors, so construction consultancy runs in the family! I have always been intrigued by “mega-structures” and how they were built. Quantity surveying enabled me to see the full life cycle of projects. The transition from a traditional site quantity surveyor to a construction consultant, specialising in disputes, came when I moved to Hong Kong. Working as a commercial manager, I hired a claim consultant to advise on a particularly problematic issue we had. Working closely with that claims consultant sparked my interest in the legal/dispute resolution aspects of construction.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting out in the arbitration expert field?

Securing your first expert appointment is inevitably the most challenging aspects of any budding expert witness. Understandably, solicitors are reluctant to recommend experts who have not given evidence and been cross-examined. Even if you are fortunate enough to be appointed, the vast majority of expert commissions will settle before a hearing, again leaving the expert “unproven” on the stand. That said, one must always prepare as if each and every appointment will go the distance.

How does FTI Consulting maintain its competitive edge as a firm?

Each of our practitioners are clearly focused on client needs. We work closely with our clients to ensure we properly understand the issues and challenges they face, create an action plan on how best to address these and delivery a quality work product on time and within budget. Our strength is found in the depth of our staff experience and our critical mass. We are able to advise on the largest global disputes and be where our clients need us.

Which part of your current role do you enjoy the most?

Working as a quantum expert witness is perhaps the most challenging aspect of my work. Maintaining the highest professional standards and ensuring you remain both independent and impartial is essential. However, the most interesting part of my work is actually on the commercial/dispute management projects. I enjoy managing the dispute team and being able to advise my clients strategically, which one cannot do as an independent expert. Making a difference to the bottom line (adding value) is always the most enjoyable aspect of my work.

What do clients look for in a top construction consultant?

I specialise in commercial management and construction disputes, having worked for large international contractors, a professional quantity surveyor and now a top construction consultant, FTI Consulting. The top firms will have staff who can provide timely, accurate and – most important – practical advice that enables their clients to make informed commercial decisions. In our role, we can wear a number of hats so it’s important to have lived and breathed a number of positions. Only then can you truly understand things from a client’s perspective.

How do you prepare for your role as a quantum expert in an international commission case?

Regrettably, there is no magic formula or shortcut to this. To act as a credible expert witness you simply have to know your report and ensure that the opinions you have drawn are genuinely your own. All too often experts view their role as “points scoring” over their opposing expert. The best preparation for a hearing is to work collaboratively with your opposing expert and ensure you collectively provide the tribunal or judge with your opinions. Before submitting my reports I will challenge my own opinions to ensure what I am saying is independent and not simply advocating my appointing solicitor’s case. My support team is also invaluable in the preparation for any international commission. They assist in document review and ensure I have visibility of all relevant information from both parties.

What has been the proudest achievement in your career so far?

Being recognised as a quantum expert Thought Leader by my peers and instructing solicitors is most definitely a highlight. As an expert, you are held to the highest standards in your profession. I remain keen to continue on that journey and ideally help others to advance in this field.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
Thought Leaders - Construction 2019

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Graham McNeill has “an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge” of the construction sector, effuse clients who identify him as “one of the leading quantum experts in Hong Kong”.

Questions & Answers

Graham McNeill is senior managing director and head of the construction solutions practice in Asia Pacific. He has broad experience in quantity surveying, dispute management, dispute resolution and litigation support across multiple sectors, working internationally. Graham is recognised by WWL as a Quantum Expert “Thought Leader” and “top-class expert who is highly respected in the international markets”. He is also cited for his “very comprehensive and well-reasoned report” and his “excellent performance on the stand”.

What do you enjoy most about working in the construction sector?

The diverse nature of construction means that no two projects are ever the same. Each new construction dispute comes with different clients, solicitors and barristers, and its own unique challenges. The size and complexity of projects that I am typically appointed on cut across many industry sectors, which keeps each project interesting. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the construction sector, for FTI Consulting, is the travel. We are appointed on mega-projects/disputes and work internationally. As such I get the opportunity to travel globally.

How do you prepare for your role as a quantum expert in international arbitrations?

Regrettably, there is no magic formula or shortcut to this. To act as a credible expert witness you simply have to know your report and ensure that the opinions you have drawn are genuinely your own. All too often experts view their role as “points scoring” over their opposing expert. The best preparation for a hearing is to work collaboratively with your opposing expert and ensure you collectively provide the tribunal or judge with your opinions. Before submitting my report I will challenge my own opinions to ensure that what I am saying is independent, and that I am not simply advocating my appointing solicitor’s case. My support team is also invaluable in the preparation for any international commission. They assist in document review and ensure I have visibility of all relevant information from both parties.

What impact has the development of technology had on the practice of construction consulting in recent years?

As a quantity surveyor I grew up with a scale rule. Thankfully we have moved on and technology has played a huge part. The development of IT-driven software such as building information modelling (BIM) is having a profound effect on construction technology, with all stakeholders being part of the BIM gateway – which is a universal approach to the collaborative design, realisation and operation of buildings. Digital records, BIM, 3D printing, drones and smart construction software have changed the way we build and how we now consider and assess disputes. The use of artificial intelligence in document management systems is also helping to reduce the amount of time spent reviewing thousands of pages of documentation on large disputes.

How does your background as a quantity surveyor and contractor enhance your current practice?

Having worked directly for a contractor, a PQS and now a consultant, I feel well placed to provide strategic opinion of what may or may not be acceptable/palatable during the commercial settlements of disputes. My current practice also focuses heavily on expert witness work and having had live contractor/claims experience is, in my opinion, essential to this type of work. I am able to draw on this live project experience to demonstrate my practical understanding as an expert. This also helps to prevent us from becoming “expert experts” whose only recent experience is working as expert witnesses and not on live projects.

How do you expect the role of construction expert to develop in the next five years?

By and large I think it will remain very much the same, although the process of engaging experts early in the dispute may change – the CIArb protocol is a good example of this. The need to stay independent and impartial, and to act with integrity will always be the grounding of a good construction expert. Practitioners must become familiar with the new digital age – AI, commercial software systems, 3D printing, modular construction, BIM, etc, are our future. Current practitioners are generally unfamiliar with this new technology. Also, over time, projects seem to be getting bigger in scale, with the size of the disputes increasing proportionately. We are starting to see a requirement for larger teams to assist on the mega-projects, ruling out some smaller local consultancies.

Which types of projects are resulting in the most disputes at the moment? Why do you think this is?

I have been involved in a number disputes on EPC-type contracts, particularly in the power and transportation sectors. These projects are typically large and complex in nature, with unrealistic time periods and inadequate budgets. This, combined with unreasonable risk allocations, results in “mega-disputes”. We have been involved on a number of “hybrid” contracts where the employer awards a design-and-build contract for the structural works but maintains control over architectural provisions. This has led to a number of disputes around the scope of works and whether changes are considered design developments or variations.

What is the greatest piece of career advice you have received?

Play to your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and recruit with both in mind. I am always looking to build the best possible (balanced) teams that can focus on our clients’ needs.

Global Leader

Arbitration Expert Witnesses 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Global Elite Thought Leader Graham McNeill is lauded by clients as a "conscientious, clear and independent" expert who "presents his expertise in an easy-to-understand and thoughtful manner".

Biography

Graham McNeill is a senior managing director at FTI Consulting and head of the Asia Pacific construction solutions practice, based in Hong Kong. He has broad experience in quantity surveying, dispute management, dispute resolution and litigation support, working on numerous standard and bespoke forms of contract.

Mr McNeill has worked in Asia for over 20 years with some of the largest blue-chip employers and contractors in the construction industry. He has extensive experience in the preparation, defence, negotiation and settlement of contractual claims. He works alongside, and in support of, solicitors and barristers providing claims advice, commercial and contract management and dispute resolution services. In addition, Mr McNeill is an accredited practising member of the Academy of Experts. He has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on numerous large international commissions under ICC and ICSID rules, giving evidence and being cross examined. Mr McNeill has worked in many sectors, including but not limited to infrastructure, oil and gas, power, rail and aviation.

In addition, Mr McNeill has also been appointed as dispute manager on a number of high-profile construction disputes and is an accredited mediator with the HKIAC.

Having worked as a PQS, contractor and consultant, Mr McNeill is able to provide strategic advice to a range of clients. His core competencies include quantity surveying, risk analysis and change management, cost value reconciliation, commercial management and contract administration, the preparation and management of delay, disruption and prolongation cost claims, and the formulation of commercial settlement strategies.

Mr McNeill has additional qualifications and experience in construction law, arbitration, mediation and project management.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Graham McNeill has "an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge” of the construction sector, effuse clients who distinguish him as “one of the leading quantum experts in Hong Kong”.

Biography

Graham McNeill is a senior managing director at FTI Consulting and head of the Asia-Pacific construction solutions practice, based in Hong Kong. He has broad experience in quantity surveying, dispute management, dispute resolution and litigation support, working on numerous standard and bespoke forms of contract.

Mr McNeill has worked in Asia for almost 25 years with some of the largest blue-chip employers and contractors in the construction industry. He has extensive experience in the preparation, defence, negotiation and settlement of contractual claims. He works alongside, and in support of, solicitors and barristers providing claims advice, commercial and contract management and dispute resolution services. In addition, Mr McNeill is an accredited practising member of the Academy of Experts. He has been appointed as a quantum expert witness on numerous large international commissions under HKIAC, ICC and ICSID rules, giving evidence and being cross-examined. Mr McNeill has worked in many sectors, including but not limited to infrastructure, oil and gas, power, rail and aviation.

In addition, Mr McNeill has also been appointed as dispute manager on a number of high-profile construction disputes and is an accredited mediator with the HKIAC. Having worked as a PQS, contractor and consultant, Mr McNeill is able to provide strategic advice to a range of clients. His core competencies include quantity surveying, risk analysis and change management, cost value reconciliation, commercial management and contract administration, the preparation and management of delay, disruption and prolongation cost claims, and the formulation of commercial settlement strategies. Mr McNeill has additional qualifications and experience in construction law, arbitration, mediation and project management.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
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