Ten minutes with Kenneth Whitney of Alter Domus
"No day is ever the same at Alter Domus, we are constantly evolving with new products and solutions for a wide range of clients"
After completing an ACCA-approved course at Waterford Institute of Technology in 1995, I worked in Cork in the audit sector, before moving into fund services with a role at Barings (now Northern Trust) in Guernsey. Since then, I have seen first-hand the growth of the fund services industry across Ireland and especially in Cork.
I consider myself very fortunate to have entered this sector early in my career, as it has given me opportunities to travel and experience life abroad, before moving back to Cork with my family. Outside of work, I am an armchair sportsman, and enjoy walking, listening to music, and spending time with my family. I am also something of a Lego fanatic! And while I enjoyed working from home, I am glad to be able to make use of our 'Future Fit' office in Cork and meet my team and colleagues in person again on a regular basis.
How did you get started in fund administration?
I got into fund administration by accident — I had been working in audit in Cork, when a recruitment agency I performed an audit with contacted me to ask if I was interested in a role with a fund administrator in Guernsey.
I knew nothing about the company, Guernsey, or even what a fund was — at the time, fund services was a much smaller industry in Ireland compared to now, where it plays a big role in the Irish jobs market for accounting and finance professionals.
Before I knew it, I was on a flight to Guernsey where I stayed for six years, before moving to Luxembourg for two years, and then to Jersey for another six years. These international roles reflect the opportunities available in this sector, and particularly at Alter Domus.
Why did you choose to work with Alter Domus?
Alter Domus is a company I first came to know when working in the Channel Islands and Luxembourg, and who have an excellent reputation in the market.
As I knew Alter Domus had big plans to grow their local footprint when they first opened an office in Cork in 2017, I took the chance to contact James McEvoy, the Country Executive for Ireland.
When I met with him, it was clear that there were plenty of opportunities to be part of their growth, and my two-and-a-half years with the company so far have proven me right.
What are you working on at present?
There is huge investment in technology at Alter Domus right now, and it is exciting to be at the cutting edge of our industry’s advances in fintech. Currently I am working with a project group in implementing technology that streamlines our processes, and will take the experience of our clients, their investors and our own teams to the next level.
Day-to-day, I manage a team of 40 talented professionals, including an Operations team focused on the daily requirements of our clients, and a Client Onboarding team who help our clients launch new funds.
What is the best part of your job?
I would say the variety, as no day is ever the same. This is particularly true at Alter Domus, where we are constantly evolving with new products and solutions for a wide range of clients.
I have also over the years been fortunate to work with some fantastic people and make some good friends.
What is a defining career moment or high point?/ Is there a career moment you are really proud of?
What has probably stood out for me was when we went into our first lockdown and had to get the entire team in Cork home and working as soon as possible to maintain our client service. It was a massive team effort from everyone involved. Within a couple of days, we had everybody up and running to continue delivering the highest quality service to our clients.
I was also fortunate enough to participate in the opening of our new and expanded office in Cork last October, where I had the chance to reconnect with colleagues after working remotely for so long.
What's the best piece of professional advice you've received?
Work yourself out of your job - the last thing you need is a team who cannot function without you. You will never progress, and neither will your team.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?
When you are making a career move, whether to a different company or a different role, it is important to carefully consider your options, and also your reasons for moving. For example, what opportunities are you gaining or potentially missing out on, or how a move can add to your experience and professional growth.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing for this position?
With any interview, it is important to do your research on the company as you will inevitably be asked about this. When I meet interview candidates, their response to this question tells me a lot about how curious and prepared they are, which are two qualities we always look for and value in our teams.
What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?
There have been a lot of technological advances in this industry, and this is a constant at Alter Domus, but a large part of my job still comes down to working with people. Communication, and being able to empathise with others, are key skills in any role.
You also shouldn’t be afraid to admit to what you don’t know – there will be someone somewhere who does know.
What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?
Mistakes can and will happen despite our best efforts. Don’t try to hide them. Talk about them, take responsibility, and learn. It may also help someone else to avoid making the same mistake, and in my experience your honesty will always be appreciated.
Which industry professionals should people be following on Twitter/ LinkedIn?
James McEvoy, our Country Executive, is a highly respected member of the Irish funds services industry. My colleagues in Cork — Niamh Simoes, Michelle Grant and Molly McGilton – are also very active on LinkedIn and provide regular updates on Alter Domus’ local activity and recruitment.
Alter Domus also regularly participate in industry events to discuss trends and new regulations both in Ireland and globally.
Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?
I have been very impressed with the advice and career guidance provided by Helen Tupper, who spoke at a recent Alter Domus Academy Speaker Series event. I would have benefitted from hearing from her early in my career, so I am happy to recommend her most recent book, “You Coach You: How to Overcome Challenges and Take Control of Your Career.”
To find out more about Alter Domus, and to see current opportunities in Ireland, visit our website.
This article originally appeared in The Irish Examiner on the 16th April 2022, original here.