Christopher McKenzie - partner (trusts & estates/ private client) at O’Neal Webster...
O’Neal Webster is a well-established name in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) so why did you decide to open a London office now?
O’Neal Webster has been active within the United Kingdom and Europe for many years, and the firm’s practice has enjoyed extraordinary growth and notable client wins in this area. The opening of the London office is, in many ways for the firm, a natural response to client demand for the firm’s services enabling us to serve our clients in London and other parts of Europe in their own time zone and will enhance the firm’s ability to respond quickly to clients and to engage in cross-border deals.
What were the main challenges in establishing a permanent presence in London?
Setting up an office in a foreign country can be a daunting affair. Among other things, it is important to have the right personnel and the right location. We were successful on both fronts.
The UK legal market - and its regulation - has shifted hugely over the last few years so did that impact on your decision to open in London?
We have not seen any significant fall off as a result of recent regulatory changes in the UK and the BVI, being universally regarded as a well-regulated jurisdiction, continues to be highly attractive to the jurisdiction’s substantial international client base for use for legitimate structures involving companies, funds and trusts. O’Neal Webster is a client-focused business and the opening of the London office is based on client demand and, in fact, the recent legislative changes to the BVI trust, funds and trademark regimes have increased the popularity of BVI legal products.
How closely will the London team be working with the BVI office?
The firm’s partners and lawyers have very good personal relationships and we are a close working team. The two offices are closely integrated so as to ensure that our clients experience smooth and efficient service.
What are the core specialisms of the firm?
O’Neal Webster is a premier offshore law firm specialising in British Virgin Islands law on corporate and finance, trusts, funds, real estate, admiralty, commercial litigation and corporate restructuring and insolvency.
What do you think will be the main growth areas in the short to medium term for you?
Notwithstanding the events of the past few years, London remains a major global financial centre. We expect that the increasing number of HNW individuals will continue to use London for transacting business and that London alongside other major centres like New York and Hong Kong will see the return of major M&As and corporate activity. We think that an office in the City gives us the best opportunity to service clients in these areas.
What are your aims, ambitions and vision for the next five years?
From the firm perspective, we obviously will be focusing on growing the client base for the London office and ensuring that we give our clients high quality seamless service in keeping with the firm’s reputation over the years.
Can you see the firm expanding into other territories in Europe once London is established?
We have no immediate plans for doing so; but if there is a business case for doing so, we will certainly explore it fully.
Finally, what do you think sets O’Neal Webster apart from its competitors?
O’Neal Webster is one of the BVI’s oldest and most distinguished law firms which has an excellent international reputation. Its lawyers have an unparalleled amount of in depth knowledge of the Territory’s laws, its culture, and its history. The firm’s partners include those who were instrumental in developing the legal infrastructure of the BVI as well as the laws of the jurisdiction.