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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Stephanie Comtesse

Stephanie Comtesse

Meyerlustenberger Lachenal Ltd (MLL)Schiffbaustrasse 2PO Box 1765ZurichSwitzerland8031
Watch interview with Stephanie Comtesse

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Stephanie Comtesse is “very active in the field of investment management”, most notably when it comes to advising clients on investment products and funds.

Questions & Answers

Stephanie Comtesse is a Swiss-American attorney known in particular for her pioneering work and expertise in the fields of asset management, investment funds and financial services. A substantial part of her work has cross-border implications. She also provides advice in relation to M&A transactions with financial regulatory implications, and general banking and finance matters, including fintech. She has won numerous prizes and is consistently highly ranked in prestigious legal directories. Stephanie is fluent in English, French and German.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career?

Opportunity. I had actually studied law in Geneva with the intention to join the corporate world after obtaining my degree. Further plans back then included an MBA after a few years of work experience. When I graduated, I was offered an attractive internship in a law firm. I agreed to take this on only as a detour on the corporate career path. After passing the bar exam came an unexpected chance to work in a prestigious large commercial law firm in Zurich. I moved. And became hooked.

What motivated you to specialise in the area of finance?

I don’t believe that many young commercial lawyers knowingly choose their field of specialty. Rather, while working in different fields during their formative years, something particular captures their interest and curiosity more than another field. Role models and mentors also greatly influence the direction one eventually takes. In my case, new legislation in the field of investment funds caught my attention. I volunteered to handle some work for my firm and found these, at the time, unchartered waters fascinating. As of then, my motivation to specialise in this area was sparked by deep interest and enjoying challenge on an ongoing basis.

What did you find most challenging about entering the field of investment management?

There was very little guidance regarding legal matters in the field. The applicable legislation was very recent and untested. There were no legal commentaries and very few publications. I had to educate myself regarding the business itself. Then I learned by doing and dealing with the regulator, which at the time, was the Swiss Federal Banking Commission. An additional challenge was the absence of women in the industry.

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

The market has changed tremendously. Numerous revisions of the legislation have taken place. The EU enhanced and perfected its legislation unifying the legal treatment of Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities (UCITS/securities funds) throughout Europe. More recently, the non-UCITS, or “alternative funds”, have also been indirectly regulated through their managers by the EU with the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive. From a purely Swiss perspective, the regulator, FINMA, has now made substantial efforts to streamline licensing and registration applications through standardised processes.

What impact are the new Financial Services Act and the Financial Institutions Act having on the nature of client demands you are seeing at the moment?

Clients want to be informed and ensure that they remain compliant with the Swiss rules at all times. Accordingly, they are seeking advice and, to the fullest extent possible, already preparing for the new laws that will govern their activities. It is noteworthy that individual portfolio managers who were not subject to licensing requirements until now will be required to obtain a FINMA licence going forward. Trustees shall also need to apply for a licence. Until now, other than compliance with anti-money laundering rules, these service providers were not subject to regulatory supervision.

The same applies to managers of Swiss pension schemes which, going forward, will need to obtain the same investment manager licence as the investment managers of collective investment schemes.

Another topic of interest for the clients concerns marketing of foreign funds into Switzerland to professional investors. Since there will no longer be an obligation to appoint a representative and a paying agent to market foreign funds to unregulated professional investors (except high-net-worth individuals who have opted out to be treated as qualified investors), managers are eager to terminate their agreements with these service providers as soon as possible. This will reduce their costs for approaching Swiss investors.

How is the generational shift changing legal practice at your firm? What do younger lawyers do differently?

The younger generation has grown up in a digital world. They are extremely well versed in the use of technology and naturally make use of all it has to offer on many fronts. From making themselves visible through professional social media, to testing new technologies assisting lawyers in their daily work, they tend to be more open-minded and proficient than (some of) their older peers.

The trend to create and make use of automated legal documents based on standardised questionnaires is increasing at break-neck speed.

The younger generation is also engaged in ensuring that the profession be mindful of the environment, be that through eliminating the use of paper whenever possible or recycling any materials that could otherwise be damaging to the planet.

Global Leader

Private Funds - Formation

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Stephanie Comtesse is an "excellent" practitioner who is "active in the field". She impresses peers with her extensive experience in asset management and private fund formation matters.

Biography

Stephanie Comtesse is a Swiss-American attorney with over 20 years experience in the fields of banking and finance. She heads MLL’s regulatory practice group for financial services and products. Stephanie Comtesse is further experienced in cross-border M&A transactions with regulatory implications. She is also involved in the latest legal developments linked to digitalisation, blockchain technology and fintech. A substantial part of her work has cross-border implications.

Her practice includes advising on (domestic and international) investment fund and asset management structures dedicated to a broad range of asset classes, establishing/licensing service providers and investment products, assisting foreign promoters in entering the Swiss market and dealing with compliance issues in relation to the provision of financial services, including AML. She also advises clients on all contractual and regulatory aspects of the management of pension fund assets and investment foundations. Stephanie Comtesse is a recognised representative for the listing of securities (including derivatives and structured products) at the SIX Swiss Exchange.

She has been actively involved in representing the interests of professional associations (eg, the Swiss Association of Foreign Banks) in the law-making process throughout her career and is a member of the Swiss Funds and Asset Management Association’s legal and compliance committee working group on international distribution.

Stephanie Comtesse is regularly invited to speak in Switzerland, Europe and the United States on current regulatory topics. She has published extensively throughout her career. Recent activity includes speaking at the UBS quarterly regulatory client update, and addressing the impact of the draft new financial regulations on asset management and investment funds. She is also one of the authors of the only standard and comprehensive commentary on Swiss investment fund law (Basler Kommentar). Her contribution covers the entire chapter on foreign funds.

She is consistently ranked in prestigious legal directories. Stephanie Comtesse has received awards for her work including the ILO Client Choice Award (securitisation and structured finance) in 2014, and the Women in Law Awards 2017 (Investment Fund Lawyer of the Year) from Lawyer Monthly.

Private Funds - Regulatory

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Stephanie Comtesse is a distinguished private funds specialist that practises in German, English and French. Her expertise lies in advising pension funds on contractual and regulatory matters.

Biography

Stephanie Comtesse is a Swiss-American attorney with over 20 years experience in the fields of banking and finance. She heads MLL’s regulatory practice group for financial services and products. Stephanie Comtesse is further experienced in cross-border M&A transactions with regulatory implications. She is also involved in the latest legal developments linked to digitalisation, blockchain technology and fintech. A substantial part of her work has cross-border implications.

Her practice includes advising on (domestic and international) investment fund and asset management structures dedicated to a broad range of asset classes, establishing/licensing service providers and investment products, assisting foreign promoters in entering the Swiss market and dealing with compliance issues in relation to the provision of financial services, including AML. She also advises clients on all contractual and regulatory aspects of the management of pension fund assets and investment foundations. Stephanie Comtesse is a recognised representative for the listing of securities (including derivatives and structured products) at the SIX Swiss Exchange.

She has been actively involved in representing the interests of professional associations (eg, the Swiss Association of Foreign Banks) in the law-making process throughout her career and is a member of the Swiss Funds and Asset Management Association’s legal and compliance committee working group on international distribution.

Stephanie Comtesse is regularly invited to speak in Switzerland, Europe and the United States on current regulatory topics. She has published extensively throughout her career. Recent activity includes speaking at the UBS quarterly regulatory client update, and addressing the impact of the draft new financial regulations on asset management and investment funds. She is also one of the authors of the only standard and comprehensive commentary on Swiss investment fund law (Basler Kommentar). Her contribution covers the entire chapter on foreign funds.

She is consistently ranked in prestigious legal directories. Stephanie Comtesse has received awards for her work including the ILO Client Choice Award (securitisation and structured finance) in 2014, and the Women in Law Awards 2017 (Investment Fund Lawyer of the Year) from Lawyer Monthly.

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Stephanie Comtesse of Meyerlustenberger Lachenal is “very active in the field of investment management”, most notably when it comes to advising clients on investment products and funds.

Biography

Stephanie Comtesse is a Swiss-American attorney with over 20 years' experience in the fields of banking and finance. She heads MLL’s regulatory practice group for financial services and products. Stephanie Comtesse is further experienced in cross-border M&A transactions with regulatory implications. She is also involved in the latest legal developments linked to digitalisation, blockchain technology and fintech. A substantial part of her work has cross-border implications.

Her practice includes advising on (domestic and international) investment fund and asset management structures dedicated to a broad range of asset classes, establishing/licensing service providers and investment products, assisting foreign promoters in entering the Swiss market and dealing with compliance issues in relation to the provision of financial services, including AML. She also advises clients on all contractual and regulatory aspects of the management of pension fund assets and investment foundations. Stephanie Comtesse is a recognised representative for the listing of securities (including derivatives and structured products) at the SIX Swiss Exchange.

She has been actively involved in representing the interests of professional associations (eg, the Swiss Association of Foreign Banks) in the law-making process throughout her career and is a member of the Swiss Funds and Asset Management Association’s legal and compliance committee working group on international distribution.

Stephanie Comtesse is regularly invited to speak in Switzerland, Europe and the United States on current regulatory topics. She has published extensively throughout her career. Recent activity includes speaking at the UBS quarterly regulatory client update, and addressing the impact of the draft new financial regulations on asset management and investment funds. She is also one of the authors of the only standard and comprehensive commentary on Swiss investment fund law (Basler Kommentar). Her contribution covers the entire chapter on foreign funds.

She is consistently ranked in prestigious legal directories. Stephanie Comtesse has received awards for her work including the ILO Client Choice Award (securitisation and structured finance) in 2014, and the Women in Law Awards 2017 (Investment Fund Lawyer of the Year) from Lawyer Monthly.

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