Christian Heinen (SGG Luxembourg): A new perspective
Following six years in China and Hong Kong, Christian Heinen has come back to Luxembourg and is the new Managing Director of SGG Luxembourg. In this interview, he says the biggest benefit of the group’s global expansion is the creation of value for our clients by constantly providing them with new product offering and accompanying them in their growth journey.
What are your priorities with SGG in Luxembourg?
My aim is to ensure that our colleagues are empowered to provide high-quality services that are meeting our clients’ rapidly-evolving needs. This requires a strong internal organisation capable of meeting the goals we set. We are building a great team and we are an employer of choice: we listen carefully to our colleagues and understand what motivates them. A second priority is to ensure that SGG is recognised as a leading provider not only for private and corporate clients but also to alternative investment funds. We have a team dedicated to central administration, depositary, AIFM, transfer agency and regulatory services. Thirdly, we are determined to leverage on our global footprint of talent and offices in more than 22 jurisdictions, to attract new clients and offer additional services to existing ones.
Examples include the potential for private equity to invest in Africa, by leveraging on our Mauritius’ platform, as well as the acquisition of Lawson Conner and Augentius (still awaiting regulatory approvals) which widens our service offering to the alternative asset managers community.
“We anticipate emerging trends in order to match our service offering to clients’ needs.”
What are the challenges for a group undertaking such rapid expansion?
SGG has entered in a fast growing journey over the past two years with the arrival of Astorg Partners. The firm has made a number of key acquisitions recently namely First Names Group, Iyer Practice, Augentius and Lawson Conner (with the latter two pending regulatory approval). I would like to add that we have been very careful when we select a business for acquisition. First of all, we look for exceptional businesses regarded as leaders in their field in terms of quality of people and work. Those businesses must have experienced strong organic growth and must be a good complement to our current business offering. Our senior management team is dedicated to ensuring that those firms are well integrated to achieve our overall ambition of building a strong and growing firm. It is all about good management, setting the right priorities and ensuring all parties work hand-in-hand. The integration process is key to ensure that we reap the full benefits of our acquisitions for our colleagues and clients.
How do you see the evolution of investor and alternative asset management services in the coming years?
The market continues to grow, especially in Luxembourg, being a global hub for investment and capital flows. Its role may increase in response to the uncertainty over Brexit. The sector is also in constant evolution, not least due to ongoing regulatory change and increasing compliance requirements. The growing focus on substance may prompt some changes in the type of services provided leading towards increased externalisation of services, with new outsourcing needs in areas such as advanced reporting, regulatory compliance and liquidation services.
Alternative asset managers are becoming more and more global and keep investing in a broader range of asset classes, including infrastructure, debt funds, private equity and other forms of non-bank financing. We need to anticipate emerging trends in order to match our service offering to meet clients’ needs. It is about staying ahead of the curve. If you take the example of crypto-currency, it will most likely become an asset class in its own right. We will be involved in this processes and be able to offer services on a global scale with Luxembourg as the jurisdiction of choice for alternative asset managers.
You have a deep knowledge of the Asian market having spent 6 years there. Can you please tell us more on SGG’s strategy in Asia?
SGG has established a strong presence in Asia through the acquisition of First Names Group and Iyer Practice combined with a strong organic growth. Following the completion of the Augentius’ acquisition, the combined business will be among the largest independent fund administrators in the region with over 150 staff in Singapore and Hong Kong and over 350 staff across the Asia region. When it comes to Luxembourg, I have witnessed during my years in Asia that Luxembourg has become a go-to jurisdiction for Asian fund managers who want to access the European markets. I am convinced this trend will only increase over the next few years and SGG is a partner of choice to support the European ambitions of our Asian clients.