Riza is a banking and finance lawyer. He heads the banking and finance practice.
Riza advises and leads on high-end complex domestic and international banking and finance transactions. He is experienced at leading large multi-disciplinary teams in complicated debt restructuring, work out and refinancing transactions, a recent example being the complicated restructuring of the layered debt and equity structure of the Primedia Group in preparation for refinancing. This transaction was worth approximately ZAR1 billion and we acted for an international fund manager in connection with their debt and equity participation. In a similar transaction worth approximately ZAR8 billion, Riza led the banking and finance elements of the debt and capital restructuring of a South African gaming company, again acting for several international funds and fund managers. He acts for a number of development financiers on a range of finance transactions and understands development finance well.
He is very experienced in preference share funding, both in acquisition transactions and as a general investment product. Riza is our expert on Islamic finance where he has advised local and foreign banks in establishing Islamic finance products and investments. Recently he has assisted in developing commercial and residential Islamic finance products for a South African big four bank. He is also currently leading on the first proposed bank sukuk for Additional Tier 1 capital in South Africa.
Riza has been listed as a leading lawyer in the financial and corporate space in IFLR1000, 2016. He is also recognized and rated in international publications, including Chambers Global, IFLR1000 and Who’s Who Legal (Banking and Aviation) in the area of banking and finance.
Chambers Global, 2014 mentioned that Riza leads the department and is praised for his management of the team and for being “extremely efficient, commercial, pragmatic and easy to work with”. He is also listed as a recommended banking and finance lawyer in Legal500, 2015.
Riza holds a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws degrees.
What does it mean to you that your colleagues have entrusted you with the position of Head of Banking and Finance?
It is humbling when your colleagues, who you regard as equals, think that the responsibility is something you can handle.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as head of this division?
Developing and sustaining a great place to work. I think all the ambitions and desired successes flow indirectly from that.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
I’d like to think that it is inclusive and consultative. For the most part, lawyers are intelligent, questioning, independent and driven. There is little room there to dictate on how to achieve behavioural or performance outcomes.
What would you describe as key motivators in your role as Head of Banking and Finance?
When I took over there was a high degree of uncertainty due to structural and personnel changes. My initial motivator was to ensure that the environment was stabilised to continue the good work that we were doing and quell the distractions. Since then, motivations have evolved given the rapid changing pace of legal services generally. Now, not dissimilarly, the immediate questions are around what it takes to sustain and grow a successful business in the current environment and foreseeable future.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
Mentoring involves discussions and guidance around softer issues in the workplace and professional development, and technical on the job training. I am conscious of mentoring being disconnected from professional development though – focussing on the building blocks to grow and succeed in environments such as this.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
A professional services environment is not without its challenges. Many of those who stick it out for long enough and reach a degree of success will undoubtedly go through a number of highs and lows. Being involved in some novel commercial transactions come to mind. However my prevailing thought relates to the achievement of stages in my professional development. Once one reaches levels of comfort regarding technical ability, confidence, reputation, one learns that there are further levels of advancement to unlock.
What is your view of the risks and opportunities that the South African corporate environment faces following the downgrade of the economy to junk status?
From an opportunity perspective, a downgrade could have a substantial impact on funding and related corporate transactional activity. I am particularly focussed on restructuring and workout work, and a downgrade could spell opportunities to restructure existing finance transactions. The corresponding risk however is that the uncertainty in connection with a downgrade results in financiers and borrowers becoming more reticent in parting with their funds. This has a knock-on effect on transactional work generally.
How has your Banking and Finance division fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
Our business is not immune to general economic factors. We rely on money being lent and borrowed to fund corporate activity. Recent economic times have meant that these types of transactions have come under pressure. Add to that general competition in the market and a changing profile in the procurement of legal services has made the last five years or so a tough environment. We have experienced growth but we have also experienced setbacks. So I think it is a mixed bag.
Who would you cite as an inspiration to you and why?
On a personal level, my parents continue to inspire me by their approach to life, education, work ethic, principles and values, and their service to the community. Now too my wife and children are encouraging me to question whether what I do is making a difference to others now and in future. Professionally, I have had the privilege of working with some of the best lawyers in the market. It is fascinating and inspiring to see how those people achieve and sustain levels of success by their strong technical nous, application and the like. There is a lot to learn from those who have achieved the highest professional successes.
Are there any recent awards that Norton Rose Fulbright has received that could be traced back to the Banking and Finance division or any awards/rankings/listings of you personally as a corporate lawyer?
Our team is regularly involved in transactions which win best of their kind in the various industry publications. We also have legal rankings publications which regularly rank our team at the top end of the market. The personal professional recognition which flows is a benefit of being associated with a top class brand and outfit.
Finally, describe what life outside of work looks like for you.
Family time. They easily balance out the seriousness that sometimes comes from an all-encompassing professional life. Travelling when time permits. Good food, music, reading.