Nick Wood is held in high esteem for his impressive work on cross-border asset tracing, recovery and insolvency proceedings.
Nick specialises in UK and international insolvency, asset tracing and recovery. He has 30 years’ experience in tracing and recovering assets from many jurisdictions including the Caribbean; the Far East and EMEA; the main offshore financial centres; Russia; and the CIS. He has recently been involved in assignments acting for state and commercial banks on their non-performing loan portfolios in India, Africa and the Middle East. Nick has particular expertise in de-risking the recovery exercise for the client using various funding and insurance products. He has been appointed receiver by the courts of several common law jurisdictions.
What did you find challenging about entering the asset recovery market?
The asset recovery market is very specialist. You need to have a laser focus on the end goal. Funds can be transferred between accounts in many different jurisdictions within seconds. Asset protection structures put in place by fraudsters are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated. There are a number of enablers who have set up shop in offshore jurisdictions, and who will supply nominee directors and advise on layering and setting up opaque offshore structures and trusts. The challenge is to stay one step ahead and have a constantly evolving strategy.
What qualities make for an effective asset recovery expert?
Teamwork is essential in achieving a successful recovery. Knowing the right people in the right jurisdictions who have the necessary knowledge and expertise. Understanding cultural differences in the relevant jurisdictions and how the local laws operate is essential.
How are you handling key steps of the investigations process in the covid-19 lockdown environment?
There are different challenges in different jurisdictions. The use of digital communications and the acceptance of new ways of communicating has advanced enormously over the lockdown period. Understanding how the court systems are adapting in different jurisdictions is very important. Evidence-gathering, particularly from banks, has continued pretty much as normal – albeit time scales have become stretched. Some of the other investigation tools are more difficult to navigate during lockdown.
Asset recovery has become increasingly international owing to globalisation. How have you adapted your practice to meet this challenge?
We have a network of offshore and onshore offices that focus on asset recovery work. They are well connected, and understand the local jurisdiction and how to get things done. We keep in regular contact and strategise cases on group calls. Asset-tracing techniques are constantly evolving and new methods of accessing information are becoming available.
What are the main challenges currently facing experts working in the investigations and asset recovery space?
The larger asset recovery assignments tend to have a political or regulatory element, and it can be challenging negotiating your way around these issues while at the same time formulating an asset recovery strategy. Often claimants want to be de-risked from the asset recovery strategy, and you need to implement innovative funding and insurance packages.
How is technology currently revolutionising the nature of asset recovery?
The use of artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important in assessing the huge volumes of data that can be accumulated in an investigation in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Some of the corporate intelligence evidence-gathering techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
What advice would you give to younger experts looking to specialise in asset recovery proceedings?
This is a very exciting and rewarding area. Removing the ill-gotten gains from the fraudsters is very satisfying. There will be many bumps in the road along the way; however, don’t be put off by setbacks.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
You need to be constantly innovating and changing to stay head of the game. Ensure you enjoy what you are doing and celebrate success.
"He can always see where a deal can be cut to secure recoveries cost effectively"
"Nick is a very well known and highly successful practitioner"
"He has a thorough, encompassing and determined approach to cases"
Nick Wood is a Partner in the Insolvency and asset recovery team at Grant Thornton and has over 30 years' experience in tracing and recovering hidden assets from many jurisdictions including, Far East, EMEA countries, Russia CIS region and the USA, using civil and insolvency procedures.
The Insolvency and asset recovery team has recovered over £3bn of hidden misappropriated assets over the last eight years from over 65 jurisdictions.
Nick has been instrumental in setting up a specialist enforcement fund which is available for high value asset recovery and enforcement claims where Grant Thornton is the mandated recovery agent. This is non-recourse funding for enforcement and related litigation in return for a percentage of recoveries. The fund is flexible and there is appetite to buy Non-Performing Loans and other forms of distressed debt, judgments and arbitration awards, depending on the clients’ requirements.
Nick has been appointed Receiver by the Courts of the UK, Antigua, Bermuda, BVI, Cayman, Nevis, Jersey and Delaware.
Examples of successful cases include, Liquidator of an Antiguan offshore bank - $150m fraud, Administrator of 160$m turnover commodity trader in West Africa - $20m fraud, Trustee over John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, 105 on the Sunday Times rich list, Trustee of Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire Russian Oligarch, Appointed to recover $1bn from Indian Boligarch by a consortium of banks, Provisional Liquidator of $3bn Russian Financial Services company, and Liquidator of Aircraft Leasing group in Bermuda, Guernsey and Ireland, recovered over $500m
Nick’s professional qualifications and memberships include, Licensed Insolvency Practitioner, LLB (Hons), FIPA, FABRP and JIEB.