Mark leads Grant Thornton’s office in the British Virgin Islands, where he has been based for over 12 years. He has over 17 years’ experience of insolvency, specialising in contentious cross-border insolvency often involving fraud investigation, asset tracing and litigation across a number of jurisdictions. He is frequently appointed by courts in the BVI and the wider Eastern Caribbean. In 2018, he was recognised as the number-one offshore Thought Leader by Who’s Who Legal: Asset Recovery.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
I qualified in New Zealand as a lawyer and accountant and started my professional career with PwC as a tax consultant. I then moved into the more exciting field of insolvency and for the past 15 years have lived in Cayman, England and the BVI working on cross-border insolvency matters. I manage a team of 10 people based in the BVI and we focus on asset recovery assignments in the BVI and throughout the Eastern Caribbean, which involve us tracing and recovering assets across the globe.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN ASSET RECOVERY AND INSOLVENCY?
I wanted to do interesting and challenging work that used my legal and accountancy training. I enjoy tasks that require a commercial and pragmatic approach and asset recovery and insolvency certainly lends itself to someone with this skillset. I consider myself very lucky to work in this field primarily because the work we get to do is extremely interesting, varied and challenging.
HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?
The quality and experience levels of the professionals practising in this area has increased dramatically. There is increased competition among the legal and accountancy firms for this work and it has become a truly international job. The professionals in this space have become more innovative and flexible in the approach to fees on these assignments.
AS HEAD OF GRANT THORNTON’S PRACTICE IN THE BVI, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES FOR THE FIRM’S DEVELOPMENT IN THE REGION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
My primary focus is to assist in driving Grant Thornton’s reputation in this space, and to be known as the leading professional services team for international asset tracing and investigation assignments. To achieve this we need to continue to recruit and retain the best people.
PRACTITIONERS HAVE NOTED A PUSH FOR TRANSPARENCY SURROUNDING OFFSHORE JURISDICTIONS. WHAT IMPACT IS THIS HAVING ON YOUR PRACTICE?
The full impact of the transparency push remains to be seen; however, there are signs that this will create increased opportunities for our business. For example, there may well be increased economic activity on the island and, in turn, a need for the increased involvement of professional services firms.
I believe that the offshore jurisdictions will continue to adapt and retain their importance on the global business stage.
WORKING IN ASSET RECOVERY FROM THE BVI INVOLVES COLLABORATING WITH COLLEAGUES ACROSS THE GLOBE. WHAT SKILLS ARE NEEDED IN TO WORK EFFECTIVELY WITH PRACTITIONERS ACROSS DIFFERENT JURISDICTIONS?
The ability to build relationships across various cultures; strong project management skills in driving a team of professionals; communication; and leadership of teams. For example, having responsibility for large cross-border insolvency matters requires, in addition to many other responsibilities, you and your team to oversee and deal with the efforts of multiple sets of lawyers across the globe. This means you need to understand complex foreign law issues, instruct the lawyers accordingly and oversee the often-scarce resources of the liquidation estate to ensure they are being spent appropriately.
LOOKING BACK ON YOUR CAREER WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Two things stand out for me. First, the excitement of working on some of the largest and most complex insolvencies, including the world’s second largest Ponzi scheme and cases connected with the Icelandic banking collapse. These have certainly been challenging and intensive cases, but also very professionally rewarding because of the people I have worked with and the extraordinarily diverse range of issues that arise.
Second, opening Grant Thornton’s office in the BVI in 2007 and working hard over the past 12 years to establish the market-leading team in the BVI and Eastern Caribbean in the field of asset recovery. I am really proud when I see that progress that we have made over this period.