Firms To Watch: Banking and finance

Eversheds Sutherland added Deborah Archer, from PwC Legal, to their growing team this year.
DWF is expanding its Belfast offering, recruiting Orla Hanna from Carson McDowell as director.

Banking and finance in Northern Ireland

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody‘s practice is composed of a specialised team of finance experts, designed to provide a comprehensive suite of services. The team draws on the firm’s international network of offices, making it a leading choice for cross-border work, and also benefits from cross-departmental support which allows the practice to cover a broad range of sectors, including healthcare, construction and agri-tech. Practice head Ciaran McAlinney is recognised as a leading expert in syndicated and cross-border lending. Christopher Jessup shoulders a market-leading financial services regulatory practice and is active in an advisory role for multiple major banks. Louise Bailey and Judith Brown also play major roles in the team.

Practice head(s):

Ciaran McAlinney

Other key lawyers:

Louise Bailey; Judith Brown; Christopher Jessup

Testimonials

‘Very capable and dependable team.’

‘Ciaran McAllinney is one of the most experienced, professional and personable banking lawyers in NI.’

‘Top quality legal advice and expertise in the market and very professional, helpful, commercial and accessible.’

‘They are very supportive and available when required. They provide top quality advice in a professional, calm manner.’

Key clients

EVO Payments International GmbH

Kingsbridge Healthcare Group

Leading local and international financial institutions on LIBOR and benchmark reform

J.P Morgan Merchant Services

FinTech Northern Ireland

Selazar Limited

The Travelers Companies Inc

Northern Ireland Investment Fund (NIIF)

Work highlights

    Arthur Cox Belfast

    Arthur Cox Belfast works closely with retail banks, investment funds and private equity firms, and advises domestic Northern Irish housing associations on securities and financing. The department holds panel positions with many of the banks and financial institutions in Northern Ireland and is frequently the firm of choice for cutting edge work. Stuart Mansfield leads the team and has significant experience in debt restructuring and major transactions, such as syndicated loans and loan mortgage portfolio acquisitions. Colm McElroy brings his knowledge of transactions and refinancing as well as his experience of commodity, currency, and interest rate swaps to the table. Financial regulation specialist Sarah Thompson joined in 2021 from KIRKLAND AND ELLIS INTERNATIONAL LLP.

    Practice head(s):

    Stuart Mansfield

    Other key lawyers:

    Colm McElroy; Sarah Thompson

    Testimonials

    ‘The team was absolutely on top of the project from the outset. Everything was extremely smooth with a fixed fee proposed in advance and a first draft of the contract prepared within a week.’

    ‘I would have no hesitation in recommending Colm to anyone.’

    ‘Strong law firm focused on the Irish market. Legal advice you can always trust and know your legal position is fully protected.’

    ‘Stuart Mansfield and Colm McElroy deserve particular mention. Commercial lawyers with extensive experience.’

    Key clients

    Apex Housing Association

    Starwood Property Trust, Inc

    Bellis Finco Limited and Bellis Acquisition Company Limited

    Bain Capital

    Bank of Ireland

    Citibank

    Ballyclare Developments Limited

    Magnetar Financial (UK) LLP

    Bank of Ireland

    Northern Bank Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advised Apex Housing Association in relation to the financing and security aspects of a £100m senior secured note issuance financing.
    • Acted for Starwood Property Trust in connection with facilities advanced to a large property investor/developer for the purpose of refinancing debt secured against a portfolio of thirty-five investment properties, development sites and hotels.
    • Acted for Bellis Finco plc and Bellis Acquisition Company plc in connection with its first-time issuance of £2,250m senior secured notes and £500m senior notes to finance the acquisition of a large UK chain of supermarkets.

    Tughans

    Tughans covers a broad range of secured and unsecured lending for borrowers and financial institutions in addition to working on reviews and updates of standard documentation for banking clients. Advising on Northern Irish elements of securitisation transactions is another area of strength. The team includes members additionally qualified to work across England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland, allowing cross-border support. Fearghal O’Loan is department head and has a broad practice focused on debt structuring and financing. O’Loan is supported by Douglas Anderson, who specialises in syndicated lending, acquisition finance, and general corporate lending. Julie Huddleston was a new addition in early 2022, joining from DWF, where she was head of the banking team.

    Practice head(s):

    Fearghal O’Loan

    Other key lawyers:

    Douglas Anderson; Julie Huddleston; Sarah Sharkey

    Testimonials

    ‘Great banking team that is professional, experienced and a pleasure to deal with.’

    ‘Tughans is the go-to for securitisation work in Northern Ireland.’

    ‘Fearghal O’Loan is excellent.’

    ‘Excellent level of service.’

    ‘This is a reliable, innovative and thoughtful practice that simply gets the job done.’

    ‘The entire team in Tughans is skilled and fun to deal with. Professional and efficient, but also a joy to work with.’

    ‘The Tughans team can handle any type of financing instruction in Northern Ireland. They are versatile and deliver results in short time periods.’

    ‘Fearghal O’Loan is fantastic at stepping up in high-pressure situations and meeting client demands. He also has an in-depth understanding of the Northern Irish business and legal markets and provides valuable insights.’

    Key clients

    118118 Money

    Diageo Northern Ireland Limited

    Ulster Bank

    RMS Cash Solutions Limited trading as Pivotal

    Marlin Equity Partners

    HSBC Bank Plc

    Citibank NA London Branch

    Atom Bank Plc

    Santander UK PLC

    Upstream Working Capital

    Work highlights

    • Acting as Northern Irish law counsel on three connected transactions for 118118 in respect of warehouse financing structures for its credit card and personal loan receivables.
    • Acted for Diageo Northern Ireland Limited on several lending transactions whereby facilities are provided on the basis that the borrower trades with Diageo for a fixed period of time.
    • Acting for Ulster Bank in the advance of term loan facilities to Triangle Housing Association to include drafting and negotiating an LMA facilities agreement.

    Carson McDowell

    Carson McDowell is a well-respected firm known for expertise in real estate finance, cross-border lending, corporate lending, and energy finance. The department is active across the UK on high-value work, including advising Citibank on the acquisition of a residential mortgage portfolio worth £4.9bn. Team co-head Sinead McGrath was lead partner for this transaction, as well as on other major matters in the leisure, logistics, and manufacturing industries. Damian McElholm joined as co-head in January 2022 from Eversheds Sutherland, bringing with him experience across prominent sectors, including the renewable energy, social housing, and real estate sectors. The department benefits from the work of associates Emma Copeland and Rachel Lewis.

    Practice head(s):

    Sinead McGrath; Damian McElholm

    Other key lawyers:

    Emma Copeland; Rachel Lewis

    Testimonials

    ‘Strong local law firm. Lack of national firm locations doesn’t reflect depth and strength of this firm.’

    ‘Sinead McGrath and Damien McElholm deserve particular mention.’

    ‘Sinead has an unrivalled depth of experience in banking and finance, and has built a strong team for delivering client assignments.’

    Key clients

    National Westminster Bank plc/ t/a Ulster Bank

    Danske Bank

    Bank of Ireland

    AIB Group (UK) plc ( trading as First Trust)

    Atom Bank

    Investec Bank

    Cheyne Capital

    BNP Paribas

    Barclays Bank

    Dunport Capital

    Work highlights

    • Advising Linen Mill Studios Ltd, the developer of a landmark new Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, on a £10m loan facility from Barclays Bank plc.
    • Advising NatWest on all Northern Irish law aspects of the sale of Project Mercatus, a portfolio of loans representing debt of over £400m to institutionally owned city centre shopping centres.
    • Advising DunPort Capital in relation to all Northern Irish law aspects of its financing of the EasyGo Group, the largest electric vehicle charging point operator in Ireland.

    Cleaver Fulton Rankin

    Cleaver Fulton Rankin‘s offering is active in both property and project finance, and benefits from cross-departmental support from within the firm. The team acts across the entirety of Ireland and the UK for major clients such as Deloitte, AIB Bank and Whitehawk Capital Partners. Team head Stephen Cross is widely recognised for his work advising lenders operating in Northern Ireland, and has developed a practice in providing regulatory advice for banks. He is supported by Paul McBride, who joined the firm in January 2022 from Davidson McDonnell Solicitors. Solicitor Jennifer Rankin is a frequent team member.

    Practice head(s):

    Stephen Cross

    Other key lawyers:

    Paul McBride; Jennifer Rankin

    Key clients

    Danske Bank

    HSBC Bank plc

    Ulster Bank Limited

    Harcourt Developments

    Bank of Ireland

    Puma Property Finance

    Bowmark Capital LLP

    Virgin Money plc

    Close Brothers Asset Finance

    Silicon Valley Bank

    Work highlights

      Millar McCall Wylie LLP

      Millar McCall Wylie LLP is a domestic firm that fields a team of ‘exceptionally good lawyers‘. The practice acts across the whole range of NI finance providers, working with peer-to-peer lending platforms, private investors, and overseas funds, in addition to the established local banks. Co-head and founding partner Peter McCall specialises in property finance and security. John Finnegan, with whom McCall jointly leads the team, is relationship manager for the major lender clients and is particularly active in construction financing. Simon Fleming has substantial experience in the refinancing of large-scale loans.

      Practice head(s):

      John Finnegan; Peter McCall

      Other key lawyers:

      Simon Fleming

      Testimonials

      ‘They go out of their way to make themselves available. Will pick up the phone to discuss commercial solutions to issues encountered rather than present roadblocks.’

      ‘Extremely open communication and focus is on finding ways to do things, rather than finding academic issues.’

      ‘MMW have an excellent team with a great depth of knowledge and experience.’

      ‘The banking team is strong and reliable on multijurisdictional deals.’

      ‘The MMW finance team stands out in the local market for its extremely commercial and client-focused approach.’

      ‘The entire team are exceptionally good lawyers.’

      ‘Very responsive and represent extremely good value for money – priced far more competitively than some of the biggest names in the Belfast legal market, but provide service and insight on par with the best.’

      ‘John Finnegan: strong allrounder with good experience across a range of corporate transactions, but particularly robust on property finance transactions.’

      Key clients

      Danske Bank

      Bank of Ireland

      Assetz Capital

      Whiterock Capital Partners (Growth Finance Fund, Growth Loan Fund)

      Blend Loan Network

      First Trust

      Fairfield Real Estate Finance Services Ltd

      McAleer & Rushe Group

      Garvan O’Doherty Group

      Meridian Trust Company

      Work highlights

      • Advised Collinbridge Finance on a facility in favour of a residential property development group for the construction for a major bypass/relief road at Ballyclare.
      • Advised local property firm in relation to the acquisition of a landmark Belfast city centre hotel and related finance.
      • Advised major locally-based manufacturer and exporter of medical equipment on the conversion to equity shares of a convertible loan from the British Governments Future Fund (through UK FF Nominees).

      Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP

      The ‘experienced, knowledgeable and efficient’ team at Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP works closely with the full-service Dublin office to provide a comprehensive service across Ireland. The department acts for major international clients such as HSBC, Lloyds, and Ulster Bank, and is particularly active in real estate financing. Jane Boyd acts as team head and is triple qualified in England and Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Her practice covers all real estate asset classes and financing techniques, with particularly deep experience in the education sector. Legal director Seána Donaghy, who previously worked in the firm’s Manchester office and is also triple qualified, specialises in debt finance. Amanda Gilliland has joined from TLT.

      Practice head(s):

      Jane Boyd

      Other key lawyers:

      Seána Donaghy

      Testimonials

      ‘Very experienced and reliable team that is well resourced, responsive and provides good value for money.’

      ‘Jane Boyd is an excellent lawyer – she is very experienced with LMA documentation, reliable, responsive and someone you want in your corner on a complex transaction.’

      ‘They are expert advisers, well-connected in the banking/finance market, responsive and a pleasure to work with.’

      ‘Experienced, knowledgeable and efficient. A local team with the ability to leverage on market experience of wider UK team is a key differentiator.’

      ‘Seána Donaghy – experienced, knowledgeable and efficient. She takes a commercial approach and provides valuable insight and guidance.’

      Key clients

      HSBC Bank plc

      Lloyds Bank plc

      National Westminster Bank plc (trading as Ulster Bank)

      Work highlights

        Shoosmiths LLP

        Shoosmiths LLP‘s newly established team is comprised of members both recruited laterally and promoted from within. They are already active for major banks including Ulster and Danske, and work across all UK jurisdictions. Team leader Anna Vangrove was department co-head for TLT until leaving in 2021, and is known for her work with borrower and lender clients, particularly those with complex funding needs. She is viewed as a leading ABL lawyer in the Northern Ireland market, with a special focus on energy finance matters. Principal associate Michael Kelly, who joined from TLT alongside Vangrove, brings additional experience in real estate financing.

        Practice head(s):

        Anna Vangrove

        Other key lawyers:

        Michael Kelly; Hannah Evans

        Testimonials

        ‘Good rounded banking and finance team. Can be relied on to assist with most matters and queries where needed.’

        ‘Anna Vangrove – reliable, responsive and easy to work with. Pragmatic on negotiation and doesn’t over complicate matters.’

        ‘Very client/customer focused delivery. Available at all times. Strong work ethic and deliver in the timescales promised (notwithstanding any factors outside of their direct control).’

        ‘The banking and finance team key staff are well known and respected in the market. We have built up a strong relationship over time on previous engagements and the team will always go the extra mile to deliver for clients.’

        Particular stand out mention to Anna Vangrove and Michael Kelly – strong work ethic and commerciality means that I am confident I would get the best representation to get the deal done in the shortest time period while protecting my interests as the client.’

        Key clients

        AIB Group (UK) plc

        Ulster Bank

        Danske Bank

        Ultimate Finance

        Industrial Finance & Leasing

        Ortus Secured Finance

        Hughes Mushrooms

        Keys Finance

        Bank of Scotland

        Choice Housing

        Capitalflow DAC

        Kilmona Holdings (large property investor and hotelier)

        Wilson’s Auctions Limited

        Work highlights

        • Advised the Hughes Mushrooms Group on its refinance to HSBC, providing extensive growth capital for its innovative and large scale agri business.
        • Advised Choice Housing Association on multiple large scale funding arrangements from NI and GB funders.
        • Advised Ortus Secured Finance on its funding of the acquisition and development of the Hilton Hotel in Templepatrick by Loughview Leisure Group.

        TLT

        TLT‘s team is known for completing bilateral financings with multi-departmental elements and acts as a core part of the firm’s wider UK practice. The department frequently advises on financing elements of high-value projects within Northern Ireland, including the £87m acquisition of Merchant Square by Albilad Capital. Richard Houliston leads the team and regularly receives instructions from international law firms, equity houses and banks on Northern Irish aspects of global securitisation and loan portfolio transactions. Caroline MacLaughlin joined in January 2022 from Cleaver Fulton Rankin. Associate Amanda Gilliland has left for Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP.

        Practice head(s):

        Richard Houliston

        Other key lawyers:

        Caroline MacLaughlin

        Testimonials

        ‘Very approachable, professional, supportive and commercial. Enthusiastic and keen to understand their clients’ business.’

        ‘Commercial and professional legal advice that you can trust. Access to a national team with significant depth of in-house expertise and experience. Competitive price fees and never any over billing.’

        ‘Richard Houliston deserves particular mention.’

        Key clients

        CBRE Capital Advisors and the Northern Ireland Investment Fund

        AIB Group (UK) plc

        NatWest/Ulster Bank

        Danske Bank

        Bank of Ireland

        Ortus Secured Finance

        Santander UK plc

        HSBC Bank UK plc

        Crescendo Real Estate Debt Fund

        ICICI Bank UK plc

        Work highlights

        • Advised AIB on its £18,525,000 real estate investment facilities to the JT Ross Property Group in connection with the near 100,000 sq ft Tesco Extra store in Newry.
        • Advised Saudi Arabian investment fund Albilad Capital on the Northern Irish aspects of its acquisition of Merchant Square in Belfast for £87,000,000.
        • Advising Danske Bank on the refinancing of Clanmil Housing Association’s existing term debt facilities.

        Davidson McDonnell Solicitors

        The finance department at Davidson McDonnell Solicitors was established in 2018 and is primarily active on property and development finance on behalf of banks, corporate borrowers, and other financial institutions.

        Practice head(s):

        Aisling Owens

        Testimonials

        ‘Highly capable and diverse team covering banking, property and insolvency law.’

        Key clients

        Wirefox Group

        Whiterock Capital Partners LLP

        Runwood Homes Limited

        Willis & Company Holdings Limited

        Dunluce Capital Management Limited

        Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc

        FSCom Limited

        Xperience Group

        Work highlights

        • Advised the lender on the £24.6m refinance of an iconic Belfast landmark.
        • Advised the Wirefox Group in relation to the development financing of the Paper Exchange, an iconic 11 storey Grade A office space located in Belfast City Centre.
        • Advising the Wirefox Group in relation to the financing aspects of the purchase of a prominent golfing hotel in Scotland.

        Elliott Duffy Garrett

        Elliott Duffy Garrett provides general banking advice and secured lending services to domestic banks, housing associations, credit unions, and private companies. The team works across departments, drawing on support from colleagues in property, commercial litigation and dispute resolution where necessary. Kevin McVeigh, who has over thirty years of experience under his belt, leads the team. He is supported by Cathy Murphy and John McElrone.

        Practice head(s):

        Kevin McVeigh

        Other key lawyers:

        Cathy Murphy; John McElrone

        Key clients

        Northern Bank Limited

        Ulster Bank Limited

        Leeds Building Society

        Feniton Property Finance DAC

        Premium Credit Limited

        Tennent’s NI Limited

        Choice Housing Ireland Limited

        Connswater Homes Limited

        Lloyds Banking Group

        Bank of Scotland plc

        Upstream Trade Finance Limited

        Special EU Programmes Body

        Pepper Finance Corporation (Ireland) DAC

        Work highlights

        • Advised a leading lending institution and its appointed receivers on a complex contentious realisation of property assets which had cross-border elements and a value of circa £10m.
        • Advising a cross-border funding body in relation to the grant of facilities of circa £23m for the implementation of institutional funding.
        • Advised a US bank in relation to a facilities agreement for a loan in excess of £39m.

        McKees

        McKees fields a team capable of working across UK and ROI borders, with particular strength in real estate financing. The department works across the industrial, residential, and commercial sectors, and frequently acts for the major local banks. Consultant Avril McCammon works as team co-head, bringing ‘mastery of the subject‘ which is described as ‘outstanding’. She works closely with ‘very experienced‘ co-head Donald Thompson, who is dual-qualified in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. Philip McBride is also noted.

        Practice head(s):

        Avril McCammon; Donald Thompson

        Other key lawyers:

        Philip McBride

        Testimonials

        ‘Avril McCammon is the go-to person in this field. Superb at drafting and advisory work – she is outstanding in her mastery of the subject and client care.’

        ‘Philip McBride – his understanding of clients’ needs, quality of advice and efficiency of service.’

        ‘Donald Thompson – practical, responsive, business-minded, and solution-focused.’

        ‘While being experts in NI law, they have strong cross-boarder links and are able to easily slot into multi-jurisdictional transactions.’

        ‘Donald Thompson and Avril McCammon have a deep knowledge of financing matters from a NI legal perspective.’

        ‘McKees know the sector, are very experienced in multiple transactions, prompt to deal with any issues and keep us updated. Delivery 1st class.’

        ‘Don Thompson. A pragmatic, very experienced partner, able to articulate quickly a legal view on a wide and diverse range of legal issues on all matters.’

        ‘Put simply, Avril McCammon is probably the best banking and finance lawyer operating in this jurisdiction.’

        Key clients

        Danske Bank

        Bank of Ireland

        Ulster Bank

        AIB

        Santander

        Invoicefair

        TFG Capital Limited

        The Housing Finance Corporation Limited

        Close Brothers

        Diageo

        Work highlights

          Wilson Nesbitt

          Wilson Nesbitt is a respected name in the region, with long-term relationships with the most active lenders in the market. The firm has a particularly strong relationship with the Bank of Ireland. The team is co-led by the ‘outstanding’ Neil Logan, who advises commercial borrowers, and acts for both local and national financial institutions on transactions involving Northern Ireland assets. Co-head Natasha Adamson leads the residential secured lending team and specialises in mortgages.

          Practice head(s):

          Neil Logan; Natasha Adamson

          Testimonials

          ‘They keep us well informed throughout the course of any transaction.’

          ‘Neil Logan is exceptional in what he does, very knowledgable and will find practical approaches and solutions to issues that can arise. He is very approachable and open to direct contact.’

          ‘Neil Logan makes it unique.’

          ‘Neil Logan is one of the best allround solicitors I have ever dealt with, in 20 years of lending. He is outstanding in his field.’

          ‘Neil Logan is a diligent, solution-focused lawyer.’

          Key clients

          Bank of Ireland UK lc

          Fiduciam Nominees Limited

          Assetz Capital Limited

          Folk2Folk Limited

          Aberclay Limited

          Lloyds Banking Group

          Barclays Bank plc

          Virgin Money plc

          Nationwide Building Society

          HSBC Bank plc

          Aviva Equity Release UK Ltd

          Co-operative Financial Services

          Work highlights

          • Acted for Fiduciam Nominees on the certification of title, drafting of the security documents and the perfection of the security.
          • Drafted Folk2Folk’s suite of security documents for NI as they were new to the market, and transacted on their first loan.
          • Advanced a loan to a property developer in Derry to fund the purchase of a development site for 81 residential units, on behalf of Aberclay.