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Interview with Sheila Dean, Global CEO of LDC portfolio company, Equiom

Equiom is a global trust and corporate service provider, offering a range of innovative and effective solutions that have widespread appeal to both corporations and high-net-worth individuals. In September 2013, LDC backed the management buy-out of Equiom, a landmark transaction which has provided the capital required to support Equiom’s continued growth.

Below, we interview the Global Chief Executive of Equiom, Sheila Dean, on how the relationship with LDC has developed, how the business is growing and what it has been like working with LDC since the 2013 MBO.

Explain the success of the MBO

Equiom’s management team had ambitious plans to grow the company, with a specific focus on increasing client numbers and jurisdictional reach. The most effective way to achieve this, whilst also increasing Equiom’s breadth of expertise, was by growth via acquisition, which has been achieved with the invested support of LDC.

Yann and the wider team at LDC are always a pleasure to deal with. Their hands-on approach, transparent communications and expert guidance made the process absolutely seamless, from start to finish.

LDC’s management style is very much relationship-driven. This philosophy of putting relationships first is mirrored at Equiom. Our culture is focused on building long-standing relationships, based on trust with our clients and intermediaries and this is reflected in our strap line: ‘A partnership built on trust’.

Our relationship with LDC has strengthened in conjunction with the international expansion of Equiom Group. The team at LDC has been incredibly supportive throughout and they have delivered on everything they promised and more.

Talk us through how the business has developed through acquisition

We place our clients and staff at the heart of everything we do. Multi-jurisdictional acquisitions increase our international reach and introduce more service lines which, in turn, create greater opportunities for both. Furthermore, as we expand, additional organic growth opportunities emerge.

Businesses acquired since the MBO supported by LDC:

  • October 2013 – Equiom acquired West Corporation Limited, an Isle of Man based trust and corporate services provider. The team at West had an established and diverse client portfolio offering a range of fiduciary and specialist services, including yachting and aviation. The synergy between our businesses was evident from the outset.
  • October 2013 – The West acquisition also brought with it a number of tax professionals, which led to the significant expansion of Equiom Solutions Limited and provided the opportunity to raise the profile of Equiom’s tax expertise to the external market.
  • December 2014 – Equiom was appointed manager of Moore Stephens Trust Company Isle of Man. This significantly expanded Equiom’s Yachting and Aviation teams, placing us at the forefront of the yachting and aviation sectors. Equiom’s commitment to these sectors continues to grow, as we see a clear demand for transparent, robust and innovative solutions in both markets.
  • January 2015 – Equiom acquired AFP Group, an independent Hong Kong-based fiduciary and tax services provider. Market entry into the Far East had been core to our growth strategy for some time. The deal has affirmed Equiom’s position as a leading trust and corporate services provider in the Far East and has enabled the team from AFP Group to offer their clients a range of enhanced services, fully supported by Equiom’s international team of specialists.
  • February 2015 – Equiom acquired Ardel Trust Company (Guernsey) Limited which solidified Equiom’s presence as a leading trust and corporate service provider in the Channel Islands.
  • May 2015 – Equiom acquired Lloyds Trust Company (Channel Islands) Limited and its subsidiaries, which further increased Equiom’s staff numbers and enhanced the international expertise available within both of our Channel Island offices.
  • May 2015 – Equiom announced the appointment of Tobi Matthews as an exclusive, in-house consultant. This brought with it a book of business from Tobi’s consultancy business, Lateral Thought.
How has working with LDC assisted Equiom?

LDC has added value to Equiom, by wholeheartedly supporting our growth strategies and introducing us to its professional network. This has not only provided additional sources of new work but has also supported our existing client base. In this ever-changing and developing market environment, LDC fully appreciates that Equiom must deliver a multi-jurisdictional choice to both clients and intermediaries.

When professional firms work in conjunction with private equity, it is important for clients to know that neither the service nor the cost is going to be adversely affected. We are proud to have delivered a seamless service to our clients through the initial and secondary buyouts, without the loss of any clients as a direct result.

What are Equiom’s key messages?

Equiom is a specialist trust and corporate service provider, focused on delivering bespoke ownership structures and professional tax advice for a broad range of companies and clients, including ultra-high-net-worth individuals, across a variety of niche markets. We are very proud of the extensive knowledge and experience that our teams have to offer. We employ highly skilled staff – most of whom are professionally qualified or studying towards a relevant qualification.

We pride ourselves on providing clients with an exceptionally high level of service by thoroughly understanding their needs. We encourage a culture which is based on building long-term partnerships with clients and intermediaries.

How important is the performance of the UK economy to Equiom?

Equiom’s clientele comprise high-net-worth individuals and the businesses that they own. These individuals are not all UK resident but the largest grouping will either be UK resident, UK domiciled or have assets in the UK and will thus have an exposure to the UK economy. Many of these will be sensitive to the economic circumstances in which they find themselves and their perception of their own wealth will be affected by property and share prices and the general economic environment. People are more likely to consider acquisitions, disposals, wealth and estate planning when they feel their own economic circumstances have improved. For this reason, Equiom is sensitive to the global economic position but especially to the perceived health of the UK. As the UK economy has improved, we have noticed an increase in both the numbers of enquiries and actual new business conversions.

Although the UK economy is important, it is difficult to consider the UK in isolation as;

  1. Many of our clients are not situated in the UK,
  2. UK share prices are based on the profits of multinationals which trade across the world, and
  3. UK property prices, especially residential property in London, are partly driven by non-resident purchasers.
For these reasons, the performance of the UK economy is important to Equiom’s continued growth. However, the performance of the UK economy is itself tied to the world economy and as Equiom expands overseas, its dependence on UK-biased business will reduce. As this continues, Equiom’s continued success will depend more on the growth of the world-economy as a whole rather than the UK in particular.

What are your thoughts on further Equiom expansion?

Our strategy is focused on creating a business of scale and substance in both Europe and Asia. This is best achieved by concentrating on establishing and developing successful businesses in a small number of jurisdictions. Currently we have offices in five jurisdictions, with potential to increase this in the future.

The purpose of our global expansion is to provide increased opportunities for both clients and staff. Having multiple offices enables us to offer a wider range of solutions to our clients and to tailor services to specific needs, by taking advantage of the various opportunities offered by different jurisdictions.

For more information on how LDC can help your business with its ‘buy and build’ growth strategy please contact us on info@ldc.co.uk alternatively please contact your nearest LDC team.

by Sophie Reed