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Reed Smith taps Macfarlanes for fund finance head in rare departure from City blueblood

Macfarlanes has seen a rare partner exit as investment fund finance group leader Bronwen Jones quit the City stalwart after 14 years for Reed Smith.

The first lateral hire from the firm since head of competition Marc Israel left for White & Case in November 2016 , Jones left last Friday (23 February) and is expected to start at Reed Smith’s London fund finance group in early April.

Her clients include Partners Group and Ares Capital, and she has also acted for retail banks such as RBS and Lloyds – mutual clients with Reed Smith’s London head of funds financing Leon Stephenson.

Jones joined Macfarlanes in January 2004 from Kirkland & Ellis, where she had relocated the year before after three years in New York. She was involved in setting up Macfarlanes’ debt finance practice, but the firm will not look to replace her.

Speaking to Legal Business, Reed Smith financial industry group vice-chair Nola Beirne described Jones’s hire as ‘taking the group to the next stage’. ‘Bronwen is a highly-respected name in the industry and has an established reputation. Her hire is part of our strategy of continuing to build out our funds practice.’

Commenting on the rationale behind Jones’ move, a partner at Reed Smith also stressed that the US-bred firm’s international reach would give Jones a better platform to service American funds.

While defections are rare for Macfarlanes, the firm has lost a few high-profile names to US firms over the years. Along with White & Case’s hire of Marc Israel, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan recruited its financial service head David Berman in September 2016.

Macfarlanes is known for its resistance towards overseas expansion, a strategy which has so far paid off for a firm which has increased its top line 64% to £167.6m over the last five years and remains one of the most profitable in the UK. Its only base outside London, Brussels, launched at the beginning of 2017 to serve as a base for the competition team it hired from King & Wood Mallesons’ ailing European arm.

The firm recently announced that long-time senior partner Charles Martin will step down in April 2020, when private client partner Sebastian Prichard Jones will step in to the role.

As for Reed Smith, the hire of Jones follows the departure of a three-partner Paris tax team to DLA Piper just over a year after they joined the firm from KWM.