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Holman Fenwick Willan takes London banking partner from Ince & Co

During a tough year for insurance specialists, Holman Fenwick Willan has hired a partner from rival Ince & Co, appointing Stephen Marais to build its asset finance practice.

Marais joins Holman’s London team having served at Ince & Co since 2011. He has experience in advising on ship finance, commodity and trade finance, and aviation finance transactions. He has also acted on structured transactions, in particular sale and leaseback transactions, orphan trust arrangements, Islamic finance and export credit supported transactions.

While at Ince & Co, Marais acted for the arranger as deal counsel on a €84m German registered loan note financing for the acquisition of a 13,100 teu container vessel for a Middle Eastern shipowner; and advised a ship owner on the syndicated debt financing of two bulk carriers.

Marais commented: ‘Since the global financial crisis of 2008 and the resulting loss of liquidity, the banking and finance sector has changed quite significantly. Traditional lenders have exited some sectors while new capital providers have made their presence felt. I am looking forward to helping the firm take advantage of the opportunities for further growth in this area.’

Holman finance head Elinor Dautlich said Marias’ extensive experience of working on structured asset finance transactions across a number of Holman’s sectors of focus would enhance its offering.

Marais’ hire comes in a year when insurance specialists have faced a tough time.

While Holman celebrates the new partner addition, the firm saw a 15% slide in its profits per equity partner (PEP) for the 2014/15 financial year. In August, the firm, which has 13 offices including Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney and Sao Paulo, saw a 3% drop in revenue from £144m to 139m with the UK generating over half of this bringing in £70m. This translated into a net income figure of £38m with the 81 equity partners giving a PEP figure of £469,000 – a 15% fall on last year’s £554,000.

The firm was also hit with a professional negligence dispute earlier this year, brought by a former maritime client, Pimesa Trading Incorporated, which accused the firm of acting negligently when it advised on a contract for the sale of an offshore drilling rig.

Ince & Co’s numbers have not fared much better, having fallen for the second year running, down by 8% to £79.4m from the £86.7m posted in 2013/14. In April, the firm’s headcount was cut after it restructured its partnership and support staff with six partners and ten secretarial staff set to depart.