Taking advantage of North East opportunities

Having built a global client base of major financial institutions, DRS is now turning its attention to developing the technology in-house to expand its operation further. Michael Beaton, a managing partner of DRS, explains how technology will play a key role in its growth and why the North East has been chosen as the epicentre of this

Having built a reputation as a leading legal and regulatory consultancy in the financial market, with a client base comprising some of the world’s biggest banks and financial businesses, DRS is looking to the North East to help build the future of its fast-growing venture.

For ten years, DRS has provided contract management services to financial firms globally, with their specialist technology-based services – which centre on negotiating, amending and analysing contracts – winning them work from a whole suite of financial clients, from small hedge funds to the best-known names in the industry.

But now DRS, which started life in London, has expanded into the North East, with its Newcastle office growing from three to 30 people within its first two years. The business aims to have created 100 professional roles at its Hoults Yard base in the near future.

And the region is set to be the centre of its tech growth, with DRS planning to launch its first software platform developed in-house (previously it has collaborated with tech companies rather than building its own products) which will be rolled out in the coming months and marks the start of a new era for the business that employs about 120 people across its two offices.

Michael Beaton, one of four managing partners of DRS, sees the North East as having a huge role to play in the future of the business, thanks to its growing capability in digital and tech skills, including fintech.

Michael, who hails from Morpeth, says: “There is a very vibrant tech industry based here. I left the North East more than 20 years ago, but when I came back I was amazed. The city has been absolutely transformed in terms of tech, but also with its art, culture and architecture.

“We have chosen Newcastle as the site for our first step into developing our own technology, which is centred on legislation that will be coming in around the Senior Managers Regime – for us this is a brave new world, but we are looking to build in this area and Newcastle is at the centre of that.

“Newcastle is a growth opportunity for us – there is a strong sector here and great universities which are producing some ‘diamonds in the rough’ graduates. It is very refreshing to see the work being done here for the really large London financial firms, which is the area in which we work. There is real expertise here, in firms such as Opencast Software and Scott Logic, and that is being used to great effect.

“I go down to London every week and it’s less than three hours on the train then a hop, skip and jump down the Northern Line to the City. It’s really very easy – and from these City firms’ perspective, they are getting London quality service but at non- London prices, which proves very appealing.”

For a decade, DRS has used ever-advancing technology in its work with major London and international firms to support them with the management of their portfolios of documentation, which often comprise tens of thousands of contracts. While this can be an onerous and time-consuming process for financial businesses, especially those with huge portfolios, it is something that can be outsourced to DRS to great success.

“Our use of technology focuses on helping to enhance compliance, manage risks and enhance trading opportunities. Using technology is definitely the direction of travel and we are concentrating heavily in that area,” says Michael.

“We already use systems which streamline documentation and can deliver real efficiencies – the OCR system we use can convert legacy portfolios which are saved as PDF images into searchable PDF documents. Looking forward, we hope to make greater use of AI and technology that can breathe life into portfolios, Blockchain, systems which can automatically read whole portfolios of documentation; that may be a number of years away, but we are keeping a close check on developments in that area.”

As well as its commitment to technology helping to put the business at the forefront of its sector, DRS is also agile in its pricing model, making it accessible to all organisations, regardless of their size or budget. “We have built a reputation for helping clients trade more efficiently and for helping them manage risks more effectively, but while we have global clients in our portfolio, we do equally act for small clients, those whose size means they cannot justify getting someone dedicated in-house. We offer a ‘pay as you go’ or fixed price to them, as their requirements are quite small. But at the other end of the spectrum, you have major banks who assign a budget of £17 million each year just to their UK contracts work. We offer a different pricing policy in that instance as we are talking about huge volumes of documentation, but we remain very competitive on price as specialists in this area,” says Michael.

“The next few years look to be about growth, and our first step into developing our own tech, and the appointment of our first in-house developer, have been very significant. We will continue to offer the services to our clients we have done, but the advances in technology will be a big advantage to us in doing that. We will take advantage of opportunities in this area to ensure we remain right at the forefront of innovation.”

For more information visit – www.drs-als.com.

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