PE Tech Report


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Expanding for growth

Private markets have been growing almost exponentially over the last 10 years. As banks have pulled back from lending with regulations starting to bite, more private asset managers have put together lending strategies to replace what the banks traditionally provided in the market. 

Covid correction 

There was a sense that Covid-19 might provide a correction to this growth, especially as it has been 13 years since the last correction. Greg Myers, Group Sector Head – Debt & Capital Markets at Alter Domus, a leading provider of integrated solutions for the alternative investment industry, says: “Everyone thought that Covid would be that event that would lead to a lot of defaults and restructurings, but because of the government stimulus and wanting to keep nearly every industry in place to avoid a cataclysmic shock, that cycle hasn’t started yet.” 

He adds: “Once the government stimulus slows down, it’s likely to show some cracks. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.” 

Since 2020, Alter Domus has seen a number of clients launch special situations and credit opportunities in anticipation of the expected reset in the market and increasing levels of default. However, the firm hasn’t seen a lot of those funds being deployed as of yet. 

Myers comments: “It’s been very interesting to watch how resilient a lot of these borrowers are. The demand for performing loans and the yield that comes from them is so strong that I don’t think there’s necessarily the appropriate level of risk priced into some of these assets.” 

New markets, new opportunities 

As Myers points out, opportunities in the private markets vary region by region. In Asia, for example, banks are still the principal lenders, remaining resilient in terms of how they lend and the companies they lend to. Consequently, there are less private credit opportunities in the region than in Europe and North America, for example. 

“It is difficult to have a perspective on Asia, because Japan and Korea are very developed capital markets, as are Singapore and Australia to some extent. But the banks are very involved and have a lot of capital. Where they don’t, they still have a good regulatory framework,” Myers comments. 

In Europe, by contrast, banks are cautious about expanding their footprint, and even US banks are adopting a more thoughtful approach to company lending. Myers says: “In North America, the middle and lower-middle markets have a lot of significant private lenders, with armies of originators across the country that are meeting with companies and putting that into place, whether lending to a company that’s well-positioned to acquire a competitor coming out of Covid-19 or lending to a private equity firm that wants to create a dividend situation for a privately held company. There is a lot of capital in the private debt market.” 

Myers particularly notes a rebound in oil and gas, but also venture and technology firms that would typically have relied upon private equity. “They have now decided that they’d rather borrow for their capital needs and not dilute their equity prior to IPO or being acquired,” he adds. 

Building a fund services ecosystem 

As the markets begin to rebound from Covid into some version of a ‘new normal’, there is the associated challenge of building a fund services ecosystem to facilitate growth, product development, new sectors and new markets. 

One of the principal issues across the sector and beyond is a profound shortage of talent and competition between financial services firms for a shrinking pool of staff. 

“The technological demands of our clients continue to increase, and the reporting and delivery methodologies for providing data to our clients is always front of mind, but getting the right resources, talent and systems in place is a challenge, not just from an accounting and loan operations perspective, but also from the lack of IT professionals,” says Myers. 

Alter Domus had addressed some of the need for staff and for clients’ tech demands through recent acquisitions. In December 2020, the firm acquired IPS Fund Services, a Boston-based fund administrator serving private equity and venture capital funds, to expand its North American presence. This was followed by Utah-based Strata Fund Solutions, cementing Alter Domus’ position on the West Coast. And June 2021 saw the firm continue its rapid US expansion with the acquisition of New York-based IEA. 

Myers comments: “This gives us a great suite of services where we can go to our clients and offer not only the traditional middle and back office services that we normally provide, but also credit monitoring tools, waterfall carry tools, and all sorts of other things; it augments our existing offering quite well.” 

Such rapid expansion creates challenges too, in terms of getting different systems and staff onto the same platform, but Myers is confident that expanded tech and geographic offering will meet clients’ needs. With what he calls “the great resignation” impacting custodian banks and trust banks, to the extent that some are pulling back on services or even firing clients, Alter Domus is well-positioned to take advantage. 

Myers says: “It’s not that we want to be all things for all people, but we want to offer a very focused and thoughtful approach to cover any alternative market. I’m optimistic as we head into the winter and into 2022; there’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” he adds. 

Meeting ESG needs 

Like so many other sectors of financial services, private debt is being impacted by the drive towards ESG-compliant investing; and naturally, fund administrators must move to meet its clients’ needs in this field. 

Alter Domus is developing an ESG product which will assist in regulatory reporting disclosures and asset level reviews. The firm has also elected to align to The World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism; Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation’ framework. 

“Getting the right attributes at the right frequency and level of detail to satisfy the ESG requirements has been an interesting challenge. We’re at very end stages of the offering, and there’s certainly a lot more attention in the EU,” Myers says.

Greg Myers, Group Sector Head, Debt Capital Markets, Alter Domus 
Greg Myers is responsible for shaping Alter Domus’ strategy for lenders and debt fund managers globally and overseeing business relationship management for Alter Domus’ North America fund administration group. As an experienced Financial Executive, Myers has over 15 years of broad-based financial services expertise. Previously, Myers managed the Specialty Bank Loans team within LaSalle Bank’s Global Securities and Trust Services group and acted as an equity options market maker at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. He additionally worked as a financial analyst and Y2K consultant with other financial institutions.

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