John Morrissey was the in-house lawyer for the Bank of Ireland at a time when the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was sending financial shockwaves across nations.
“The GFC in Europe was a bit more dramatic than what was experienced in Australia,” he explains.
“It had a very harmful effect on property values and people’s personal wealth.
“Wealthy people lost a lot of money essentially overnight. Others took the opportunity to buy assets at depressed prices.
“Such is the way of market forces.”
Having moved to Canberra 12 years ago, he became the new partner at MV Law at the end of 2022, where he peers through a lens informed by that experience.
It makes sense that his approach to “risk profiling” involves careful consideration of all angles and building in contingency – but it’s not all doom and gloom.
“I approach everything by asking myself, ‘What’s the worst case, what’s the best case and what does the client want?'” he says.
“You can’t guard against everything, and the more you try and protect against the risk the more difficult and expensive a transaction becomes.
“You need to identify the client’s risk appetite. There’s no point in providing a completely safe transaction at an inordinate expense if the client is an inherent risk-taker.”
Advising clients on property developments, asset structuring, syndications, leasing arrangements, secured lending and commercial property transactions, one piece of advice consistently underpins his approach.
“Understand the nature of the transaction you’re entering into,” he says.
“If you’re buying property, consider if you are buying it for development, to live in or to lease to a tenant. The risk profile is completely different between these kinds of transactions.”
As Australians walk the tightrope teetering among inflation, rate rises and property markets in downturn, John reckons the conditions make for plenty of opportunities for savvy investors.
“The fundamentals of the Australian economy are quite strong, especially in Canberra,” he says.
“We have high employment and steady employment. Many of the risks we face come from external factors – what’s happening in the rest of the world. And whilst we’re not immune to the effects of that, Australians remain largely the masters of their own destiny.”
With 20 years of experience, more than half of which has been in the Canberra market, John predicts “a fair bit of movement” in markets over the next six months following the decisions people have made over the festive period. But he counsels a measured approach.
“I think Christmas has been a great time for people to sit back and take stock of where they are and what they want to do in the next 12 months,” he says.
“Many would’ve made decisions to divest assets, some to acquire them.
“Now is not the time to panic or make rash decisions; now’s the time to take stock and evaluate your options. And if you do need to restructure, there may be better options than putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign.”
That said, there are some risks that John says should never be underestimated.
“If you have concerns regarding your ability to meet your commitments to enable you to hold onto a property, or your bank is sending you concerning correspondence, it is best not to ignore those concerns,” he says.
“Because of the time that it can take to resolve issues relating to property, the earlier that you seek professional advice the better. It may also save you a lot of stress and expense in the long run.”
For more information, contact MV Law.