Sizeable but nimble: a specialised trustee offering
Equity Trustees is Australia’s only publicly listed trustee company specialising solely in fiduciary services. Its size allows it to offer a full suite of trustee and agency solutions to a broad range of clients, while its focus on fiduciary services means it can be flexible to meet niche demands.
The trustee space in Australian debt capital markets and securitisation has become increasingly competitive in recent years, in line with the growing size of the overall Australian dollar market. Of the relatively newer players in the debt markets and securitisation sphere, Equity Trustees is perhaps the most experienced fiduciary, particularly in the Australian market.
Its USP is the scale it brings to a focused business model. Equity Trustees is an experienced, large, Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)-listed and Australian-headquartered trustee company. James Connell, general manager, corporate trust and securitisation at Equity Trustees in Sydney, says providing trustee and agency services are in its DNA. The firm has been in operation for more than 130 years including providing corporate-trustee services for more than 20 years. Over this time, it has perfected its model of discharging fiduciary services and it applies this experience, dedication and attention to detail to its debt-market and securitisation services – including for nonbank lenders.
It has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to service local clients, as well as offices in London and Dublin to assist domestic clients exploring offshore opportunities and to originate work from Europe and the UK into Australia.
LARGE BUT NIMBLE
Part of Equity Trustees’ competitive advantage is that it combines being large enough to provide the full range of trustee services its clients need with a sufficiently specialist focus to be flexible in its core service offering. Connell says this business model has been developed to serve specific client requirements rather than to provide off-the-shelf solutions.
The debt capital markets services Equity Trustees offers include note and bond trustee, issuing, calculation and paying agent, registrar, security trustee, and process agent. In addition, for securitisation, Equity Trustees can act as issuer trustee, security trustee, standby servicer, document custodian, trust manager and trust accountant.
The firm has a full-service trustee offering it can apply to simple bond transactions from local issuers, Kangaroo bond transactions, public securitisations and private warehouse securitisations alike.
This offering contributes to Equity Trustees’ standing in the Australian debt market. Louise McCoach, Sydney-based special counsel at Gilbert + Tobin, says: “We like to work with trustees that are commercial, flexible and approachable. It is also essential that they can perform their core roles with competence and professionalism. In particular, their back-office function needs to be 100 per cent reliable. Equity Trustees has an excellent track record on all these fronts.”
McCoach adds that Equity Trustees has proven particularly adept in navigating Austraclear settlement procedures, allowing for the timely delivery of deals with novel structures.
Meanwhile, Phil Harvey, partner at King and Wood Mallesons in Sydney, says: “When our issuer and intermediary clients are considering trustee services, technical proficiency in all facets is taken as a given and the Equity Trustees team certainly delivers. The manner of its service delivery and responsiveness is fantastic. It is always a pleasure to work with the Equity Trustees team.”
Responsiveness and operational stability have been crucial in recent months as many of Equity Trustees’ clients, in the nonbank lending market and elsewhere, face a difficult, and constantly evolving, operating and market environment. The focus for Equity Trustees – which moved to working from home arrangements across its offices in March in response to the pandemic – has been delivering a business-as-usual operating environment for its clients.
“We are continuing to support our clients by providing our services uninterrupted and seamlessly. This is exactly what a trustee should be doing in times such as this. No matter what is happening in the global economy or the uncertainties a client faces, the trustee should always be rock solid,” Connell explains. “Equity Trustees presents safe options for trustee and agency services during choppy markets.”
CASES IN POINT
Equity Trustees provides services in traditional securitisation and debt capital markets transactions, such as those for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). But it can also provide solutions for more complex financial transactions. Two of its clients, Australian Secure Capital Fund (ASCF) and Scottish Pacific, are testament to this.
ASCF provides bridging loans to finance the purchase of new property, self-managed super fund investor loans and other specialised lending products. The company’s Brisbane-based chief executive, Richard Taylor, says Equity Trustees was recommended to ASCF for the issue of a A$35 million (US$25.5 million) bond in 2018.
“The main requirements we have of our trustee relate to response times in dealing with requests, having a practical approach to issues, a strong reputation in the marketplace, and robust and efficient IT systems,” Taylor says.
He adds: “I think it is the experience behind Equity Trustees and its personnel that set it apart. The firm is extremely knowledgeable across all regulatory and legal issues that may arise and is readily accessible to deal with time-sensitive matters. The team can think outside the box when required to resolve issues, which in our opinion makes all the difference.”
For instance, Taylor explains, on a recent consent matter Equity Trustees resolved the issue quickly with minimal fuss and a practical commercial approach.
Connell says Equity Trustees weighs and investigates solutions to problems, rather than looking for the easiest or quickest way out. “We will always do the right thing by our clients and beneficiaries but will work harder to get the best result rather than the easiest. We want to find practical, commercial solutions to any problem a client may have and will always explore options to find the best way of achieving them.”
Scottish Pacific is another client Equity Trustees has recently served. The nonbank lender provides invoice financing to support small businesses. Scottish Pacific approached Equity Trustees to provide trustee services for an equipment-finance receivables warehouse in 2019.
Equity Trustees acts as issuer and security trustee, trust manager and accountant, and backup servicer provider for the warehouse facility. Bridget Keating, Sydney-based senior treasury manager at Scottish Pacific, says the company put a request for proposal to the market’s best-known trustees when it was setting up the warehouse facility.
Equity Trustees laid out its service offering and proved competitive on price, so Scottish Pacific decided to award the contract and diversify its trustee service providers, explains Keating.
The assets that Scottish Pacific originates into its warehouse facilities are not vanilla securities, such as residential mortgages or credit-card receivables. Connell says the services Equity Trustees provides to this warehouse exemplify its ability to adapt its structures, processes, and service delivery to whatever mould its client requires.
He adds that a partnership with Moody’s Analytics allows Equity Trustees to provide easily accessible, rich data sets for its clients’ warehouses.
Keating says: “Equity Trustees was very good in setting up the waterfall modelling for the warehouse facility. We had some one-on-one sessions to run through this process and to tie it all back to the documents. The firm was very quick and responsive to our requests and has maintained this standard for any document amendments we have had.”
ASCF and Scottish Pacific provide vital funding sources in their respective industries outside the traditional securitisation mainstream. Connell says providing trustee and agency services to these clients so they can continue to run their businesses with no impediments is key to the Equity Trustees offering.
“It is remarkable to see the breadth of enquiries that come across our desks and know confidently that we can do what our clients require of us because we have the systems, processes and expertise readily to hand,” explains Connell.
Equity Trustees in Brief
Equity Trustees was established in 1888 and is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. It is one of Australia’s largest trustee companies and the leading specialist in this unique and complex area of service, with just more than A$100 billion (US$72.8 billion) in funds under management as at 30 June 2020.
It has provided corporate-trust services in Australia for more than 20 years, making it one of the longest-serving providers in the domestic market.
Former premier of Victoria, the honourable Jeffrey Kennett, is the current chairman of the Equity Trustees board, with Reserve Bank of Australia board member Carol Schwartz due to take over the chair position at the October annual general meeting. Managing director, Mick O’Brien, has led the company for the past five years.
For any enquiries related to debt capital markets and securitisation services, please contact James Connell, general manager, corporate trust and securitisation.
+61 2 9458 5509
+61 428 526 863
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