Interview with Richard Hawkins of Atlantic Risk Management
By Michele Ocejo
When did you start dealing with risk?
My first role in commercial finance was as a credit controller with Alex Lawrie Factors and one of the first new clients that I took on was a fraud, which I was lucky enough to catch early and even luckier to manage a full collect out of our advance. This gave me the reputation as being the guy that was good at dealing with the difficult clients. This has sort of stuck with me. As my career developed into ABL and I managed most of the disciplines within an ABL environment including portfolio management, credit, operations and workout. It was work out and particularly troubleshooting that gave me the biggest thrill. I started Atlantic 20 years ago as I saw that there was a gap in the market for what I call Tactical Risk Management. The choices if you needed help were either accountants or lawyers and whilst Atlantic has broadened its offering, the workout background and culture is what sets us apart from others.
Atlantic Risk is celebrating 20 years. What is the key to success?
It starts with our values: honesty, integrity and responsibility. We have a team of people that live up to the high standards we set. We focus on results and delivering services based on very high standards of technical ability.
We continue to develop our services in line with the ever-increasing demands of our clients, be they technical or geographical.
What have been a few highlights for Atlantic over the years?
I was involved in structuring the largest European retail inventory finance program for a U.S. client.
For another client, we provided a multi-jurisdictional pro-forma borrowing base to create leverage on assets in over 25 countries.
I led a workout/recovery for a conglomerate of manufacturing organizations with extremely challenging operational disciplines and collateral.
Through the CFA I worked with The Organisation of American States towards developing commercial finance capacity in Jamaica. I have been lucky enough to be invited to speak and lead discussions in many major cities such as New York, London, Moscow, Paris, Zagreb and Istanbul.
I understand that you provide high-level consulting to lenders. What does this entail?
These assignments are usually unique and complex, and are often resulting from nonoptimal financial performance or external events. Like all risk situations, the most important thing is to identify the problem early and have a clear strategy to get through to the other side of the challenge efficiently. Having an understanding of how these organizations work or should work is imperative. Too often generalists are invited to solve problems that require specialists.
What should lenders be most concerned about in 2018?
Have we ever lived in more uncertain times? Geopolitical conditions aside, I am concerned that at some point there has to be a major correction, whether this will be 2018 or later I cannot say. Historically, economies are cyclical and we have bought our way out of the Great Recession and a banking crisis through quantitative easing and cheap money. This liquidity is still in the system and interest rates remain extremely low. There continues to be an acceleration of credit growth and that credit is priced without any risk premium. This will not last forever.
Please tell us a bit about your involvement with CFA and why you choose to spend your valuable time engaged with the Association?
My involvement with the CFA goes back to 1990 when my boss Ted Ettershank of Hill Samuel sent me to Los Angeles for the CFA Account Executive School. Following the trip, I was to present a paper to the Board on how we could develop ABL in the UK. That first experience with the CFA led to a turning point in my career and I was subsequently involved in pioneering ABL in the UK; it now seems appropriate that I should be able to give something back.
I am a big supporter of the CFA, as I believe it is an Association that works for the greater good. Commercial finance is deployment of capital without undue risk to the borrower or the financial institutions that provide it. It helps create jobs and prosperity safely.
I am lucky to be invited to speak at various events and am pleased that people think that I have something interesting to say.
I enjoy passing on my experiences and hopefully this helps people learn and develop their own careers.
I am very proud to be invited to serve on the CFA Foundation Research Committee and look forward to contributing more to the cause.