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Now is time to get prepared to help with insolvency instructions

The right moves


Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

In 2001, Robert McKay and I sat down for lunch. A combination of the dotcom bubble bursting, and 9/11, was collapsing the values of property and shares. The property markets were seizing up, and the fee earning outlook was bleak. In a rare moment of inspiration, I foresaw a wave of insolvency. The liquidators and receivers would be busy again. But who were they? And the couple I remembered from the 90s, I hadn't seen for years.

Robert and I agreed to collaborate and offer a joint service to the insolvency practitioners. My firm would handle the property valuations and sales, and Robert would manage the plant and machinery. We produced a brochure offering a cohesive service and a single invoice. Crucially, we spent the next few weeks visiting the insolvency practitioners and banks. All were pleasantly surprised to hear from us.

Boom! Within a month, a wave of insolvency instructions hit Ireland. The new "data centres" were hit hard. We were appointed to handle a data centre in a Dublin estate. We learned fast about data centres and did a good job.

Within a month, a liquidator was appointed to another large data centre. Who was he going to appoint? We got that job too. And the next few data centres. And then we started getting work in other sectors too. We had established momentum, and "success breeds success".

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus crisis, we are already seeing a new wave of insolvency in business, and there will be more to come. Every liquidator, receiver and examiner appointed needs property valuations, advice and possibly sales handled. But is your firm well positioned to win some of this business?

Now is the time to prepare, so delegate people to start the work.

The good news is that most of the major jobs are controlled by a handful of insolvency specialists, all partners with the big accountancy practices. They have small teams, and you need to get in front of all these people and build long-term relationships.

Start by joining a business information site like Vision-net and analyse the last few years of appointments of liquidators/receivers. Who's getting the most work? Which practitioners are strongest in which areas?

You can even get two weeks' notice of pending instructions, just by looking at the listings of creditors meetings.

You should also get to know individuals in the insolvency departments in the banks. They are not supposed to influence the liquidators/receivers they appoint, over what professionals to use, but as a minimum, make sure they know you.

You should also understand how the 'vulture funds' realise their assets. They all have panels of professionals they use in insolvency. Are you even on their panels? Another source of information is the court lists, as creditors petition the courts to appoint liquidators over unpaid debts.

Find someone who can introduce you and make contact. Set-up "virtual meetings" and send useful information. Could you run a webinar for them on the types of property at most risk today? Dazzle them with your enthusiasm.

Be smart about the instructions you take on. There are significant fees, but also leasehold interests and contents with no value. Don't be afraid to charge a minimum fee. But helping out a liquidator on a tricky case, puts you in a great position to get the next valuable one.

Irish Independent