Why David Sarfas is happy to call Luxembourg home
David Sarfas, Luxembourg country head at Intertrust Group, extols the benefits of an international upbringing and explains why his move to Luxembourg has been nothing but smooth sailing.
Amcham: Can you please tell our readers about yourself, about Intertrust Group and how your past experience has brought you to Luxembourg?
David Sarfas: I have a relatively international education and background, which has served me well in my work within the fund administration industry. I am French and British by heritage. We moved to the US when I was seven, but I later went to boarding school in Paris. I eventually moved back to the US in my thirties, where I lived for 22 years.
To me, moving countries is like buying a train ticket. I’ve done it so many times it has become second nature. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t put down some roots along the way. In 2008 I became an American citizen, which is fitting given that our three daughters are officially New Yorkers. Like their dad, I guess they too are carving out international careers and lifestyles for themselves living in different corners of the world – London, Montreal and Sydney.
When I moved into this industry in 2014, I was based in London yet had European responsibilities. So, of course, I started spending a lot of time in Luxembourg. I therefore am no stranger to the city. But it wasn’t until 2022 that I moved officially to Luxembourg as Intertrust Group’s country head.
You have lived in some of the most fascinating cities in the world – Paris, New York and London. How do you find Luxembourg?
Every city I have lived in has its own vibe. Luxembourg is an extraordinary, beautiful and international city. The fact I speak French has helped me become more aligned with Luxembourg’s culture, which is unique. It is gifted with a strong heritage – but what makes it unique is its ability to be small enough to be personal and intimate.
Compared to other cities I have lived in, I have to say I am extremely impressed with the level of support as well as the infrastructure here. Everything works seamlessly. There’s clearly a buzz about the place driven by continuing development, yet traditions are still preserved.
Luxembourg is also a cross-border centre of excellence for fund administration, wealth management, corporate, commercial and banking. It’s also a global hub for international fund distribution, international securities listings and home to the first exchange platform for sustainability, the Green Exchange LGX.
Many people may not realise that 50 per cent of all European microfinance funds are domiciled in Luxembourg. The jurisdiction is also home to LuxFLag, an ESG finance labelling agency with more than 363 labelled investment products across 10 jurisdictions and EUR 208bn of AUM as of 1 July 2022. Intertrust Group has been a member since 2021.
On a personal note, I have to admit that since I have arrived I have been spending a lot of time in the office, getting to know my team – so I still have a lot of the city yet to explore. I would like to take more bike rides around the city, and of course take in some of the great food and wines.
Where do you see the biggest growth potential in your industry?
I work in the fund administration industry. Our alternative investment management clients are seeing tremendous growth. This comes with large data sets that need to be analysed. Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping us automate our own processes while at the same time providing clients with real-time data.
What is Intertrust Group doing well? And where will your expertise help it do better? How will you identify opportunities, if any, in the organisation? How will you measure the success of the change?
As a fund administrator we also provide our clients with both AIFM and depositary services – we believe we excel at offering local expertise to global businesses. We understand the challenges US fund managers must contend with when having to set up structures in Luxembourg and Europe. These were some of the challenges I handled when based in New York, and I can now handle them on the ground in Luxembourg.
Our job is to help clients understand how a highly regulated but pro-business jurisdiction such as Luxembourg ticks – from its business environment to its fund structures.
We can also expedite processes because our team of 550 professionals is fully integrated in the ecosystem in Luxembourg. We stay abreast of all the regulatory developments and bring an industrial solution to each of our clients.
You could say we measure our stakeholder satisfaction through our clients, but we do it through our people as well – alongside all the partners and third-party practitioners we collaborate with such as lawyers, accountants, and auditors, etc.
Where do you see Intertrust Group in five years?
Intertrust Group is being acquired by professional services firm CSC. Over the next five years, our combined entity will provide an even stronger and more diversified reach of services.
The combined group’s resources will also help us meet the growing compliance needs of new and existing clients. We do look to expand into new markets and have a stronger presence in the Americas.
How is the company’s vision and mission statement applied throughout the day-to-day activities in the company?
We’re living in a new era of responsible growth. Our mission statement sets out our belief that it’s every organisation’s duty to operate responsibly – that responsible growth can only be built on the most robust of foundations. We play a crucial role in building those foundations.
We know that regulation is a positive force for business – and society. So, we continue to advise our clients every day on the latest regulatory frameworks, proactively supporting them and helping to ensure they act ethically and transparently in line with rules and regulations.
Ultimately, we don’t put our name to anything unless it lives up to our principles, because we want to live up to those principles every day. We work our best to be responsive – and we believe that’s possible because we’re ambitious and proactive in our thinking and solutions. We anticipate change so we can stay ahead. And above all, we aim to build trust and relationships for the long term.
How hard is it to bring new talent to work in Luxembourg? And what do you have to do to attract the talent you need at Intertrust Group?
Luxembourg is a very competitive market due to a limited talent pool. This means all competitors in our industry are searching for the same skill sets and profiles.
In parallel, post-Covid, we have observed a real shift in terms of candidate expectations with regards to flexibility and compensation.
Our strategy to address these challenges from a hiring perspective is clear:
- a well-structured global mobility programme offering international exposure to our colleagues from other locations
- a competitive referral programme – as well as a very close collaboration between our HR team and our hiring managers – to attract the right talent
- a rounded learning and education programme
From an engagement perspective we have invested considerably over the last few months in “people” initiatives: including a solid Local Reward and Recognition Programme and Great Place to Work initiatives (e.g. weekly happy hours, bulk bars at the office, team events). We also promote a well-being calendar and various sport initiatives.
Being a truly global company is also enticing for candidates. In our Luxembourg office alone we employ people from 75 different countries.