Mia Drennan is the Founder and CEO of GLAS – a global provider of third-party agency and trustee services in the institutional debt and equity markets. The firm’s offering focuses on restructuring and special situations, direct lending, capital markets and leveraged finance. Here, Mia speaks to Finance Monthly about setting up her company and restructuring trends in the UK.
What was the idea about GLAS born out of?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and prior to starting GLAS, I leveraged my entrepreneurial skill set for my previous clients and employers. I spent a large proportion of my career in the trustee and agency space working for a large American bank. My success was based on the standard of service my team and I provided to our clients, picking up the phone and returning emails in a timely fashion and being able to be solution driven. Following the crash in 2008, this mentality changed, and these institutions became hard to deal with. After leaving the bank, I had always wanted to establish my own agency and trustee business. The lightbulb moment came at the time of the credit crunch and the need for institutional debt to be restructured. Banks were selling loan portfolios to credit funds and looking to exit from the ancillary roles and that was the angle. It took three months and 400 meetings in the City of London to get our first deal but it was worth the effort and I have never looked back. Today, we are a global business across all continents with over sixty-five employees.
What are the typical clients that you provide loan agency and trustee services to?
Since our inception, we have always tried to differentiate ourselves from our competition, we want to provide a ‘front office approach to a back-office service’. Our focus is on developing expertise in different sectors, which covers the sticky end of the scale, restructuring, work-out and special situations, direct lending – the alternatives and funds we work with, love the fact that we are totally independent and we see the delivery of our services as an extension of the lenders. Within the Capital Markets, we can provide a more commercial and pragmatic approach on Institutional Transactions and Loan Services working on large syndications which we can do more efficiently and partner with the arranging Banks. Our client base is wide. We work with lawyers, advisers, corporates, institutions, accountants, banks, debt funds and institutional investors. The great thing about our business is that is has many touch points and we have many stakeholders and clients.
Which sectors would you say are faced with restructurings more than others in the UK?
The sectors which are under stress now are those which are (I) real estate heavy; (ii) over leveraged and (iii) have not invested in technology. Retailers have suffered specifically and companies which over expanded and have not kept pace with the consumer trends towards online retail for example. The challenge for creditors is the lack of covenants in the credit agreement which provide creditors with a trigger, making it difficult to carry out a debt restructure. There is still a lot of money searching for good businesses and management teams and these tend to go down an ‘amend and extend’ route and have new money or equity invested. Additionally, we are also seeing Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) as flavour of the month right now.
As CEO, how do you ensure you are directing the company in the correct direction?
The journey for any true entrepreneur is all about growing something. It gets hard when you go beyond the football team size! I am lucky to have an amazing business partner and that I have assembled a great executive team around me. We are constantly reviewing and aligning our plans, so we can keep growing and maintain a position as a trailblazer in this space.
How do you advise your team to make the correct decisions for the company alongside clients?
We have invested in our central function which comprises, risk, compliance and product development. We have various governance processes and procedures which allows us to remain nimble and solution driven but doesn’t put the business at risk.
What challenges would you say you and the firm encounter on a regular basis?
The main challenges are around keeping the competitive edge, delivering innovation and preserving the family feel culture. I spend my time working on our culture to ensure that our original values and the mission we created live on in throughout the organisation. I strive to do this through communication channels and ensuring new joiners are made aware how we got here and where we came from. Coming into this business today is very different to what is was like in the first year!
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