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Banking & Finance | South Africa

Banking & Finance

The global banking and finance industry is faced with increasing financial and regulatory pressures with new and more complex rules that you need to anticipate and take advantage of. 

For your cross-border business, you also face potentially conflicting market practices and rules, which present new opportunities. 

Whether you are a financial institution, corporate, asset manager, mutual fund or public entity, your business is only as good as the products and services you sell. That’s why we organise our teams along the business lines of your sector, giving us deep insight into the commercial and legal issues you face. 

From general corporate lending to acquisition and leveraged finance, capital markets, derivatives and securitisations to real estate finance and corporate recovery, we can help you achieve the best business outcome, both locally and across jurisdictions.

In South Africa, an environment where transactional work is becoming more challenging, lawyers' roles have needed to adapt to new circumstances:  

  • deals are fewer and farther between
  • the ability to meet transactional timelines has become more difficult as counterparties' risk appetite is changing
  • the ability to implement transactions in line with tighter cost budgets

What we offer 

Our team is known for its versatility and agility - offering wide-ranging experience that progress transactions rather than impeding them. We are the perfect choice for legal advice on projects of any size and complexity.

Our clients range from banks and other financial institutions, financial services providers, private equity investors and arrangers, from Small to Medium Enterprises to international corporations in South Africa and across Africa. 

We advise on the full range of banking law and finance:

  • acquisition finance 
  • aircraft finance 
  • asset finance 
  • asset management 
  • capital markets and derivatives 
  • collective investment schemes 
  • commodity trade finance 
  • compliance 
  • debt structuring 
  • debt restructuring, business rescue and insolvency 
  • financial markets law and legislation including banking regulation 
  • funds 
  • general banking and investment structures 
  • Islamic finance 
  • lending and syndicated lending 
  • leveraged finance 
  • mining and resource finance 
  • preference share finance 
  • project finance 
  • public-private partnerships 
  • structuring and financing of BEE transactions 
  • trade finance

The team is experienced, efficient, well priced and professional

Legal 500 | Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2020

It is one of the shining firms that understands banking and finance law from a structuring, distressed scenario and insolvency law perspective.

Legal 500 | Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2020

As my lender counsel they carried themselves as an essential cog in the commercial discussions, which is over and above their true scope

Legal 500 | Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2020

The team is highly commercial and understands the conundrums faced by clients and in-house counsel in getting debt transactions over the line, in particular in the current economic climate

Legal 500, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2021

I would say that compared to other firms in the market they are more entrepreneurial and business focused

Legal 500, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2021

Very responsive & proactive… one of the few teams that is able to excel & use different aspects of the law to make a solution work

Chambers, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2021

CMS RM has developed a notable profile and market share in South Africa's banking space. The firm represents a range of borrowers and lenders, including major South African banks and international development finance institutions. The group possesses expertise covering private placements and preference shares, project financing, debt restructuring and green bonds, among other matters. It has additional capabilities on which the South African practice can draw spread across its network of global offices.

Chambers & Partners, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2022

Ability to reason commercially without compromising the legal risk and their general convivial approach to negotiations

Chambers & Partners, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2022

Ability to be proactive and nimble because of the boutique nature of their firm

Chambers & Partners, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2022

Their major strengths are their technical expertise

Chambers & Partners, Banking & Finance, South Africa, 2022

Good personal attention given to clients

Legal 500, 2022

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What’s next? In a world of ever-ac­cel­er­at­ing change, stay­ing ahead of the curve and know­ing what’s next for your busi­ness or sec­tor is es­sen­tial.At CMS, we see ourselves not only as your leg­al ad­visers but also as your busi­ness part­ners. We work to­geth­er with you to not only re­solve cur­rent is­sues but to an­ti­cip­ate fu­ture chal­lenges and in­nov­ate to meet them.With our latest pub­lic­a­tion, CMS Next, our ex­perts will reg­u­larly of­fer you in­sights in­to and fresh per­spect­ives on a range of is­sues that busi­nesses have to deal with – from ESG agen­das to re­struc­tur­ing after the pan­dem­ic or fa­cing the di­git­al trans­form­a­tion. We will also share with you more about the work that we are do­ing for our cli­ents, help­ing them in­nov­ate, grow and mit­ig­ate risk.To be able to provide you with the best sup­port, we im­merse ourselves in your world to un­der­stand your leg­al needs and chal­lenges. However, it is equally im­port­ant that you know who we are and how we can work with you. So, we in­vite you to meet our ex­perts and catch a glimpse of what is hap­pen­ing in­side CMS.En­joy read­ing this pub­lic­a­tion, which we will up­date reg­u­larly with new con­tent.CMS Ex­ec­ut­ive Team
Tech­no­logy: a uni­fy­ing force
Com­pan­ies of­ten talk about the scourge of the silo, the farm­ing stor­age meta­phor that has come to rep­res­ent teams or de­part­ments that op­er­ate on their own. However, with tech­no­logy trans­form­ing vir­tu­ally every in­dustry on the plan­et, col­lab­or­a­tion across sec­tors has be­come es­sen­tial. Ad­di­tion­ally, the COV­ID-19 crisis has high­lighted the cru­cial role tech­no­logy, spe­cific­ally con­nectiv­ity, plays as the back­bone of our busi­ness world across all sec­tors, and once COV­ID-19 is brought un­der con­trol or even erad­ic­ated, it will prove es­sen­tial for so­cial and eco­nom­ic prosper­ity. For­ging links in di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects Jonath­an Dames, a part­ner at CMS in Lon­don, says that his team’s prac­tice tra­di­tion­ally centred on so­cial and eco­nom­ic in­fra­struc­ture and en­ergy fin­ance, but is in­creas­ingly shift­ing to­wards di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects, in­clud­ing fibre net­works and data centres.He says that these kinds of pro­jects re­quire close col­lab­or­a­tion between tra­di­tion­al pro­jects and pro­ject fin­ance law­yers and their col­leagues in Tech­no­logy, Me­dia & Com­mu­nic­a­tions (TMC), “We al­ways had cros­sov­er, and en­joyed great col­lab­or­a­tion with both the In­fra­struc­ture & Pro­jects and En­ergy Sec­tor Groups, for ex­ample, but now we are work­ing with the TMC Sec­tor Group much more closely be­cause we are fa­cing reg­u­lat­ory is­sues and re­gimes that we have nev­er faced be­fore such as Code Powers, the re­quire­ments of the Com­mu­nic­a­tions Act and re­lated le­gis­la­tion.“CMS has ex­tens­ive in­fra­struc­ture, en­ergy and tele­coms ex­pert­ise and is able to bring it all to­geth­er to cre­ate the skill set re­quired to de­liv­er long-term pro­ject fin­an­cing to tech­no­logy-based in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects.”Ad­di­tion­ally, the fund­ing of di­git­al in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects, such as the 10,000km El­laLink sub­sea cable between Brazil and Por­tugal, de­mands more com­plic­ated fin­an­cing struc­tures to cov­er the re­lated risks and cre­ate the op­tim­al cap­it­al stack to get the best all-in pri­cing. This has in­volved us­ing mezzan­ine fin­ance and vendor fin­an­cing for con­struc­tion, with a view to at­tract­ing cheap­er op­er­a­tion­al peri­od fin­an­cing in the me­di­um term. A sub­sea cable, cross­ing in­ter­na­tion­al wa­ters and land­ing in mul­tiple leg­al jur­is­dic­tions, is not, un­der­stand­ably, ex­posed to the same po­ten­tial threats and per­ils as a hos­pit­al or a con­ven­tion­al power sta­tion or a wind farm on a single site. So, not all the usu­al rules, mar­ket norms, leg­al con­structs and stand­ard mit­ig­ants ne­ces­sar­ily fit for a fin­an­cing of this type of as­set. Rise of the ma­chines The CMS In­tel­lec­tu­al Prop­erty (IP) Group has un­sur­pris­ingly been at the fore­front of tech­no­lo­gic­al in­nov­a­tion, sup­port­ing cli­ents in the iden­ti­fic­a­tion, pro­tec­tion and com­mer­cial­isa­tion of their IP as­sets. Tom Scourfield, Co-Head of the group, is based in Lon­don and Warsaw, two cit­ies well-known for their tech­no­logy in­cub­a­tion. He ob­serves, “We are not only see­ing an in­crease in the use of tech­no­logy in col­lab­or­a­tion, but much more fre­quently, col­lab­or­a­tion with tech­no­logy it­self.”Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) is a grow­ing area of fo­cus. Pat­ent ap­plic­a­tions for AI tech­no­lo­gies have in­creased by 170,000 since 2013, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the World In­tel­lec­tu­al Prop­erty Of­fice (WIPO). In the field of AI pat­ents, there is cur­rently a fas­cin­at­ing de­bate around the ques­tion of pat­entab­il­ity of in­ven­tions cre­ated by AI ma­chines them­selves. Ac­cord­ing to Tom Scourfield, “Bey­ond pat­ents, we are also see­ing an in­creased use of AI in de­tect­ing and mon­it­or­ing coun­ter­feits and oth­er on­line brand harms. AI is also be­ing used to sup­ple­ment and sup­port the ana­lys­is of sim­il­ar­it­ies between com­pet­ing brands, wheth­er in terms of brand clear­ance or in­fringe­ment scen­ari­os.”Whatever de­vel­op­ments AI and oth­er in­nov­a­tion may bring, he thinks that one thing is cer­tain, “As IP law­yers, we al­ways have to be for­ward-think­ing, look­ing to pro­tect and se­cure com­pet­it­ive ad­vant­ages for our cli­ents in mar­kets and op­por­tun­it­ies that are not even fully es­tab­lished yet.” Pi­on­eer­ing new products Lon­don Funds part­ner Chris­toph­er Luck sees a real ap­pet­ite for new types of as­sets from the funds com­munity. He says that di­git­al tech­no­lo­gies are trans­form­ing the back-of­fices of as­set man­agers and are im­prov­ing the cus­tom­er ex­per­i­ence. Fund man­agers are be­com­ing bet­ter at stor­ing and har­ness­ing data, us­ing block­chain tech­no­lo­gies and plat­forms to make on­board­ing of know your cus­tom­er (KYC) in­form­a­tion and data pro­tec­tion a more stream­lined pro­cess. The use of smart con­tracts is also be­com­ing more pre­val­ent. Chris­toph­er Luck notes that the ad­vent of token­isa­tion, the pro­cess of con­vert­ing real as­sets in­to di­git­al rep­res­ent­a­tions (tokens) on a block­chain, has opened up the in­vest­ment mar­ket to a broad­er range of in­sti­tu­tion­al and re­tail in­vestors. “By demo­crat­ising or cre­at­ing more op­por­tun­it­ies for in­vestors, this is provid­ing ad­di­tion­al li­quid­ity in­to a num­ber of sec­tors, most not­ably real es­tate.” He says, “We are see­ing tokens at their most ad­vanced in the United States and Asia, and grow­ing in the UK and Europe.”  Un­der­stand­ing new en­vir­on­ments  In oth­er more tra­di­tion­al sec­tors, law­yers are in­creas­ingly be­ing ex­pec­ted to provide ad­vice on how to deal with the chal­lenges and op­por­tun­it­ies that tech­no­logy provides.Mark Ziek­man, Co-Head of the CMS Con­sumer Products Group, says, “In the con­sumer goods sec­tor, block­chain is mak­ing an im­pact, provid­ing the sup­ply chain and cus­tom­ers with a great­er de­gree of con­fid­ence in the proven­ance of a product and wheth­er it meets key sus­tain­ab­il­ity cri­ter­ia.”Cus­tom­ers, par­tic­u­larly mil­len­ni­als, are in­creas­ingly de­mand­ing in­form­a­tion around trace­ab­il­ity and audit­ab­il­ity to have con­fid­ence in FM­CG com­pan­ies, lo­gist­ics com­pan­ies and re­tail­ers.Fur­ther­more, Mark Ziek­man be­lieves that tech­no­logy in gen­er­al has played a pivotal role in ad­dress­ing wide­spread busi­ness dis­rup­tion caused by COV­ID-19, en­abling com­pan­ies to trans­form their busi­ness mod­els. Good ex­amples are res­taur­ants which al­most in­stant­an­eously changed their busi­ness mod­el to provide takeaways and food de­liv­er­ies. Shops shif­ted their fo­cus to selling on­line. These changes will not dis­ap­pear in the af­ter­math of the COV­ID-19 pan­dem­ic. Shift­ing reg­u­lat­ory land­scapes Reg­u­lat­ors con­tin­ue to face the on­go­ing chal­lenge of keep­ing pace with in­nov­a­tion and the new mar­ket dy­nam­ics it cre­ates. ESG factors have come to the fore in the minds of reg­u­lat­ors as well and this think­ing is only go­ing to in­tensi­fy. Cristina Reich­mann, a Bucharest based part­ner in the CMS Bank­ing & Fin­ance Group, says that reg­u­lat­ors are al­ways hav­ing to re­spond to new eco­nom­ic mod­els and pub­lic sen­ti­ments. She has seen fast dis­rup­tion in the bank­ing sec­tor CEE, “Ro­mania, for ex­ample, has a his­tory of in­nov­a­tion, pre­vi­ously emer­ging as a ma­jor in­ter­na­tion­al out­sourcing hub and then be­com­ing a fintech centre with a num­ber of uni­corns.” She points to agile bank­ing and fintech, which are provid­ing great­er ac­cess and a broad­er suite of ser­vices to cus­tom­ers, and with this comes reg­u­lat­ory chal­lenges. She says, “There are a lot of com­pli­ance as­pects to be met and solved.”
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