Abercross Holdings general counsel Anita Roberts-Engel shares her top tips with The Lawyer on what to consider when making difficult decisions, who to have on your side and how to manage expectations with clients and the wider business.
What skills do you need to succeed in a broad legal role in a dynamic and challenging start-up?
In a start-up private equity firm like Abercross, legal risk, commercial objectives, operations and leadership are inextricably linked. We often wrestle with difficult legal and commercial questions. In my case, as company secretary and internal counsel, that might be how to secure stakeholder buy-in to a course of action that mitigates legal risk but which may take some time and resources to implement in a dynamic commercial situation.
Lawyers in a role like mine require a toolbox of specific skills that can support decision-making in a wide variety of contexts. In my experience, good communication skills and conviction in your ability to identify legal risks are particularly important (back your judgement!).
You will often have limited time in which to sell a solution internally, so consensus building and leadership are important here (as of course is the substance of what you propose – your colleagues must have faith in your legal skills and ability to find the right answer for the business). In making a decision, you will need to consider available resources, time frame, operational complexities in implementation as well as – and this is important – budget!
Working in a small team on interesting opportunities with high-calibre colleagues that have complementary skill sets gives me great personal satisfaction. This is what brought me to Abercross.
What is your long-term view of brand UK?
Our investors, predominantly international family offices, have a positive long-term view of the UK. They are attracted to the UK for a number of reasons including the size and depth of the market (5th largest economy in GDP terms), highly skilled workforce and political security (and we continually monitor Brexit developments).
Abercross provides growth equity and buyout capital to companies in the mid-cap space. More importantly, it connects these companies with the right type of investors who have the capabilities and relationships to accelerate their growth. Our involvement builds these business through improvements in governance, operations etc rather than financial engineering.
What are your top tips for managing expectations with clients and the business?
My top tips are: to consistently be your friendly, polite self, to communicate regularly and clearly (short emails or calls!).
Another point I wanted to make which is linked to the discussion above on how to reach good decisions in challenging situations and that is to always keep it simple and remember your “true north”.
What do you enjoy most about the investment management industry?
I work in an industry I find interesting, if you have a finger on the economic pulse it gives you a better understanding of the challenges we face as individuals and society!
The investment management industry is dynamic and familiar to me at the same time. My first job was to consider applications for relief from financial services regulation at the corporate regulator, it was a technical job, but one informed by policy objectives – consumer choice and protection, market integrity and proper functioning of the financial system (ensuring commercial certainty and reducing business costs). From that I moved into corporate and financial services practice in laws firms acting for various stakeholders in the financial system including PE funds and pension funds.
Investment managers are stewards of wealth creation for this and subsequent generations. At Abercross, our strong institutional structure, flexible investment horizon and focus on governance reflects our commitment to sustainable growth. As I mentioned above, we provide patient capital and focus on growth and operational improvements rather than short-term returns driven by financial engineering. Sustainable wealth creation seems even more important in today’s world.