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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Kevin Hellard possesses “decades of experience unravelling offshore structures” and comes highly recommended by sources as “one of the most high-profile practitioners in London”.

Questions & Answers

Kevin is the practice leader of Grant Thornton’s insolvency practice, the largest contentious insolvency team in the UK. Kevin has 28 years’ experience of contentious insolvency including the investigation of fraud, misfeasance, professional negligence and asset tracing across multiple jurisdictions, including the BVI, Cayman Islands, Dubai, Singapore, Switzerland, Bermuda, and Hong Kong. He is routinely appointed by lawyers, government, victims of fraud and regulatory agencies over structures that have suffered losses to trace and recover stolen funds and misappropriated assets from the perpetrators.

What attracted you to a career in insolvency?

I had just qualified in law when we were in the middle of a recession. I became aware of an opportunity in insolvency two weeks later: when all my law school mates were photocopying documents for most of the day, I found myself running a factory in receivership, producing ammunitions during the Gulf War. Nothing happened without my sign-off. It was daunting, but I think it was then I first caught the insolvency bug. I was told from the outset that insolvency was an experience-based skill. Armed with all my exams I took that with a pinch of salt, but that is the thing in insolvency: no matter how experienced you are, you learn something or face new challenges every day.

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

The insolvency market constantly evolves. It is completely different from when I first started practising. Services that were premium products then, have now become commoditised. The development of debt purchasing has changed creditor involvement, and the increased securitisation of assets has reduced the flexibility given to a practitioner. Increasingly sophisticated lenders now take more control of the outcome in distressed positions.

The market is now truly global. We have seen the development of contentious insolvency as a recognised discipline and the insolvency process recognised as an important tool for global asset recovery.

What do you enjoy most about working on contentious insolvency matters?

I enjoy working closely with lawyers and recognising that powers afforded to insolvency practitioners are important tools for creating claims in insolvency cases. Establishing efficient ways to identify and prosecute claims addresses the imbalance of cases where funds have been misappropriated by those running the company. I enjoy recovering funds from those who aren’t entitled to them, or from advisers that create and implement the schemes, in order to return them to the victims they have preyed upon.

What are the benefits of using court-appointed receiverships (CARs) to preserve and protect assets in claims?

I have always promoted the use of CARs in support of freezing orders when claims are being brought against fraudsters. It amuses me that litigants who convince the court of the lack of bona fides of their opponent, to enable a freezing order to be obtained, are often then surprised when that same opponent doesn’t comply with it. CARs are an important way of taking control: there is little value to a contempt finding when the boat or aircraft you thought was frozen is now in a different part of the world!

How do you prepare for giving evidence in fraud cases?

Thoroughly!

What are the main challenges of working in a practice area that is increasingly global in scope?

Ensuring that all matters progress, irrespective of where I am, requires a team with great strength and depth, and in that respect I am very lucky. Understanding the rules and cultures at play in many different jurisdictions is a constant challenge. For this I have had the privilege of working closely with some of the world’s leading asset recovery practitioners across many jurisdictions. Having the right advice locally is critical to an optimal outcome.

As leader of Grant Thornton’s insolvency practice, what are your main priorities for the group’s development over the next five years?

To continue to evolve our service lines and geographic expertise to meet the needs of the creditors and victims we serve must be the overriding strategy. This involves providing seamless global solutions particularly across the offshore centres and emerging markets, and proactively identifying new centres favoured by those who launder money – whether by cash or crypto – to ensure we have the appropriate resource to meet those challenges.

Our work also involves providing funded solutions to those unable to meet the costs of recovering assets through both our own funding, as well as working with others. Another key priority is to continue to build our working partnerships with lawyers and practitioners across the globe.

Overall my strategy is to ultimately leave a business for my successor with greater geographical reach, a wider diversity of products and markets, and a stronger team than when I took the business over.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

It would be the leadership of this business at Grant Thornton. I have the pleasure of working with many of the leading global practitioners on some of the most interesting jobs. I have been challenged to develop the strategy of this truly innovative business, which continues to differentiate itself on a global stage – which is a credit to the quality and innovation of those practitioners that work within it.

WWL says

Kevin Hellard is hailed as “commercially minded, extremely experienced, highly responsive, technically solid, and at the forefront of major asset recovery matters globally”.

Questions & Answers

Kevin is the practice leader of Grant Thornton’s insolvency and asset recovery team, the largest of its kind within the UK. He has a wealth of experience (spanning 29 years) in contentious insolvency, which includes investigations of fraud, misfeasance, professional negligence and asset tracing across multiple jurisdictions. He is routinely appointed by lawyers, governments, victims of fraud and regulatory agencies over structures that have suffered losses, to trace and recover stolen funds and misappropriated assets from the perpetrators. Kevin also became president of the IPA in April 2020.

How has your role as an insolvency practitioner evolved throughout your career?

Insolvency constantly evolves. It accommodates changes in business dynamics, culture and political will. During my career, specialist areas have developed, such as financial restructuring, asset recovery and bulk providers of individual voluntary arrangements. Within restructuring, practitioners now demonstrate deep knowledge of an industry as well as insolvency expertise. 

What are some of the key powers in your toolkit you employ to handle claims in contentious insolvency cases? 

Insolvency lends itself to contentious cases and asset recovery. This is because insolvency powers enable information-gathering and the delivery up of assets. These are extremely effective if used in the right way. These powers, together with international recognition, enable insolvency procedures to be an important element of wider international asset recovery strategies.  

What challenges do virtual hearings pose to claimants or defendants in fraud cases? How do they impact access to justice?  

Lockdown has seen the emergence of virtual hearings. This could not have been foreseen a few months ago but is now the “norm”.   

While efficient in routine hearings, the difficulty from the claimant’s perspective in complex cases is the cross-examinations of witnesses. Preventing coaching in a virtual environment, or experiencing Wi-Fi failings when you are getting the upper hand, is difficult. This makes fraud cases where dishonesty is to be established difficult. From the defendant’s perspective, the risk of not being able to get a fair trial virtually, when so much is personally at stake, is a powerful tool for arguing for adjournments. 

The court is right to have empathy with such arguments, but adjournments delay access to justice for claimants and can result in substantial additional costs.  

What are the main challenges of managing a global business in your role as chair of the offshore group?

I am fortunate to have a cohesive offshore group within Grant Thornton, whose members regularly work across jurisdictions on some of our larger cases. The challenge of managing an effective offshore group is ensuring sufficient investment is available to enable seamless levels of service across the jurisdictions. 

Additionally, the offshore businesses seeing themselves as part of a global group, as opposed to individual businesses, is critical to achieving the collaboration that you need. 

What does your role as president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association (IPA) entail and how does this enhance your practice?

My role entails a number of things, including chairing the board of directors of the IPA and continuing to evolve and implement its strategy to be the UK’s prominent insolvency regulator. 

The role means time away from developing my practice – but seeing first hand the challenges faced by the regulator does provide great insight, which can enable operational improvements to my own practice. 

Can you tell us about the growing importance of Singapore in asset recovery?

Singapore is an extremely important financial centre. I am fortunate to be involved in the development of our advisory practice in Singapore, which has been an area of focus for us in the past 12 months. 

From an asset recovery perspective, the market in Singapore is changing. The increased availability of litigation funding, together with the integrity of the court systems in the region, make it an attractive place for litigating disputes. 

I see Singapore as an increasingly important centre for our global business and a critical component of any effective offshore group. 

Grant Thornton is currently working on co-financed vehicles for general recovery cases. To what extent do you expect this to increase in significance in the new normal, where an uptick of litigation is expected?

When acting in litigation or asset recovery assignments, finding ways of meeting the costs of recovery is always a challenge. Our role is to find solutions for victims – developing co-financed vehicles to enable us to provide the funding, as well as the expertise to bring the cases, seems to me to be a natural development of the practice. 

Given the impact that this has had in the market, we anticipate links between financial institutions, lawyers and practitioners to enable claims to be brought to become increasingly common in the future. 

What is the best career advice you have received?

I don’t recall ever getting career advice as such. My early career thoughts included the marines, the police and many other things with a common thread of “righting wrongs”. In the end, I read law at university and that ultimately led to my role in insolvency. 

When I asked my dad about what I should do he would say, “Whatever you choose to do just make sure you always give it your best, because if you’ve done your best that’s good enough for anyone.” 

It didn’t seem to be that helpful at the time, but it’s probably the best advice I have ever received and is something I have often reflected on.  

Global Leader

Asset Recovery - Experts 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Kevin Hellard is hailed as “commercially minded, extremely experienced, highly responsive, technically solid, and at the forefront of major asset recovery matters globally”.

Biography

Kevin Hellard is the practice leader of Grant Thornton’s insolvency and asset recovery practice, the largest dedicated contentious insolvency and asset recovery team and incorporates resource across the key offshore financial centres.

Kevin has nearly 30 years’ experience of contentious insolvency including professional negligence, fraud, misfeasance and asset tracing across multiple jurisdictions. Kevin has experience of investigations/recoveries through the BVI, Cayman Islands, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong and Switzerland, as well as South America and Eastern Europe. Kevin has given evidence in court on many occasions.

Kevin is appointed routinely by lawyers, governments, victims of fraud and regulatory agencies over structures that have suffered losses to trace and recover stolen funds and misappropriated assets from perpetrators. He has overseen development of complementary services within Grant Thornton’s asset recovery business including funding, director services and corporate intelligence.

The business that Kevin leads specialises in giving advice on distressed situations involving complex asset tracing and recoveries strategies across multiple jurisdictions. The team incorporates many of the best-known and respected names within the asset recovery field. This has led to the team taking some of the highest-profile asset recovery projects in the UK and offshore financial centres in recent years.

Kevin has presented internationally on corruption and asset tracing, and has published several articles on these subjects.

Recently Kevin was appointed president of the Insolvency Practitioners Association, the UK’s leading insolvency regulator.
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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