Celebrating one year of project finance advice and audit in Toronto.

In the summer of 2014, Operis was ripe for expansion. The market for project finance advisory services, model building and model audit was growing, and our London office was receiving more and more calls for international consultancy and advice. The question was: where do we set up shop? Johannesburg, Dubai and Istanbul were all considered, but ultimately we came down in favour of Toronto, Canada.

Expanding in Canada had several immediate factors in its favour. Canadian banks’ financial prudence and stability had made it the envy of the developed world post-financial crisis. By and large, this was a market that strongly recognised the value of the analytical and advisory services Operis provides. Canada’s government was, and still is, undertaking a wide range of major projects in infrastructure.  And Toronto’s proximity to the US also made it an excellent location from which to access the wider North American infrastructure market.

Operis was already very familiar with the market. Almost one third of our work relates to North America, where we have participated in over 140 transactions with the bulk of that in Canada, and dating back to the award-winning Golden Ears Bridge P3 project near Vancouver in 2006. This familiarity, and the additional flexibility of having two offices which could share work, gave us confidence we’d be able to step off the plane and immediately get to work.

Below we look back at some of the major milestones we passed in the last year:

Winter 2014 

Operis’s Toronto office opened on 3 November 2014, which we timed to coincide with the annual conference of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships in Toronto, the largest event of its kind in the world. We immediately set to work at this conference introducing our local team and establishing our presence in one of the best markets for P3 work in the world. The first staff we moved to Toronto were London expats, who were able to take projects from the London office so had a ready-made pipeline of local transactions, and work on those projects independently of London.

Spring 2015

By the New Year, the Toronto office was off to a good start, working on roughly three to four projects a month. It was in this spring that we attended our first Canadian financial close in person, for the Canadian Highway 407 project, undertaking a full model audit and review of tax and accounting treatments for the eight-interchange, 10km toll expressway extension. Spring also saw the conclusion of the first transaction on which we delivered separate and independent roles from the Canadian and London offices on the debt refinancing for the Ontario Provincial Police modernisation project.

Summer 2015

By mid-2015, the office was established and in a position to expand headcount. At this time, we began hiring Canadian university graduates to help us keep up with the volume of work. These future modelling experts were sent to London for training secondments, giving them both a taste of international business and of our own unique and rigorous modelling approach.

Autumn 2015

After starting to expand the team, by the autumn, we were also in a position to start expanding the range of services offered.  While many of the largest banks offered P3 advisory services, as clients became more sophisticated and familiar with the P3 model, their advisory requirements changed. Operis was increasingly recognised for being ideally placed to give bespoke advisory support to more medium-sized projects, such as hospitals, schools and other social infrastructure. Our advisory services, providing best practice insight and guidance has always been a distinguishing mark in Europe. In September, we appointed Jean-Francis Strayer as a director in Toronto. Jean-Francis brought with him a wealth of experience in infrastructure advisory space. With this third appointment, Operis Toronto had doubled in size since its launch and has entered a new stage in service offering to its clients.

2016 and beyond

The first year of any new venture is incredibly important, as it sets the tone for what’s to follow. The success of our Toronto office is a testament to the vast potential in the Canadian and US markets. Given the new Canadian government’s stated enthusiasm for P3 in healthcare and transport spaces, further future advisory work coming from the US and increasing requests to support project finance projects outside of the P3 space, we look forward to more good news to come.

If you are based in Canada and are looking to work with a company globally-renowned for its financial modelling expertise, contact us here.

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Erwan Fournis
Global Head of Financial Advisory

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Carmen Wade
Financial Advisory, Head of North America

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Jun Tao
Global Head of Model Audit & Financial Modelling

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Michael Jarman
Head of Modelling

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Erwan Fournis
Global Head of Financial Advisory

+44 207 562 0444

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Chris Aldred
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