Menu Close

A Platform for Progress: Jonathon Clifton

After completing dozens of acquisitions, Jonathon Clifton, Global Head – Entity Platform & Incorporations at Vistra, is now launching a Global Entity Management Platform to disrupt the corporate services industry.

It’s not often that a business manages to truly disrupt an entire industry, but when they do – think Uber, Airbnb and Amazon – these companies show the power in offering customers innovative solutions that remove underlying friction to improve their daily lives.

In the B2B ecosystem, there are relatively few impactful firms that can claim to have revolutionized the space. After the successful merger with Tricor, however, Vistra – one of the world’s leading providers of essential business services – is setting its sights on making a global impact.

“We have the ambition and intent to reimagine the industry operating model through the creation of a digital-first ecosystem,” Jonathon Clifton, Vistra’s Global Head – Entity Platform & Incorporations, tells The CEO Magazine.

“We are starting with a focus on the legal entity and ensuring that every part of the life cycle – from the initial incorporation, know your customer and anti-money laundering requirements, corporate actions along with filing with global authorities, can be executed via Vistra’s entity platform.”

“We’ve acquired close to 30 businesses during my tenure.”

“Vistra and Tricor coming together gives us unrivaled scale, depth and capability to help us build this new industry platform,” he adds.

“Thanks to a clear road map, we can create a category of one by becoming the only global provider with a combined managed services plus an SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] proposition, where our clients determine what works best for them at any stage.”

Strategic Plans

The Global Entity Platform being built by Clifton and his team will not only fully automate the entity creation and management process, but will also act as a gateway into countless other corporate services. From company incorporation and bank account opening to payments and payroll: everything will come together in one single application.

“There is a huge appetite for this type of platform from our global clients,” Clifton says. “They expect a platform that provides a single source of truth for their global entities, allowing them, with a click of a button, to automate a wide range of corporate actions. Ultimately it’s providing optionality to our clients versus forcing them down a certain path.”

“Our purpose is progress. And our aim is to enable progress by removing the friction that exists for global businesses.”

Clifton is no stranger to expansion. Since he joined Vistra in 2010, the firm has rapidly grown from a small corporate services provider with just four offices and 150 people to now more than 9,000 experts in 50-plus markets around the world.

“We’ve acquired close to 30 businesses during my tenure that transformed what we can offer to our clients. We have people on the ground to support clients in any major market around the world.”

One of the major growth areas identified by Clifton is transitioning to an SaaS-type organization.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing demand from our international clients expecting a combination of both managed services and a pure digital approach,” he reveals. “In some instances, the client wants to pick up the phone and talk to their Relationship Manager in Luxembourg, while for other issues they want to interact via a platform, especially for the higher volume, non-complex corporate actions.

“It’ll obviously take some time, because we’ve got a lot of managed services, but we are definitely moving in that direction.”

The propensity for asset managers to outsource administration services to third-party providers, such as Vistra, offers the firm the ability to grow by working with Tier-1 asset managers.

Global Friction

At a time of diverging regulations and rising geopolitical tensions, uncertainty is commonplace and is driving both large and midsize corporations to limit expansion plans.

“At its core, the industry’s role is to enable international expansion,” Clifton says. “As we know, there are inherent risks in operating cross border, along with the emerging macro challenges. The sentiment in many boardrooms around the world is one of, ‘Let’s sit tight and see how things unfold.’”

“We have people on the ground to support clients in any major market.”

While the world may be an increasingly fractured place, Clifton believes Vistra can help global businesses flow in new directions.

“There are definitely high growth opportunities across different geographies and client sectors,” he says. “We see significant demand from pharmaceutical, bioscience and technology companies who are at the start of their international journey, looking to scale.

“At the other end of the spectrum, we see mid-sized multinationals with an existing international presence wanting to consolidate to one primary service provider. Both of these segments are driving growth at Vistra.”

There may be barriers to growth in Asia, with the post-pandemic rebound not being as strong in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau as some experts were expecting. But in Clifton’s eyes, the long-term prospects are promising, and he remains bullish about Vistra’s growth prospects.

“There are a lot of opportunities for businesses to keep growing if they’re really clear on who they’re targeting, why they’re targeting and what’s the value they can create for their clients,” he says.

With a comprehensive network in place, Vistra is embarking on the next phase of its strategic evolution as it looks to deploy a global operating platform at scale and provide its clients with a combined managed services and software proposition.

ESG Initiatives

For ESG policies to reach their full potential, businesses need to link these goals to their own corporate identity.

“If organizations can’t connect what they’re doing at an ESG-level back to their overarching purpose, their efforts can sometimes fall flat,” he says.

At the very heart of what Vistra does is to enable businesses to invest, particularly from a cross-border perspective.

“Our purpose is progress. And our aim is to enable progress by removing the friction that exists for global businesses. We believe that investments can fuel progress and will help us solve some of the world’s largest challenges.”

Leave a Reply