Nabarro Nathanson is attempting to compete on big-ticket property finance work by taking on an in-house investment banker.
Laurence Gergel, also a qualified chartered accountant, is joining the firm from RBC Dominion Securities, the investment banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada, and will arrive later this month to become a director of property finance.
Gergel is the first non-lawyer to be appointed to such a position by the firm.
The new role has been created to meet growing client demand for combined legal, tax and accountancy advice in the property sector, and to provide sophisticated structuring advice and off-balance sheet products.
Head of property finance Amanda Howard says: “It’s taken a while to find the right person with the right accounting background and knowledge of structured finance transactions and property finance deals.”
The initiative is aimed at two key areas: property companies seeking to improve their returns and both corporate and individual investors in real estate, who are looking for innovative ways of financing their investments in real estate in the UK and Europe as a whole.
Property partner Graham Lust says: “The whole thing is aimed at increasing work from existing clients and to get work from new clients.”
Gergel, who qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen in 1989, has worked for a number of institutions in leasing and structured finance, including Babcock & Brown, Barclays Mercantile and NatWest Markets.
At RBC Dominion Securities, Gergel developed and marketed tax accounting-based transactions to UK and overseas corporates.
Lust says the firm is attempting to be more proactive about winning work in the increasingly competitive property environment.
Lust says: “All property owners are looking for ways of extracting value from their assets at the moment. The days of sitting back and waiting for the rent have long gone. It’s not only a question of what we do with property but it’s the way it’s financed and the sort of structure that’s used to own it.
“We are combining legal expertise with banking and accounting expertise in order to work with our creative clients to come up with new ways of financing and owning and increasing returns from property.”
The firm already has a dual-qualified accountant and property and tax lawyer as a consultant.
The aim is to be more upfront in the creative process. Lust says: “Up until now that has been done by the merchant banks. It’s important for us to be able to create and lead commercial transactions from the property department because so many of our important clients are property clients.
“There are millions of competent property lawyers, but there are hardly any property lawyers who are truly creative in terms of being able to weld together banking capital markets problems and issues with the underlying real estate transaction.”