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Williams Jones, MPL Management

The ‘Anti-ManCo’ ManCo

MPL Management (Luxembourg) SA is a third-party `Super Management Company' providing fund governance, operational support and oversight to both UCITS funds and AIFs. It is part of MPL Group, founded by William Jones in 2006, who has, over the past 26 years, helped set up more than 100 funds in his career. 

In 2008, Jones decided upon Luxembourg as his preferred European base for directorship services. At the time, he had no specific interest in setting up a management company. 

"The premise I operate from – and why I refer to MPL as the `anti-ManCo' ManCo – is that the original UCITS ManCo didn't do anything, operationally speaking," explains Jones.

"As the UCITS ManCo model is fully delegated, their role is merely to `monitor, comply and report'. In reality, all they do is re-hash the data that investment managers provide them with; they move seats on the Titanic without doing anything to avoid hitting the iceberg.

"At the time of the financial crisis I was sitting on the board of various Luxembourg funds that used third party ManCos and said to myself, `These firms are not doing anything to solve the various problems affecting these funds'. At that point, I decided it was best to set up my own management company."

The aim was clear: to offer a ManCo that adds true value to clients and effective independent oversight; in other words, a ManCo that actually does things for the client, not just pay lip service to corporate governance and operational oversight.

"One client that we onboarded had a Cayman fund and said that they wanted a Luxembourg fund and a US '40 Act fund. Yet they had a disjointed marketing strategy. We helped them redesign their whole marketing approach. That's something that few, if any ManCos, are willing or able to do," says Jones.

Another example Jones provides refers to a client who was using a fund administrator that was, in brutal terms, inept at performing the fund's NAV calculation. The whole process was all over the place. Whereas a lot of ManCos will sit back and allow the administrator to own the process, MPL stepped in and remedied the situation.

"What I call an `anti-ManCo' ManCo is, first and foremost, operationally adept, engaged with the client, and knowledgeable, particularly in terms of the underlying asset classes. 

"Anecdotally, there are numerous ManCos operating in Luxembourg and Dublin that simply lack asset class knowledge. How can you review what's in a fund portfolio if you don't even know how it operates, how trades are settled, etc.? Our team has deep asset class knowledge. I built the business from the bottom up by identifying and hiring the right individuals whereas most ManCos are built top down," explains Jones.

He says that one important question for managers to consider before selecting their AIFM is: Where does the third party ManCo end and the investment manager begin? What is it that the delegated ManCo has to do from a regulatory perspective? Can the local-based manager do any of those things? How do these two entities interact on a day-to-day basis?

"Also, can the delegated ManCo avoid redundancy of tasks? 

"That is where the operational value comes into play when clients appoint MPL. We can deal with various operational breaks as and when they occur, so that by the time the COO of the locally-based investment manager gets the information, the first round of operational processing and analysis has already taken place. This helps avoid the duplication of tasks. And very few other ManCos do that," concludes Jones. 

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