Level 3, Three Pacific Place, 1 Queen's Rd East, Hong Kong
Peers and clients say:
"Cosimo has the most expert witness experience of any forensic accountant in Hong Kong"
Cos is co-head of Kroll’s global Restructuring practice and a leading restructuring and insolvency practitioner in Asia and the Caribbean having worked exclusively in this area since 1990 – being appointed by lenders and financiers, shareholders, distressed companies, secured and unsecured creditors, investors, courts and other stakeholders. Cos’ primary focus is large operational and financial restructurings complex, and often contentious, insolvencies and well-planned enforcement strategies.
What inspired you to become a restructuring and insolvency expert?
A long time ago, when I was working as a junior auditor, I was asked by a gentleman who ran the restructuring and forensic team to join a receivership project at short notice. I had a bit more experience than the other kids as I had been working as an accountant through university and it turned out to be an enormous multi-year project and I loved every minute of it - it was exciting, impactful work. You saw the results of your work almost immediately and it was a lot of fun.
By the time the project was nearing a successful conclusion, I was a manager and was responsible for big pieces of the project. My career and professional development in restructuring and insolvency began with this project and the gentleman became and remains my mentor.
What aspect of your practice do you enjoy most, and why?
I enjoy the fact that we are professionally and commercially trained to develop practical solutions to complex problems in challenging environments.
My work primarily involves assessing a business or asset, its operations and problems, identifying and developing solutions with various stakeholders, implementing a restructuring plan or a winding down plan. It may also involve forensic and investigative work. There is a great sense of achievement when a business is saved, when a business is delivered to new owners or when good returns have been delivered to creditors who thought that was in doubt.
I am also very fortunate to have made, and continue to make, lifelong friends around the world from all walks of life.
How do you effectively establish a detailed understanding of a client’s business in your capacity as expert?
There is no secret or short cut to this - it involves rolling up your sleeves, doing your homework, reading the details, understanding what makes the business tick, the issues the business is facing, considering the business' strengths, weaknesses and external factors which may have an impact. It is not very different to what the CEO of the business should be doing regularly but it often needs to be done (by me) in very tight timeframes.
Developing a robust cashflow forecast is also often key to understanding a business quickly and the points mentioned above are all inputs.
What unique challenges do cross-border or multi-jurisdictional insolvencies pose for practitioners?
At the heart of this topic is the fact that no two countries and no two insolvency or restructuring regimes are the same. Each has its own unique practices and traditions and in many of the jurisdictions where I practice, regimes are still developing - some faster than others. To meld them effectively for the benefit of cross-border or multi-jurisdictional restructurings, whether operationally, financially or commercially, can be challenging. When stakeholders from different backgrounds and industries and different countries with different legal and restructuring options and practice are all asked to support a single solution or restructuring plan - there is a lot of work involved in securing a mutual understanding and experience and being on the ground is key here.
The global push to advance insolvency and restructuring regimes also means that there are frequent changes to legislation, regimes and practice and this plays a significant role in how we plan and execute our work. Some recent changes include the mutual recognition of insolvency and restructuring proceedings between Hong Kong and People’s Republic of China, and the introduction of the Restructuring Officer moratorium regime in the Cayman Islands. The recent guidance by the Hong Kong Courts in respect of soft touch provisional liquidation is another important one to watch.
How key has your experience of various court systems around the world been to your success as an insolvency practitioner?
It has been vital - my work is, more often than not, of a cross border nature. It is therefore important to be well prepared for any court interaction, primarily to understand and being able to read different counterparties, including judges and legal practitioners, within the boundaries of the court systems.
How do you think firms could better attract and retain diverse talent?
The key to attracting and retaining diverse talent can be summarised in four key steps:
- creating an exciting and open work environment;
- providing resources, room and transparent pathways for staff to grow and succeed;
- management needs to support and invest in that growth and development; and
- reward well
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
Developing under and earning the respect of my lifelong mentor has been especially fulfilling. The establishment of Borrelli Walsh, a leading specialist restructuring, insolvency and forensic accounting firm together with Jacqueline Walsh and Jason Kardachi, developing an exciting business and making wonderful friendships along the way, has also been particularly rewarding.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
There are two and at least one of them is not new or novel:
- there is no substitute for hard work – short cuts are short lived;
- doing what is right (every time).