Midleton's new niche fund services provider
John Bohan of Apex Fund Services (Ireland) Limited outlines the services of the new niche specialist fund services provider that has established in Midleton, Co Cork last August. The company tries not to go beyond a certain size in any one location and that an aggressive expansion policy can affect the quality of service provided.
Apex is a privately owned provider of fund administration and related services to offshore funds and companies. Headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda and established in 2003, it is one of the world's fastest growing fund administrators, with over US$6bn of assets under administration and 70 staff worldwide based in 9 offices in multiple jurisdictions.

Apex fund services, the Bermudian alternatives specialist, launched its Irish operations in Cork In August 2007. The Irish office will be involved in fund administration, transfer agency and corporate secretarial services for hedge funds and private equity funds.

The company has taken a different approach to its mainstream competitors from the beginning in that it fervently seeks to protect the same ideals from which it grew which is focusing on what the client wants. We feel that once you go beyond a certain number of staff in any one location that you begin to compromise the service that you offer. It is inevitable that the message gets lost when a company expands its numbers too aggressively.

Apex promises its clients that a 'one point of contact' philosophy and strict service standards that include responding to e-mails within a given number of hours, not leaving clients on hold or transferring to different departments. It is the attention to detail and focus on the small things that allow the investment manager to work with us with quiet confidence knowing that they will get their information on time and accurately. The key staff that have instilled these ethics in the group, Peter Hughes and John Bohan, both came from large audit practice followed by spells with some of the larger names in the administration world and took what they learned from this funds education with them in growing Apex.

This focus on client service and giving staff more ownership of the relationship rather than just a production line process has been a very successful formula. As we have evolved into a global organization there has been a strong focus on retaining our service offerings and each operation.

Once we had established our model in Bermuda and a robust control framework and environment had was in place we quickly moved to consolidate these controls by going through a SAS 70 Type II audit in the first half of 2007.

On successful completion of this audit we were able to stand over this framework and begin to expand on this blueprint to other key jurisdictions around the world such as the Middle East, Asia and of course Europe. Each office will undergo a SAS70 Type II audit to ensure that each company within the group are achieving the same quality standards as the original parent company. This has been one of the key determinants of growth of the group.

In maintaining this core focus we have been able to consolidate our reputation without compromise of quality of
service standards.

The SAS 70 seal of approval is becoming more and more important in the administration side of the industry as accountability of firms remains one of the key requirements for clients. Risk management is at the forefront of any of our management meetings on a monthly basis. Identifying areas of risk internal and external and addressing the areas identified are an integral part of the way we work. We have successfully brought together some of the industries best talent and technical expertise and we ensure that these key roles are successfully utilized by sharing the knowledge with all other offices. Each office across the group has different regulatory, legal, IT, training and HR needs and being able to share this across the group creates a greater awareness of any shortfalls in our processes as a whole rather than taken in isolation. By having a SAS 70 audit in rotation it ensures that controls are maintained group-wide and not in isolation in any one office.

One of the major benefits of being a privately owned operation is the ability to gauge and meet market demands on an ongoing basis and efficiently. It creates a more rewarding environment for staff and clients alike when issues or improvements to the process and be taken on and implemented quickly and our staff understand that it is primarily driven by them. On a monthly basis in each office every single member of staff attend a meeting that amongst other things will discuss client feedback, new staff coming in, new clients coming in, IT enhancements and most importantly suggestions to create a better working environment and where appropriate operate more efficiently.

It is this unique mix of double figure growth plus the ability to retain the principals on which Apex was founded that has been the unique factor in the story of Apex over the last five years. The company from the beginning invested heavily in the IT infrastructure using PFS PAXUS as its core hedge fund accounting, transfer agency and portfolio system. All processes are fully integrated on this core software system which manages the risk of error more effectively. We have combined this with advanced web-portal technology which allows separate levels of information to be viewed by Investment managers and investors alike online 24/7.

This ability for investors to see historic trading, statements and contract note along with performance information relating to the fund acts as a powerful marketing tool to potential investors to the fund. The system can also allow the investment manager to access key financial and portfolio information for analysis. The web-portal also allows performance reporting and analysis software to be on the site either for the IM internally or to be showcased to potential clients.

Apex continues to expand rapidly and to take advantage of the global expansion of the funds industry. Each market is expanding rapidly and with it comes new entrants to the market which means that we need to continually abreast of our competitors and assure our place in the market. Over the next five years we will embrace new technology where necessary and attract the brightest and the best of accounting staff with our business ethics and model.
John Bohan is managing director Apex Fund Services (Ireland) Ltd.
This article appeared in the February 2008 edition.