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Baker McKenzie Enhances Leveraged Finance Team With Significant Hire

Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie has hired Ben Wilkinson from White & Case where he was a partner in the Debt Finance practice. Ben will join the Banking & Finance practice in London on May 3rd, to help build out the Leveraged Finance team.

With over 16 years in the legal industry, Ben’s experience includes advising investment banks and private credit funds in relation to cross-border acquisition finance transactions, in particular those with complex capital structures. He regularly advises lenders, borrowers and financial advisors in connection with the bank financing of acquisitions of public companies, and also acts for a variety of lender syndicates, steering committees, sponsors and companies in relation to various restructuring matters.

Ben is an important strategic hire with a focus and strong experience in cross-border leveraged / acquisition financing transactions, particularly on the lender-side, which will significantly expand our capabilities in the leveraged finance space.

Matthew Dening, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie’s Banking & Finance practice group, commented: “Ben has an outstanding reputation in the acquisition finance and bank lending market. Expectations are that 2021 is going to be very busy as financial performance re-stabilises with pent-up refinancing and liquidity that has yet to be deployed, creating key opportunities. Ben’s appointment will put Baker McKenzie in a solid position to take advantage of these openings.”

London Managing Partner Alex Chadwick added: “We are very excited about Ben joining our Banking & Finance group in London. His practice is firmly aligned with our strong industry focus and his hiring represents our ambitions to become one of the leading transactional Firms globally. Ben has a long track record of doing deals in the financial sector which supports our ambitions to strengthen our relationships with sponsors. We will continue to grow our transactional partnership in London and other key markets, both laterally and organically.”

Ben Wilkinson’s hire comes after a number of recent lateral appointments including M&A partner Nick Rainsford who joined from Ashurst, private equity partner Justin Hutchinson who joined from Kirkland & Ellis, Adam Eastell a partner from Slaughter & May and Nick Bryans, also from Ashurst.

Baker McKenzie is a transactional powerhouse with over 2500 deal lawyers and expertise in over 46 countries. We excel in cross-border deals – over 60% of our deals are multi-jurisdictional. We are global and local, combining money market sophistication with local excellence.

Pandemic has accelerated digital upskilling, but key groups still miss out

A new survey of 32,500 workers in 19 countries paints a picture of a global workforce that sees the shift to remote working as just the tip of the iceberg. Reflecting the fact the pandemic has accelerated a number of workforce trends, 60% are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk; 48% believe ‘traditional employment won’t be around in the future’ and 39% think it is likely that their job will be obsolete within 5 years.

However, this is not a counsel of despair, as 40% of workers say their digital skills have been improved through the prolonged period of lockdown, and claim they’ll continue to embrace training and skill development. 77% are ‘ready to learn new skills or completely re-train’ and 74% see training as a matter of personal responsibility. And, 80% are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace, with a large majority of those asked in India (69%) and in South Africa (66%) saying they are ‘very’ confident.

In addition, 49% of respondents are focused on building entrepreneurial skills with an interest in setting up their own business.

Half of workforce report missing out on career opportunities or training due to prejudice

The survey also found that 50% of workers say they’ve faced discrimination at work which led to them missing out on career advancement or training. 13% report missing out on opportunities as a result of ethnicity and 14% of workers have experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender, with women twice as likely to report gender discrimination as men. 13% report discrimination on the basis of class, with post-graduates and others with higher qualifications more likely to report prejudice. Younger people are as likely as older people to report discrimination based on age.

On top of that, the survey found there are disparities in access to upskilling opportunities. While 46% of people with postgraduate degrees say their employer gives them many opportunities to improve their digital skills, just 28% of people with school-leaver qualifications say the same. Industries like retail or transport, which are most at risk of disruption, score just 25% and 20% respectively; while banking scores 42%.

“If current patterns in access to training persist, upskilling will increase social inequality when it should be doing precisely the opposite,” said Bhushan Sethi, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organisation Practice. “Government and business leaders need to work together to intensify efforts to ensure people in the most-at risk industries and groups get the opportunities they need. Automation and technological disruption are inevitable, but we can control whether its negative effects are managed or not.”

Younger people more focused on maximising income than ‘making a difference’ if forced to choose

Three-quarters of workers globally (75%) say they want to work for an organisation that will make a ‘positive contribution to society.’ This feeling was especially acute in China (87%), India (90%), and South Africa (90%).

However, economic insecurity is limiting people’s ability to pursue purpose driven careers, with younger people particularly affected. Overall, 54% of those polled said, if forced to choose, they would prefer a job that enabled them to ‘take every opportunity to maximise their income’ over a job that ‘makes a difference’ (46%).

Interestingly, those between 18 and 34 are more likely than other generations to prioritise income over purpose in their job with 57% prioritising ‘maximising their income’ over ‘making a difference’ (43%), a margin of 14 points. Those over 55 prioritise making a difference by a margin of 8 points, which rises to 22 points amongst workers over 65.

“As the world continues to grapple with a global health crisis and economic uncertainty, we’ve seen workers come to demand more from the business community, expecting their employers to make a positive contribution to society,” said Peter Brown, Joint Global Leader of PwC’s People and Organisation Practice. “Fortunately, focusing on societal impact and maximising profit are not mutually exclusive, and being a purpose-led business can actually help boost your bottom line.”

Employees want the option to work remotely moving forward

The survey concludes that remote working will persist post-lockdown. Of those who can work remotely, 72% of say they prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working, with only 9% stating they’d like to go back to their traditional work environment full-time. This is particularly true of professionals, office workers, business owners and the self-employed, all of whom are able to perform their jobs remotely using technology. Home working need not be limited to professional jobs. 43% of manual workers and 45% of semi-skilled workers say there are many elements of their job that they are able to do remotely.

People’s attitudes to working from home also change by location, providing further evidence of how the pandemic has increased the global digital divide. Workers in metropolitan areas (66%) are more likely to work in roles that could allow remote working than those who live in rural areas (44%).

Workers torn on privacy and technology

44% of workers globally would agree to let their employer use technology to monitor their performance at work including sensors and wearable devices, with 31% against. However, many would not go as far as allowing their employers access to their personal data. 41% of respondents said that they were unwilling to give their employer access to their personal data including social media profiles, with only 35% willing.

PwC appoints Jan Sijbrand and Troy Paredes as external directors

PwC has appointed two external directors to join its global oversight board. Jan Sijbrand and Troy Paredes will join the board of PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited (PwCIL), which is responsible for the governance of PwCIL and the PwC Network, oversight of PwC’s network leadership team, and approval of the standards by which each PwC firm must abide.

From 5 March 2021, Jan and Troy will work with the existing 18 board members who are made up of partners and principals from 13 PwC firms from across the world and as of June 24, 2021 they will formally join the new PwCIL board which is currently being elected.

Jan has enjoyed a long career in banking, including head of risk management for ABN Amro, Chief Risk Officer and member of the managing board of NIBC Bank, and member of the executive board and chairman for supervision of De Nederlandsche Bank. In addition Jan was a member of the supervisory board of the European Central Bank from 2015 -2018 and a member of the board of supervisors of the European Banking Authority from 2011-2018. Jan brings a wealth of experience of financial services, risk management, oversight and supervision. Jan also currently serves as deputy chairman of the supervisory board of PwC Netherlands.

Troy is the founder of Paredes Strategies LLC, a consulting firm. He served as an SEC commissioner in the United States from 2008 to 2013 — during the financial crisis and its aftermath. During his time with the SEC, Troy played a key role in rulemakings and other regulatory matters concerning all aspects of securities regulation. Troy brings to the PwCIL board a truly extensive breadth of experience, including governance, compliance, strategy and regulatory. Troy also currently serves as an external director on the oversight board of PwC US.

“I am delighted to welcome Jan and Troy to the board of PwCIL. We are fortunate to have attracted two such talented and experienced individuals and I look forward to working with them,” said Paul Kepple, PwCIL Governance Board Chairman. “Troy and Jan will bring much appreciated outside perspectives, and help us to challenge our thinking and enhance our culture as we work together to build the PwC of the future.”

“Understanding the needs of all our stakeholders across the world has never been more important for PwC. Having Jan and Troy on our global board will bring a wealth of experience and depth of knowledge and add new and unique perspectives to our board discussions,” added Bob Moritz, global chairman of the PwC Network.

Hogan Lovells invests in FinTech start-up Fygo

Hogan Lovells is supporting the launch of an innovative free automatic student rewards app from COVID-19 start-up Fygo, one of the firm’s FinTech Mentor and Momentum Program 2020 cohort.

Launched in April 2017, through the Program, FinTech organisations in Asia, the EU and UK at any stage of development, from start-ups to established momentum players in strong growth mode, can apply for complimentary or subsidised support from Hogan Lovells.

Recipients benefit from extensive industry knowledge from Hogan Lovells’ commercial insights, access to the firm’s global network, legal and compliance training, industry events and use of the firm’s FinTech tools, up to a maximum value of £25,000 for any one company.

Founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fintech start-up Fygo has conceived and brought to market, with the help of Hogan Lovells, an innovative automatic student rewards app. Launching initially at Durham University, the free mobile app allows students and staff to link their bank cards to the app through a secure interface, and instantly and automatically receive cashback when they spend using a linked card at Fygo partners, without having to say, show, or scan anything.

For participating businesses, partnering with Fygo provides an affordable cost, hassle and commitment free solution to acquire more Generation Z customers and increase revenue. The in-built tracking system providing insights to help them better understand their customers and competitive positioning, with access to customer analytics, and to improve their service and products.

Commenting, Hogan Lovells FinTech Mentor and Fygo relationship lead, counsel Oliver Irons, said: “The global pandemic has totally changed how we live and work, and whilst it has presented many challenges, some positives that can be drawn are the advancement of technology, and innovation to adapt to constantly changing circumstances. The team at Fygo identified a way to support both students and businesses through harnessing their technology, and have worked tirelessly to make their concept a reality. They are deserving recipients of our FinTech Mentor and Momentum Program support package, and it has been hugely interesting and rewarding working with them. We wish them the very best for the pilot in Durham, and look forward to a continuing relationship.”

“Being accepted onto Hogan Lovells FinTech cohort 2020 was an enormous boost for us. They have provided superb strategic advice on several of our key business activities. The team’s diligent approach has ensured we are building a product capable of launching and scaling quickly. Being amongst top European start-ups has inspired us to sharpen our product’s value proposition and continue putting everything we have into building something people want!” said Jonah Lowenstein, Co-Founder at Fygo.

For further information about Hogan Lovells FinTech Mentor and Momentum Program, see here.

Businesses will be onboarded from March 2021, and the app is expected to launch to students in early April. Businesses can find out more via blog, podcast or video. Students can join the waiting list here.

Three London Partners Named in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2021

The Lawyer Magazine has recognised London finance partner Jennifer Brennan, corporate partner Shing Lo, and litigation partner Oliver Middleton in its Hot 100 2021. The annual report identifies the UK lawyers working on the “biggest trials and deals of our time”, and those who through their efforts are “making the legal profession better in one way or another: more sophisticated, more innovative, more diverse, more fair”.

Brennan was celebrated for her work on a number of significant restructurings in 2020, including Swissport, New Look, Doncasters, and Deoleo, and for her role as the co-chair of the London finance department. Lo was credited for helping founders to receive cash injections, her granular knowledge of both start-ups and investors, and facilitating a number of fundraisings for companies in the fintech, media and healthtech sectors last year. Middleton was recognised as a “disputes dynamo” and won praise for his work in banking disputes and class actions. His tech-related expertise was also noted.

The Lawyer’s annual Hot 100 list is compiled following extensive research into candidates’ client work and contribution to their firms, companies, and the wider legal profession.

White & Case advises on Nordnet’s SEK 10.378 billion IPO

Global law firm White & Case LLP has advised Carnegie Investment Bank AB, J.P. Morgan Securities plc and Citigroup Global Markets Limited, as joint global coordinators, and ABG Sundal Collier AB, Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, DNB Bank ASA, Sweden branch and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (publ), as joint bookrunners, on the SEK 10.378 billion initial public offering (IPO) and Nasdaq Stockholm listing of Nordnet.

Founded in 1996, Nordnet is a leading pan-Nordic digital savings and investments platform. It was one of Sweden’s first internet brokers and later expanded its operations to include banking and pension services. Nordnet is now primarily active in three business areas: savings and investments, pensions and loans.

The shares of Nordnet started trading on Nasdaq Stockholm on 25 November 2020.  The offering was substantially over-subscribed, attracting very strong interest from large Swedish and international institutional investors as well as the general public in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. The market capitalisation of Nordnet, based on the IPO price of SEK 96 per share, is approximately SEK 24 billion.  As a result of the IPO, Nordnet will have more than 32,000 shareholders.

The White & Case team which advised on the transaction was led by partners Johan Thiman (Stockholm) and Mikko Hulkko (Helsinki) and included partners Chad McCormick (Houston) and Martin Järvengren (Stockholm), counsel Doron Loewinger (London) and associates Christoffer Nilmén, Antonia Severin, Christian Meijling and Johanna Wagner (all Stockholm), Thomas Killeen (Helsinki), Laura Kitchen (London) and Michael Rodgers (Houston).