Madeleine Cordes, Senior Manager, quizzes Vivienne McLean, Mitchell Comer and Jordan Norris the team looking after Process Agent for TMF Group UK, on their day-to-day roles and the challenges they face.
Madeleine: When is a Process Agent needed and what is it exactly?
Vivienne: There is some confusion about what a Process Agent is. Our typical client is an overseas company which does not have any presence in the UK which is entering into an agreement which will be governed by English law. Often this is a finance agreement like a lease or loan agreement which states that any documents issued by the courts must be served at a UK address. It is often the banks or law firms drawing up the documentation that contact us on behalf of their clients. The appointment of a Process Agent is protection for the banks; they know the courts will be able to serve any documents quickly by hand and will always be able to get in touch with the counterparty through the Process Agent. Delivery of such a court notice is known as “service of process”.
Madeleine: How many of these contracts do we have?
Vivienne: We have approximately 5,600.
Madeleine: So if you do receive Service of Process how do you notify the client?
Mitchell: It’s very rare but we receive both the court documentation and a copy of the agreement we have been appointed as Process Agent under. This can represent huge bundles of documents. We initially advise the client by phone or email and can fax or scan the documents or courier according to the instructions received. We do all this as soon as practicable – we understand the urgency.
Madeleine: So if you don’t receive many court notices, what does the day to day work of the team look like?
Jordan: We receive numerous telephone enquiries from potential clients who are looking for further information regarding our service. We receive appointment letters to process daily by email and courier and our day is typically spent corresponding with clients, maintaining our in-house database and tracker spreadsheets and working with our Finance team to issue invoices.
Madeleine: Where do enquiries come from?
Vivienne: A Google search for Process Agent brings up TMF Group so a lot of clients find us that way. We also have relationships with key law firms and banks in London and overseas and receive instruction on behalf of their clients. Work also comes in from TMF Group’s global network.
Madeleine: How many new appointments do you typically have each month?
Mitchell: Between 140-170, so it keeps us busy.
Madeleine: How would you say we are different from other providers?
Vivienne: Having a dedicated team in London means we can really provide a focused and efficient service. We have the added benefit of being part of the UK Company Secretarial team so can take a broader view of the client’s needs and tap into new developments in UK company secretarial through the team attending our knowledge sessions. Having a huge network of TMF Group offices in practically every country means if we can’t help with our client’s process agent needs, we know someone who can.
We have also designed an in-house database which contains a record of our appointments. This allows us to easily access the information and confirm our appointment as Process Agent if Service of Process does take place. We charge a one off fee at the beginning for the lifetime of the documents we are appointed under. This provides certainty for our client and eases the administration for both sides, with no need to consider annual renewals/fees or monitor the duration of the appointment. We provide flexibility in the way we work with our key referrers who may be uncertain exactly when we will be appointed; for instance we can prepare documentation and sign appointment letters in advance pending completion of a deal and provide attractive rates according to numbers of documents and entities.
Madeleine: There must be challenges?
Vivienne: Yes, the work is time sensitive so the team has to be extra responsive. As we have clients across the globe, time differences present a challenge. We also have to help our overseas clients who are not familiar with UK law and guide them through the process and explain the meaning of Process Agent or the terms relating to the documents.
Madeleine: So what’s ahead for the team?
Vivienne: We are looking at implementing an online appointment process and streamlining our appointment letter.
Mitchell Comer and Vivienne McLean of the UK process agent team at TMF
The team can be contacted by email at email@example.com and tel. +44 (0) 207 832 4900