Peers and clients say:
"He is naturally curious and thorough in his research"
"Steve is very commercial"
Steve Holt is a partner in Grant Thornton’s forensic and investigations services practice, with a particular focus on aiding clients facing urgent, complex, cross-border issues including fraud, bribery and corruption, misconduct and asset recovery.
Steve has extensive experience investigating high-profile public interest matters, representing governments, companies and private individuals throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.
What aspects of asset recovery work do you find the most challenging, and how do you overcome those challenges?
Managing client expectations is the most challenging element of what we do. Asset recovery work often involves an unrealistic vision of what can be achieved with a minimal budget assigned out of caution of throwing good money after bad. Strong communication, a commitment to transparency and setting meaningful reporting milestones help to navigate expectations in a way that the client maintains control of the overall matter while still getting “bang for your buck” in terms of investment and, most importantly, outcome.
Can you discuss the importance of discretion and confidentiality in asset recovery work?
Discretion and confidentiality is paramount in the midst of any investigative or recovery situation. You have to assume that bad actors will readily move to hide assets at the slightest indication that they are compromised, so taking care over confidentiality in every element of a case is supremely important.
In your experience, what role does technology play in enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of asset recovery investigations?
Asset recovery investigations are all about finding a hay-coloured needle in a field full of haystacks. Technology helps to parse information from disparate sources to provide actionable intelligence that means we can reduce our search area to a single haystack (or even part of a haystack) but alone it is not enough.
In your opinion, what qualities make for an exceptional asset recovery expert, and how do you continually strive to excel in your role?
To my mind, there are several qualities that make an exceptional asset recovery expert.
It is easy for an investigator to lose the essence of why they have been engaged in the first place – it is often not the goal to uncover every piece of information on every asset that might ever exist in every jurisdiction, but rather to find enough assets in convenient jurisdictions to affect an ultimate recovery for your client. We are not engaged as scouts but hunter-gatherers.
Teamwork is vital in asset recovery and you will not find a single expert that realistically has every single tool in their toolkit. Most successful teams will need lawyers, barristers, accountants, investigators, corporate intelligence specialists and digital forensics specialists at a minimum.
Finally, a commitment to transparency and integrity – one should always be prepared to explain exactly what steps they have taken, the costs incurred and the implications of any actions to a client, as well as to refuse to behave or be connected with illicit or improper behaviour surrounding the gathering of information.
If you could change one aspect of the asset recovery process in complex investigations, what would it be and why?
I don’t think I’d change anything. The process is what the process is, so we have to work within that framework and be creative. Frustrations do arise from case-to-case, but they are what fuel war stories and lessons learned!
What are some of the emerging trends or challenges you foresee in the field of asset recovery, and how do you prepare yourself and your team to address them?
Fraudsters and bad actors are increasingly sophisticated in their use of proxies, third parties and trusts to hide their assets and heightens the need for attention to detail. The key piece of information that unlocks relationships and actor connectivity is often hidden in the margins of seemingly unimportant documents and therefore being alive to how proxy networks can come unstuck is vital.
How do you measure success in your role as an asset recovery expert, and what metrics or indicators do you use to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies and outcomes?
Success is measured by outcomes – what is recovered for the client, and how effectively? It is really the only indicator that matters!
Can you share a valuable lesson that you've learned during your career as an asset recovery expert?
Listen. Others tend to know more than you and key pieces of information often present themselves during periods of uncomfortable silence!