Selvie Shaqiri has three main aims at her new job for Goal Group of Companies, running the APAC business for the global securities class actions recovery and withholding tax reclamation company: strengthen client engagement, improve efficiencies, and expand the business.
Class actions are becoming big business around the world and especially in Australia, which has largely followed the US model, by providing easy access for investors and others adversely impacted by a company’s negligence or, sometimes, fraudulent behaviour.
Shaqiri says: “Today more than ever, investors are more and more active in engaging with companies. Stewardship is of upmost importance and ESG matters are top priorities for many superfunds and asset managers who are concerned with governance and sustainability. For this reason, there has been an increase in securities litigation around the world. Investors see class actions as a form of corporate governance and a method of influencing how companies are run.
“We are operating as business as usual, even in today’s climate,” she says. “Having three global centres, and operating in line with our Business Continuity Policy, we have a committed crisis and business recovery team to deal with the pandemic. Our systems are state-of the-art cloud-based technologies, created to negate and reduce risk, allowing us to keep working to serve our clients and investors around the world.”
Goal enables big investors, which may have thousands of securities in their portfolios, to assess lots of potential actions a year and have them administered. This is where the importance of efficiencies comes in.
Shaqiri, who is managing director for Asia Pacific, a new position, has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Oxford, a Master of Arts in digital culture and technology from Kings College in London and a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities and social sciences from La Trobe University in Victoria. She was previously the director of international sales in London for the investor communication solutions division of the global financial technology company Broadridge.
“When I was approached by Goal it was an easy conversation for me to have and come on board,” she said in a recent interview. “I already knew the company, what they do and their reputation in the industry. Knowing the business and the environment, it was a very easy transition because of their culture and purpose.”
In London, she started her financial career working on an interim assignment for First State Investments. She also worked as a financial analyst for a regulatory board and then a management consultant, working mainly with institutional investors, hedge funds and start-ups.
Shaqiri says: “One of the challenges facing investors is a judgement handed down by the High Court of Australia, which impacts some class actions in the country that are funded by litigation funders.” A majority held that Australian courts do not have the power to make what is known as a ‘common fund order’ in the early stages of litigation. Going forward, based on the current law, the various litigation funders will likely fund new class actions as closed class actions only. To participate in future actions, it is anticipated that investors will be required to sign a litigation funding agreement at the outset.
In the efficiencies field, tax reclamation administration is also very important, especially in a country with a complex tax system such as Australia’s, she says. “Many of our clients have both services – securities class actions and withholding tax reclamation. In Australia, investors are finding reclamation a very tedious job. Billions are being left on the table and the person who misses out is the end investor. It’s something a lot of super funds want to do and should do. We have inhouse experts on tax and legal teams devoted to this field to help clients reclaim withholding taxes.”
Shaqiri says: “Goal offers tailored solutions to meet individual client needs. Some clients want a fully bespoke service, but others will just want access to our proprietary technology.” Goal aims to continue to improve its service delivery and automat operations to enhance speed and efficiency, and eliminate any chance of human error. “In today’s world, we have to be agile and robust to meet clients demands and needs. Especially in situations such as we are experiencing today, where technology is paramount in ensuring continuity.”
“The financial system is complex, and the investor service arena involves many moving parts that need to co-ordinated to ensure there is fluidity in the system. Many businesses are now running at core business functions as they adapt to the new environment. We just need to be understanding, adaptive and more collaborative in this new framework and business ecosystem.”
Goal deals with all custodians as well as direct with the fiduciaries. “We have to think about it from the clients’ perspective,” Shaqiri says. “We are pro-active in the market because clients are more aware of corporate governance and ESG matters. As an aggregator we have a duty to our clients to help them deliver their fiduciary obligation. This includes monitoring and participating in class actions and filing tax reclamations.”
She says that Goal is seeing, more and more, clients put together teams to deal with deciding whether to participate in a proposed class action, especially if the case is complex and multifaceted. These teams can include various personnel, such as CFOs, COO, investment managers, as well as, heads of legal and ESG and stewardship departments. “It’s a form of governance itself.”