In a strategic decision to expand its European practice, Alston & Bird has opened a London office on the strength of its growing finance and payments practices. The office supports the firm’s finance and payments industry clients doing business in the UK and across Europe, as well as local investors and clients transacting business in the United States.
Joining the office are three new partners, two of whom are moving from K&L Gates LLP. The first is Andrew Petersen, who was head of the finance practice in K&L Gates’s London office and a practice area leader for the firm’s global Finance Practice. He will be joined by finance partner James Spencer. Accompanying them are two other members of their team, associates Sherry Scrivens and Tom Dunn. Other associate hires are planned.
Also joining the new office is competition partner and payments industry advisor James Ashe-Taylor. Dual-qualified in both the UK and Ireland, Ashe-Taylor arrives from Constantine Cannon LLP, where he was head of the firm’s European Antitrust Practice. Ashe-Taylor is also the former partner in charge of Gibson Dunn’s London and Brussels offices. He is accompanied by associates Simon Albert and Nassos Kalliris.
In addition, Alston & Bird payments partner Rich Willis will serve as the office’s partner in charge and play a key role in continuing to build out the firm’s global payments practice. Willis is also partner in charge of the firm’s office in Brussels, where he has lived and practiced for more than 15 years.
“Our London office reflects the strength of our global Finance and Payment Systems practices, as well as the vitality of the many clients we have been serving in these areas,” said Alston & Bird Chairman and Managing Partner Richard Hays. “The office also provides support to our lawyers who have been serving a number of marquee clients in London in recent years.”
Petersen and Spencer, who have practiced together for more than 17 years, join an Alston & Bird finance team representing the market’s most-active players in a wide range of asset classes. For 2018, Alston & Bird was recognized by Asset-Backed Alert as a leader in the structured finance and securitization markets, ranking among the top counsel serving both issuers and underwriters of asset-backed and mortgage-backed securities. The firm also advised on a $450 million aircraft asset-backed securitization named the 2018 “Overall Capital Markets Deal of the Year” by Airfinance Journal.
Advising financial institutions and funds focused on structured real estate finance and asset finance, Petersen and Spencer handle a wide range of transactions related to real estate private equity, commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), lending, restructuring, and debt and equity workouts. Their clients span a variety of lenders, including banks, debt funds, and other alternative providers, as well as private equity firms, loan servicing and asset managers, noteholder groups, bond issuers, property investors, and sovereign wealth funds.
A leading authority on CMBS, Petersen is editor at large of Commercial Mortgage Loans and CMBS: Developments in the European Market, published by Sweet & Maxwell and now in its 3rd edition with a 4th edition planned in 2020.
“With their diverse and deep experience in structured real estate finance and asset finance, Andrew and James and their team deepen our bench strength in counseling clients on their most sophisticated matters and further position us as an industry leader in this space,” said Shanell Cramer, New York–based co-chair of Alston & Bird’s Finance Group. “They are excited to join a strong brand and platform and will play a vital role in building our premier finance practice into a premier U.S.-UK finance practice, positioning us to execute a wider range of financing transactions in Europe and the U.S. to better serve important clients.”
Arriving alongside Petersen and Spencer is partner James Ashe-Taylor, whose team will help anchor Alston & Bird’s services to payment industry clients, including to advise on financial services regulatory issues in the UK and the EU generally. Ashe-Taylor will also work closely with the firm’s Brussels office as Alston & Bird strengthens its European antitrust and payment systems capabilities.
A leader in issues relating to EU payments legislation and competition law, Ashe-Taylor is a frequent commentator on key industry challenges and opportunities, including the EU’s Directive on Payment Services, or PSD2, which aims to enhance consumer protection, innovation, and security of payment services.
Ashe-Taylor joins a practice that serves as a trusted advisor to some of the industry’s most-recognized brands. Among its clients, Alston & Bird represented Fleetcor Technologies in acquiring Toronto-based Cambridge Global Payments in a 2018 transaction honored as “Foreign Inbound Deal of the Year” by the Canadian Dealmakers, and advised the Carlyle Group in buying Veritas Technologies from Symantec Corp. in 2015 in a cash deal worth $7.4 billion, cited by Bloomberg as one of the five largest M&A deals in the data processing/management industry in recent years.
Office partner in charge Rich Willis is a payments industry veteran of more than 20 years. He has advised banking, payments, and FinTech clients on dozens of acquisitions and strategic alliances across Europe, Latin America, North America, and Asia, with a focus on cross-border joint ventures and new market entry. Willis is currently working on payments transactions in the UK, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, reflecting the scope of the firm’s payments practice not just in the U.S. and Europe but also globally.
“A boom in the payments sector has gathered pace in the UK as consumers change the way they pay for goods, and legacy providers are challenged by rivals,” said Duncan Douglass, leader of Alston & Bird’s Payment Systems Team. “With the UK consolidating its position as a world leader in digital banking and other payments channels, both Rich and James strengthen our London offering as a leading platform from which to advise clients on transactions, product development, and regulatory issues related to retail and wholesale payments systems and products.”
The London office is Alston & Bird’s 12th office worldwide.