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Friday, 12th April 2024
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A Day in the Life: David Dillon, senior partner at Dillon Eustace Back  
David Dillon, senior partner at Dillon Eustace Solicitors, believes in the financial services industry, and his day involves discussing new fund structures with the Financial Regulator, attending a board meeting for an IFSC company, and preparing the firm’s impending move to the city’s new ‘law quarter’ in Grand Canal Quay.
08.20am I arrive at Grand Canal House, which will be the firm’s headquarters for at least another four months. I usually arrive at the office at 08.20 having dropped Neil and Alex to school. A few early birds on our floor have arrived any time up to an hour and a half before me. In the heyday of the Korean and Japanese markets, an earlier start was required to overlap for as long as possible with our colleagues in those markets.
David Dillon

The forty minutes before 9 o’clock is used for a combination of checking for urgent emails which may have come in over-night from the States or further afield, and chatting in the canteen. Sport is a shared interest by most in the firm. We have rugby players, hockey players, golfers, tennis players, county footballers, but best of all - the Law Society Soccer Challenge Cup winning team.

09.00am This Wednesday we have a group meeting which is made up of my own team, Donnacha O’Connor’s hedge fund team and our regulatory and compliance unit. Because of the pressure of work, it is often a safety valve to make sure nobody drowns under their caseload. When people are seriously under pressure we arrange for re-allocation of certain files and make plans to recruit more resources either within or outside the firm.

09.30am I make a serious attempt to sift through the ever increasing number of emails. A significant amount of e-mail and phone traffic is from conference organisers or publications. Since Mark Thorne took over as managing partner I have become very adept at the ‘hospital pass’, suggesting that our managing partner is much better placed to deal with inquiries on advertising requirements for yet another hedge fund publication.

10.30am I collect the papers and head off for a board meeting of one of our South African clients. I am a director of a number of IFSC companies, and a significant amount of time is taken up with preparing for and attending board meetings. This is particularly so at semi-annual and annual year ends. The meeting is due to start at 11.00 am and it will be attended by the Dublin executives as well as a strong contingent from South Africa made up of directors and senior representatives from the different product divisions. In certain quarters the IFSC is regarded with some suspicion, and the extraordinarily high standards of corporate governance often go unrecognised except by those with first hand experience.

What is often forgotten by critics of the financial services industry is that a very significant number of the companies operating in the international sector are made up of the leading banks and financial houses in their own jurisdictions. I often think it is a pity that there is not a more constructive dialogue between those who would cry wolf at every opportunity and the industry. Some criticism is very much on an intellectual level, and very often from those who are in the business of corporate compliance and in this respect there is a built in bias which, quite frankly is unhelpful. It is unfortunate also because the Financial Regulator, who does an exceptional job in maintaining standards, is often criticised where it has no case to answer. The industry often differs with the Regulator on how best to regulate individual products, but not on the need for high prudential standards.

13.30pm The meeting comes to an end. Prior to the board meeting the management team and group directors will have had a day and a half of meetings to review operations and this enables us to get through the business within the two and a half hours.

14.00pm I meet Michael Kevany and Paul Eustace at Grand Canal Street, to discuss progress on the firm’s planned new headquarters at Sir John Rodgerson’s Quay. Michael is our project manager and has to put up with all our complaints. What worries me is that in spite of the fact that I think I am very difficult he assures me that we are not difficult clients at all. By some peculiar phenomenon this part of the city, by autumn will be dominated by lawyers. The Ferryman pub and Macken Street will be all that will separate us from McCann Fitzgerald, while A&L Goodbody is just on the other side of the Liffey, and their proximity will be emphasised by the proposed new bridge. Rumour has it that Matheson Ormsby Prentice and William Fry are also moving down to this fashionable part of town.

15.00pm I phone the Financial Regulator to discuss a proposed new investment funds structure. This will in all probability require a decision by the policy division. I explain the merits of the structure and that the asset class into which it is proposed the fund will invest will very soon be mainstream. This small exchange reflects the dynamic, which is central to the financial services industry. The industry and the Regulator are completely agreed about the importance of maintaining the reputation and integrity of the ‘Irish product’. Where there is a difference in view, is in the best method to achieve this. The industry argue that quite a number of the rules and regulations hamper the efficient design of the products resulting in a poorer, less desirable and less efficient product. The discussion has ebbed and flowed since the inception of the IFSC. Very often problems in other markets and even domestic scandals puts pressure on the Regulator to meet the agenda thrown up by those problems. A consequence is often more and more regulations and laws. In fairness it is not the Regulator that initiates many of the European Directives, US Laws such as Sarbanes Oxley, or indeed our own equivalent of Sarbanes Oxley. Certainly in Europe there seems to be an insatiable appetite to embrace ever more regulation. A refreshing alternative view is now beginning to emerge championed by our very own Charlie McCreevy, who has placed a moratorium on further initiatives until an assessment has been made of what is already in place. He has also advocated cost benefit assessment as well as impact analysis on all proposed regulation.

On this occasion I am told that our points will be considered and hopefully a decision will be made by the end of the week. Discussions with regulators in this jurisdiction are nearly always cordial, and so even at times when we don’t get the decision we want, relations are rarely damaged. This professionalism has also helped the reputation of the Regulator in Ireland.

15.45pm I make another attempt at reducing the number of unread emails.

17.00pm I take a phone call from Claude Kramer who is head of the financial services group at Arendt & Medernach, who are our alliance partners in Luxembourg. Claude is chasing me for my contribution to a client memorandum on the merits of the two jurisdictions. On this occasion I have broken the back of my assignment and I am able to promise him that he will have it by the end of the week. Our alliance was established in 2000, and is something we are quite proud of.

17.30pm Eileen Colleran, who has been working with me on a number of projects for our US clients, joins me and we make a number of conference calls to discuss issues which need resolution.

19.00pm Head for home with a briefcase full of papers. Many of my partners are suspicious that the case is never opened. On this evening I read through outstanding post while I watch the second leg of a European Cup Match with Mark and Alex.

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