Meet Wales’ £1 billion woman

Mergers & Acquisitions | Property & Construction | Reports | Wales
Vicky Kells, Clarke Willmott

A South Wales-based legal expert has been instrumental in deals that have topped the £1 billion mark.

Having forged a reputation as a prominent practitioner in social housing finance across the UK, Vicky Kells, partner at the Cardiff office of Clarke Willmott LLP, is one of a growing number of highly experienced and qualified women who are heading up businesses that employ significant numbers of people and who are involved in some of the country’s biggest deals.

Representing large national registered providers and Welsh Registered Social Landlords, Vicky and her team have worked on some of the UK’s largest social housing financing deals in 2017.

Her clients include L&Q, One Housing Group, Southern Housing Group, Metropolitan Housing Trust, GreenSquare Group, Yarlington Housing, Ocean Housing  along with Welsh based RSLs such as Pobl Group (Wales’s largest housing association), Hendre Group, Melin Homes, United Welsh, Rhondda Housing Association,  Grŵp Cynefin, North Wales Housing and Newydd.

The team also acts for a number of key funders in the housing and real estate sectors including Lloyds Bank, Triodos Bank, Principality Building  Society and Svenska Handelsbanken.

She advised on all property elements of the refinancing of £440 million of its syndicated loan portfolio as part of AmicusHorizon’s merger with Viridian Housing in May 2017, which resulted in the creation of a new organisation known as Optivo which owns 44,000 homes across London, the South East and the West Midlands.

She has since dealt with securitisation on a further three loan facilities for Optivo, totalling £175 million. She capped off 2017 by concluding two more £100 million refinancing deals for two other members of the G15, which represents London’s largest housing associations.

Having developed what has now become a major player within the Welsh legal market, Vicky is looking to build on the success of 2017 while increasing the range of services her 14-strong team provides.

Her rise to lead what has become a well-established legal practice comes as little surprise with a report by the Law Society back in 2016 saying that more than half of all solicitors will be women by 2020.

Vicky said: “Deals of the scale we have worked on during 2017 can get bogged down but the team we now have in place here in Cardiff has meant the deals have run smoothly and been completed in good time.

“It’s been an exciting time and we’ve enhanced our reputation as part of the firms’ national market-leading social housing team and a centre of excellence for social housing finance here in Wales and the UK.

“By learning and sharing best practice with colleagues in the industry, support from my team and a passion for what I do, we’ll now look to consolidate our position not only within the social housing sector but across the Welsh legal sector.

“With a number of major infrastructure projects proposed for Wales and the Severn Bridge tolls eventually being scrapped, I believe we’re in for a very exciting and interesting time.

“However with South Wales already suffering from a chronic shortage of affordable and social housing an expected surge in demand for more private developments, especially in South East Wales, might see this situation worsen and I can see that the housing sector will have to overcome some really big challenges so that it can provide the housing people need.”

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