John Royle

Grant Thornton

2nd Floor, Century Yard, Cricket Square, PO Box 1044
KY1-1102, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Peers and clients say:

"John Royle is a very accomplished practitioner"
"He provides straightforward, commercially focused advice"
"He has an excellent understanding of relevant insolvency principles"


John is a director and qualified insolvency practitioner (under the JIEB regime in the UK) at Grant Thornton in the Cayman Islands, where he has resided for 11 years. John regularly takes appointments as either voluntary, provisional, or official liquidator and acts as a receiver and appointed agent by the Cayman Court typically in cases involving allegations of fraud or misappropriation. John is on the board of RISA (local INSOL chapter) and is chairman of the Education Committee.

What inspired you to specialise in asset recovery?

I’m fascinated by the different types of cases and work – no one day being the same and trying to overcome problems with novel solutions. One day you could be helping a pharmacy in Leeds trying to salvage the business, the next dealing with reservation of title claims in Bournemouth or coordinating cross-border litigation in various jurisdictions to bolster recovery efforts or piecing together where $100 billion of investors cash has gone.

I suppose the inspiration is that there’s quite a sense of pride/satisfaction in being able to tell employees that you’ve managed to rescue a business and your job is secure; or telling stakeholders that you’ve successfully hunted down a fraudster and recovered funds to make a return to them.

What do you enjoy most about working in the Cayman Islands?

The variety and nature of work is extremely challenging/interesting.

What does your role as chairman of the Education Committee of RISA consist of?

I’ve been involved in RISA since its inception over 10 years ago, I’m immensely proud of how the organisation has grown over the years to now having over 400 recovery, restructuring and insolvency specialists as members.

My role on the Education Committee involves coordinating technical and educational events in Cayman. We hold four quarterly technical events, with our flagship event being the RISA/South Square conference every November.

Our committee meets on a regular basis to discuss what topics should be discussed at future events. We then try, where possible, to spread around the speaking opportunities so all IP/attorney firms on the Island get the same opportunities.

I also work closely with the team at INSOL International to collaborate regional events, in particular, I was on the organising committee for Bahamas 2019, Cayman 2020 and Cayman 2021.

My RISA role takes up a significant amount of time per year, however the promotion of the jurisdiction and improving the educational opportunities on the Island is something that myself and

Grant Thornton have an aligned interest in. I’m quite fortunate that Grant Thornton fully supports me in this role and my work on the RISA Board.

How has asset recovery practice been impacted by covid-19 and what do you expect the long-term implications of the pandemic to be for recovery specialists and investigators?

I think the inability to conduct settlement discussions in person has been extremely challenging. Back and forth email tennis is not as productive as being in a room with someone and dealing with issues in person. Similar issues with the likes of virtual depositions in the US, whilst virtual depositions are possible, they are typically not as fruitful as those conducted in person.

Another hurdle is being hampered from going and securing physical assets/property in person due to movement restrictions/curfews. Not being able to attend a company’s premises within the first 24/48 hours heightens the risk of things going “missing”.

Other challenges have been seen such as delays in paying distributions to stakeholders, where, for example, there are strict curfew measures that prevent the correct notarised AML/KYC documentation being obtained to enable the distribution.

Long-term implications such as reluctance of parties to be willing to meet in person, reduced access to books and records, will undoubtedly lead to more challenges in generating better results for stakeholders.

What skills are needed in order to collaborate with lawyers, agents and colleagues across the globe?

Communication skills and investment in technology are a must, especially in the current climate. So practical issues, such as decent internet bandwidth, etc, are crucial if you’re conducting court hearings or settlement discussions virtually.

Google translate and an integral knowledge of time zones is a must as well.

How do you see cryptocurrency and virtual assets forming a part of your practice in the future?

I think there are two strands to this question.

Firstly – with the number of SEC enforcement actions that hit my desk and other adverse press regarding initial coin offering or token offering vehicles I suspect there will be an increase of corporate insolvencies in the crypto space – which will inevitably mean our practice will see more asset recovery work in this field.

Secondly – it will be interesting to see which IP firm (maybe there are some already) will accept payment of their remuneration via cryptocurrencies. It will also be interesting to see, how for example, distributions to creditors and shareholders are made in the future. Will investors want their returns in cash, will some investors want returns in crypto and how do you split the cryptocurrencies up if stakeholders want their returns in differing currencies. For example, if you have two creditors owed roughly $46k between them and one wants crypto and the other wants cash – how do you monetise say half a bitcoin for cash and the other half distributed back as bitcoin?

How does Grant Thornton distinguish itself from its competition?

Our connectivity throughout the global network is fantastic.

We have strong relationships with all the offshore financial centres, that ensures we can easily collaborate and pull in the right experts in the blink of an eye for any engagement.

For example, from deploying boots on the ground in Uganda; or working with our Hong Kong colleagues with a recognition application; to clearing conflicts within 24 hours with our US team, makes global collaboration seamless.

Having the global footprint then has the added benefit of gaining local intel wherever the assignment may lead you to on the planet, which inevitably means you get the connections of the local firm in terms of recommendations of realtors, surveyors, attorneys, security firms, funders and other service providers in that jurisdiction to give you the best chance of a successful outcome for stakeholders.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

A valuer I used to deal with many years ago said to me when I was about 18, “Lad, an asset is only worth what someone is willing to pay pound notes for it” I still think this is relevant advice!