Fund Finance Voices: Russell Evans

Careers in fund finance: Interview with Russell Evans of National Australia Bank

brickfieldBy brickfield09/13/20216 Minutes

In this edition of Brickfield’s Fund Finance Voices series of interviews with key figures in the global fund finance industry, we speak with Russell Evans, who is Head of Financial Institutions, Europe at National Australia Bank (NAB). Prior to joining NAB in 2010, Russell worked for nine years at Lloyds Bank.

How did you enter the fund finance industry initially? What aspects attracted you to this business, and what aspects have kept you engaged?

I’d love to say it was by design, but it was a complete accident. I’d been working overseas in a project finance role when I found myself in London post-millennium celebrations, looking for a temporary contract role to pay the bills whilst I found my next job. I took a job at Lloyds which included responsibility for their asset manager relationships from a product distribution perspective, and as the role developed and the relationships grew, I began to get involved in providing more traditional forms of fund finance and corporate lending. It was during the “golden age” of private equity between 2003 and 2007, when the demand for subscription facilities rapidly overtook the more traditional fund financing products, that I ended up primarily focused on private capital.

Although my introduction to fund finance was unintentional, my decision to stay in the industry has been driven by the continuous opportunities to develop professionally and personally as a result of the continued global growth in AUM, coupled with the personal satisfaction of contributing to economic growth and transition to a low carbon economy.

Which areas of the fund finance space do you see as being ripe for most development? What is your view on innovations such as ESG-linked facilities?

Fund financing is no longer a “new” technology, and as it continues to mature, I can see it being adapted into increasingly more bespoke solutions to fit the individual needs of different asset classes as well as the complete investment lifecycle.

The widespread adoption of sustainability linked facilities is a great step forward, and one I’m keen to encourage. As the market grows, it’s important that we maintain discipline around setting KPIs so that the true value of aligning a facility to the ESG ambitions of the borrower is realized. Demand shouldn’t drive dilution of these instruments.

In the decade since you joined NAB, how has its fund finance operation developed? What has your role been in that journey? What do you believe makes your bank and your fund finance team outstanding in this space?

Like all other lenders in the space, as the demand for the product grew year on year we’ve had to evolve, not only from a product perspective, but also from an internal control framework perspective. Our ability to secure further capital has always been contingent on us demonstrating a consistent and transparent view of the risk within the portfolio, and there’s perpetual need to continually improve and adapt our reporting and monitoring. For example, the latest challenge involves incorporating ESG elements and KPI monitoring into our portfolio reporting.

I’m flattered that anyone thinks we’re outstanding. We’re lucky to have fantastic people with a great depth of experience across our global team and we have a simple aim to ensure we deliver the best solutions whilst maintaining sustainable, long-term relationships.

How do you and your team approach recruitment, training and career development? What are the traits and skills that you are looking for in team members?

People remain key to any customer facing business like ours and finding the right candidates to compliment the skills and experience in the team is paramount to any recruitment.  We’re always looking for people with interesting experience, who can bring fresh ideas and new ways of thinking to help us build stronger customer relationships.

What kind of advice would you give junior bankers looking to develop their careers in fund finance? What should they be working on to maximize their knowledge and experience base?

Listen to your customers. You can differentiate yourself to both customers and employers by demonstrating a depth of understanding that’s often lacking in the current market where bankers are quick to commoditize products and solutions.  Don’t be afraid of asking questions, it’s the only way we can all continue to learn and build our knowledge and experience.

If you are interested in discussing potential opportunities within National Australia Bank’s US and UK fund finance teams, find out more by contacting Rory Smith at Brickfield Recruitment on +44 7800 963 594 or at [email protected].