Big thinkers: Stephen Ross and Jasveer Singh, Man Investment

Man Investment is poised to go up a league in the fund management stakes. Gavriel Hollander meets the men running the legal team, Stephen Ross and Jasveer Singh

Man Investment general counsel Stephen Ross is understandably happy about the role his lawyers have played in the recent expansion of the business.

Ross oversees a team of 75, including 40 lawyers, at the Man Group’s investment vehicle. It is the sort of capability that allowed the group to complete last month’s game-changing acquisition of fellow hedge fund GLG in double-quick time.

“From the date of the initial indicative offer it took under three weeks,” Ross explains. “The final weekend was very intense. We had a 7am deadline on the Monday and finally signed at three minutes to seven.”

Both he and head of legal Jasveer Singh are alumni of Clifford Chance, which has become the fund’s go-to adviser for big-ticket deals in the UK. And the link between the two goes further, with half-a-dozen of the team coming from the magic circle firm.

“It’s something that I’m really proud of,” beams Ross. “Six came over in 2004 and all six are still at Man. It’s an endorsement that they’ve all stuck with us, as they’re very ambitious and capable people.”

Ross himself left the role of ­private funds co-head at Clifford Chance in 2003, while Singh, who was thought to be on the fast-track to partnership too, followed him over the next year.

For Singh, the reason Man is capable of attracting top talent from the private practice world is obvious.

“It’s not a tough sell for us,” he says. “We have a very interesting business and our lawyers have a core and valuable role in it. They’re sewn into the business, from creating products onwards right through our business cycle. People find that immensely rewarding.”

With a significantly larger stable of lawyers than most of their fund management rivals, the value of his team to the group as a whole is something that Ross is always conscious of.

“There’s a strong legal DNA all the way through Man,” he says, citing the numerous ex-lawyers holding senior positions, not least chief executive Peter Clarke, formerly of Slaughter and May.

The GLG deal has thrust Man firmly into the spotlight. If the tie-up gets shareholder approval it will ­create one of the biggest portfolios of assets under management in the market and increase the group’s own holdings by around 50 per cent.

While Clifford Chance advised on the UK side, the fund turned to Weil Gotshal & Manges on US aspects.

Man has never had a panel of firms; both Singh and Ross feel that the size of the in-house function helps the group stay nimble when it comes to procuring legal advice.

“We’d describe our approach as horse for courses, which is a cliché, but a relevant one,” says Ross.

Besides Clifford Chance, most UK work goes to Linklaters for funds and commercial work, Herbert Smith for corporate funds and regulation, and Ashurst for litigation. Man has also used Lewis Silkin for employment work and Bird & Bird for IT.

Singh adds: “We’d look at the strengths of each firm to identify which would be best for a particular piece of work.”

Ross agrees, but adds that the group “tries not to diversify too much” and relies on the few close relationships built up over the years at Man and, previously, in private practice.

The pace of change in the hedge funds space guarantees that there will be plenty of work coming for both the in-house team and the clutch of trusted advisers. Singh acknowledges that increasing ­scrutiny of the business is a challenge, but he thinks it will ­ultimately­provide Man with the edge over its rivals.

Singh highlights the EU’s forthcoming Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive as an example of regulation that should be seen as an opportunity.

“Responsible and pragmatic regulation’s a good thing for the industry and will give us a competitive advantage,” he believes. “It creates a ­barrier to entry for firms that haven’t made the appropriate investment in terms of expertise and infrastructure.”

The assumption is that stricter rules will affect the smaller players and the GLG tie-up ensures that Man is operating in a different league now. If so, the strength of its sizeable legal team has played no small part.