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Alexis Phillips Risk Management, Compliance

In our latest MERJE Meets, we sit down with Ehsan Haque, who is Global Head of Legal and Compliance for leading global private equity business Hamilton Capital.

Ehsan is a Legal and Regulatory Risk professional with more than 18 years’ worth of PQE experience working as in-house counsel across a number of top-tier global financial and investment institutions, broker dealers, private equity and FinTech start-ups.

His skills encompass the Equities, Regulatory and Reputational Risk Management, Complex and Cross-border Transactional, Derivatives and Compliance disciplines, to name a few.

In this instalment, we discover what inspires and motivates Ehsan while finding out more about his career and the issues currently affecting his role and our core markets in general.

Can you provide a brief overview of your career and the journey which has resulted in the role you hold today?

It has been slightly unconventional, mainly because I left university and worked in advertising and sales for four years before going to law school to retrain. I took some risk because I self- funded my post graduate studies. I really enjoyed my time working in media and sold airtime for Capital Radio which was good fun.

I had a vague notion of working as a media lawyer, but couldn’t get a training contract. As a result, I did a sales job with a friend for a few months, made a lot of recruiting acquaintances and applied for a job in a bank. I landed my first role at Abbey National Treasury Services as an ISDA negotiator in 1999 and then got a training contract with Slaughter and May as a client secondee. I qualified in 2002 and spent 15 years working in Investment Banking for the likes of Deutsche, RBS and Nomura, where I had a senior management role leading their Equities Legal product coverage for EMEA.

More recently, I have transitioned into FinTech as GC for two start-ups and now act as an advisor and mentor to a leading FinTech accelerator.  I joined Hamilton Capital two months ago where I am Global Head of Legal and Compliance for a global private equity firm which has an AUM of £12bn under management. They have global interests in FinTech, Pharma and TMT.  It’s a truly global role, which is all very new, challenging and rewarding!

Can you summarise your business, its ethos and culture and what makes it unique to its competitors?

We are fast-paced, collaborative, collegiate and flat structured in terms of having a hierarchy. Simply put, everyone gets stuck in and everyone who joins is hand-picked by my boss, who is the CEO. It is a diverse team with a lot of smart, able, friendly and driven people which brings with it a great energy about the place. We are building a business within a business so it’s fair to say we have cultivated a dynamic environment.

How has the current pandemic affected your day-to-day role?

We would ordinarily be in the office five days a week, which looks very different in the current environment and is an unusual concept now to say the least! I thought long and hard before I took the role, but it has transpired that I can drive to work and I also have my own parking space, which is different to what I am used to, having chiefly spent years working in the city.

We are COVID aware and have a raft of safety measures in place, which is important during this time as the business is currently growing exponentially. We have a lot of people joining us and this has to be carefully managed so that they can come into the office. Working from home is an option which we would like to extend to our employees but it’s not possible at the moment. We would certainly be open to it in future. Personally, I love being back working with people again on a face-to-face basis.

What are your strategy and growth plans over the course of the next 12 months?

Simply put, we have very specific hiring needs and I have already taken on two people in as many months. We have strategic global plans so my job is to be part of the core leadership team and be front and centre to the business with my role, supporting its growth and managing current and future risks. I ensure that the team is positioned in the right way as a credible business partner. We have a very strong Legal and Compliance culture here which makes my life easier. My job is also not just limited to Legal and Compliance though, it requires a level of commerciality, strategy and business risk as well, so influencing and communication skills are important.

Given how important D&I is in the workplace and the increased international focus on equality we’ve seen this year, please share with us what it means to you and why you think that it’s important?

I am really lucky in that I have worked in diverse teams over the years. I spent a lot of time on trading floors in investment banks, which are diverse places to work and possibly some people do not realise that.

My current place of work is also diverse. The CEO is from Hong Kong, the COO is Greek and our CISO is British Pakistani. I have a team comprising individuals from China, Estonia and St Lucia, split across genders. I am British Bengali by ethic background so we have a great mix of people. We have different views and opinions, diversity of thought and experiences, which I think genuinely adds to the overall quality of the team and firm as a whole. It’s great that we can all use our various experiences to contribute to the business and part of my job is to encourage and ensure that different opinions are sought and valued. Workplaces that are entirely homogeneous can be dull and have little diversity of thought, which is by no means a positive thing.

How would you advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion with colleagues who don’t understand its importance?

All of the reasons I have listed above I genuinely believe in. How effective really is your team or firm if everyone thinks in the same way and what scope is there really to improve and embrace new ideas if people are trained to think in an entirely homogeneous way? I would always promote people having different ideas, viewpoints and experiences as they can significantly enhance and improve teams if channelled in a positive way.

What advice would you give to rising talent in your industry?

Technical skills are really important but can only get you so far if you want to progress. You will need a good network and be required to find mentors who can give you some guidance. It’s the soft skills which will help you get to where you want to be so work on your communication, emotional intelligence and collaboration. I have worked for top-tier financial institutions, start-ups, broker dealers and now a private equity business and I’m still learning my craft, so embrace challenges and new things and always look to learn and improve. Relationships are very important and have served me well so be nice and stay humble. Keep it real essentially! Also focus on what you enjoy doing, chances are you will be happier doing it!

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your former self?

That’s a difficult one! I don’t know really as it’s all worked out ok for me. Maybe I could have been a bit less headstrong back in the day but I’m glad I know my own mind! I gave my parents a hard time when I was younger, they are amazing, so I do regret being so naughty and giving them sleepless nights when I was younger!

Name three positives that have come out of lockdown?

It has rebalanced me a little and I have noticed a lot of people supporting each other which is encouraging to see. I’ve spent time with my family and revived old friendships while reassessing how much “stuff” I need in my life. I have never been a massive consumer of stuff and even less so now. I’m generally not a fan of rampant materialism.

If you could instantaneously gain a new skill what would it be?

I would like to be able to play the drums really well. Stewart Copeland is a hero of mine!

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you? 

I love dance music and I have spent years of my life at clubs and gigs. I used to DJ a lot back in the day, playing deep house, rare groove, disco, funk and hip hop all over London. My 12-year-old son is now massively into Tribe Called Quest, so he has been skooled well! My Technics SL 1210’s are sacred, as is my vinyl!

Thanks to Ehsan for his contribution.. if you enjoyed catching up with him as much as we did, do stay tuned for the next instalment of “MERJE Meets…” If you are a business leader and would like to contribute to our Q&A blog series going forward, then please get in touch with our PR & Marketing team at info@merje.com

If you would like to talk about your recruitment needs in more detail, whether you are seeking an interim or permanent hire, please no not hesitate to contact any of the team at MERJE.