An Interview with Tania Sulan, Chief Investment Officer (Australia and New Zealand) for Omni Bridgeway.
Tania Sulan is the Chief Investment Officer (Australia and New Zealand) for Omni Bridgeway, a global leader in financing and managing legal risks.
Tania is a passionate business builder with an entrepreneurial spirit who has been at the forefront of the dispute finance industry for over 13 years. She brings a wealth of experience and expertise in funding and law to the development of Omni Bridgeway’s operations.
A former litigator, Tania was drawn early on to the business development aspects of growing a business, and the strategic dynamics of working with multiple parties to move a matter forward.
Before joining Omni Bridgeway, Tania practised for 11 years as a commercial litigator in Sydney and London. She has extensive experience establishing and growing businesses, having been involved in the launch of the Sydney office of global insurance firm Kennedys in 2006, after 6 years working in the London office specialising in insurance and reinsurance coverage disputes.
She joined the dispute funding industry in 2007, and emerged as a pioneer in the field, working as an Investment Manager for several years before moving to Canada to establish a foothold for Omni Bridgeway and introduce the nascent industry there, where it continues to flourish.
She has since returned to her native Australia, where she is helping shape industry regulations in the country and overseeing an expansion of Omni Bridgeway’s work in New Zealand.
Please describe the work you do?
Tania Sulan: Omni Bridgeway provides dispute finance from case inception through to post-judgment enforcement and recovery. We work with law firms, individual claimants, corporations, sovereigns and multilateral institutions. I lead a talented team of Investment Managers who source and oversee the company’s investments across Australia and New Zealand.
What inspired you to join the legal finance industry?
TS: I first became aware of dispute finance in 2006 when I was working as a litigation lawyer in Sydney. I was attending a D&O liability and insurance symposium where one of the directors of Omni Bridgeway (then IMF Bentham) was presenting. His presentation was on the day before the Australian High Court’s seminal decision on litigation funding, Fostif, was delivered. His excitement was contagious.
A year later whilst on my first maternity leave, I approached him for a job, and it turns out my timing was good. I was attracted to the opportunity to be involved in a nascent industry and the access-to-justice focus of the business.
What do you enjoy about this work? Has the career change been satisfying?
TS: My work at Omni Bridgeway has provided with me a myriad of experiences and opportunities that have allowed me to satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit. I was fortunate to spend three years in Canada building Omni Bridgeway’s business and the industry. Commercial dispute finance was new to the country at the time, so we had the opportunity to play a key role in shaping the industry in that jurisdiction. Earlier this year, one of Omni Bridgeway’s funded cases was the subject of the first Canadian Supreme Court consideration of litigation funding.
I enjoy the three-way interactions between our company, clients and their lawyers that are required to find solutions for companies seeking capital and risk management strategies. This always involves a great deal of good will, creativity and lateral thinking.
Finding access-to-justice solutions for those facing stronger opponents is something I’m also passionate about.
How is the ongoing pandemic impacting your company and the dispute finance industry?
TS: We have seen an uptick in applications for funding from corporates around the globe. They are exploring Omni Bridgeway’s cost and risk mitigation solutions as a way to monetise their litigation assets. In an environment where preserving liquidity is important, alternative ways to resource disputes and enforcement activities is a conversation many companies are interested in having.
We are seeing well-resourced enterprises turning to dispute finance as a cost and risk mitigation strategy that allows them to reserve their own cash for other projects. For example, we are currently exploring a number of actions with companies looking to pursue business interruption insurance claims against insurers who are denying coverage.
We are also increasingly seeing distressed businesses who are interested in monetizing litigation assets to access up-front liquidity and sustain their operations.
What advice would you give potential clients in terms of how to most productively work with an outside advisor?
TS: Some clients have often already chosen their professional advisers when they seek our finance, but for those who haven’t, we have an extensive world-wide network of leading advisers. Our Investment Managers work closely with professional advisers to achieve success for funded clients. In addition to our capital, we contribute strategic insights, networks, jurisdictional and cultural know-how to maximize success, complementing the relationship between the lawyer and their client.
At Omni Bridgeway we work with many outside advisers in relation to our own business issues. In my view, the best relationships are based on excellent communication, high levels of trust, goodwill and a dose of good fun.
Omni Bridgeway has always been a market leader and innovator. Can you talk to us a bit about that history, and perhaps any new innovations on the horizon?
TS: Omni Bridgeway has been at the forefront of dispute resolution finance for over 30 years, as the founder of the global industry as we know it today.
Our company is celebrating an ‘anniversary year’ in 2021: 35 years in business; 20 years public-listing and specialising in asset-tracing; 20 years in Germany; 10 years in the US; 5 years in Asia and Canada.
From our beginnings in 1986 when dispute finance was in its infancy to present day, we continue to develop innovative finance solutions and risk management strategies to support clients.
Our solutions are particularly relevant in today’s challenging and dynamic environment given the world events of 2020 and beyond.
We were one of the first funders to finance insolvency and arbitration proceedings in Asia. We are the only dispute financier selected by IFC World Bank to finance non-performing loans in the MENA region.
We have developed our own proprietary systems for capturing, managing and analyzing client information and data for our funded class actions.
And of course, we have introduced dispute finance to new markets around the world. This includes Canada where from 2016-2019, I led the establishment and growth of Omni Bridgeway’s Canadian operations as its Chief Investment Officer. Today our Canadian team has grown a diverse investment portfolio and has offices in Toronto and Montreal.
Last year we entered Japan via an arrangement with local providers. We are now expanding into the Indian market, Spain, Latin America and numerous other countries across Asia and EMEA.
What is the key issue facing the litigation finance industry in your market today?
Last year Australia saw a Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into the class actions regime and litigation funding. This was the fourth inquiry over a number of years. We are a strong supporter of sensible regulation in Australia to ensure the proper oversight and longevity of the industry.
Fitting a class action into the Managed Investment Scheme regime has its challenges. However, following extensive consultation with the regulator, ASIC, and a lot of hard work by our legal team and external legal advisers, we have had our first Litigation Funding Scheme approved.
What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
TS: I like to spend as much time as I can in nature with my husband and three daughters.
Are you involved in any community or public interest activities?
TS: I am on the Board of JusticeNet, South Australia’s pro bono clearing house which provides a referral service for low-income and disadvantaged South Australians experiencing civil law issues. Through its work, JusticeNet also provides law firms with the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to CSR through pro bono work. I am also one of the founding collaborators of Young Impact 100- South Australia, a collective fundraising group whose goal is to educate and empower young people to make a difference through experiential and transformational giving.