GC Powerlist Asia Pacific
- Asia Pacific: The English Bar
- Asia Pacific: Regional International Arbitration
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Ivory Coast
- Latin America: International firms
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- St Barts
- St Vincent
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Latin America
- United Kingdom - Solicitors
- United Kingdom - The Bar
- United States
- What is the GC Powerlist?
- How to nominate in-house counsel
- Africa Teams
- Australia/New Zealand
- Asia Pacific
- Central America
- Ireland Teams
- Latin America
- Middle East
- Middle East Teams
- Nordics Teams
- Russia Teams
- Switzerland Teams
- Client Intelligence Report
- Leadership insight
- Human rights insight
- MINT: the legal challenges of working and investing in emerging economies
- Response to Brexit
- An investigation of the GCC and Middle East legal market
- Litigation and regulatory challenges in financial services
- AI and the law tools of tomorrow:
A special report
- Scottish GCs
- North West clients
- Arbitration backing Africa's investment boom
- Baker McKenzie
- Paul Hastings
- Carlyle Kingswood Global
- GC DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION REPORTS
- Shaping diversity
- By the numbers: Diversity in the US
- How Genius is aiming to overcome the stereotype of male geekiness in technology startups
- Tony West is using his experience to improve diversity and inclusion within PepsiCo
- Prash Naik (Channel 4) talks about the 360° Diversity Charter
- Patrick Rowe describes Accenture's support of diversity
- Shaping the future of the Bar Roundtable
- Chief Marketing Officer Roundtable
- Dispute resolution in Africa roundtable
- GC Diversity and Inclusion Report
- Investing in Indonesia: the role of the in-house lawyer in growing markets
- The Legal Business 100 Debate
- GC Powerlist UK summer reception
- The Brexit debate
- AI and the law
- GC Powerlist: Middle East roundtable
- Alternative disputes: the role of arbitration in Turkey
- The risk debate
- Two visions of nearshoring
- Dissenting perspectives
- Developments in Panama
- The international arbitration summit
- The Global 100 debate - Chasing Alpha
GC Powerlist >GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific
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The Legal 500 by country
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Ivory Coast
- Latin America: International firms
- Netherlands Antilles
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Martin
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- St Barts
- St Vincent
- Sao Tome and Principe
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
For 28 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist (formerly the Corporate Counsel 100) is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region ...read more
The GC Powerlist is a series of publications, highlighting the most influential in-house lawyers in business today.
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across Asia, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each jurisdictional list. GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from the law firms about how they feel individual corporate counsel have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Ireland or global), please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Telstra Global, Hong Kong
Senior vice president and general counsel
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Regional legal lead
Seung Jae Baek
Ernst & Young Korea
Asia general counsel and managing director
The Carlyle Group, Hong Kong
Oyu Tolgoi LLC / Rio Tinto, Mongolia
Gim Boon Tan
Group general counsel
Axiata Group Berhad, Malaysia
General manager of internal control, compliance and legal affairs department
China Reinsurance (Group) Corporation, China
Vice president and general counsel
UTC Building & Industrial Systems - Otis Elevator Korea, Korea
Phu Bia Mining (PanAust Asia), Laos
Hony Capital, China
Assistant regional counsel
The Walt Disney Company (Asia Pacific), Hong Kong
Chee Fei Meng
Head of group legal – investment banking and capital markets
CIMB Group, Malaysia
Christine Yixin Chen
Managing director, head of China legal and compliance
JPMorgan Chase, China
Jennifer Jia Chen
Legal and Compliance Department, China Investment Corporation, China
Sok Theng Cheng
Head of Legal SE Asia, Morgan Stanley, Singapore
Director of legal and risk
Lunar Capital, China
Mitsuro Claire Chino
Executive officer and general counsel
Itochu Corporation, Japan
Celltrion Inc, Korea
Regional legal head (developing markets)
Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Singapore
RMA Group, Thailand
Senior international counsel
GDF Suez, Indonesia
General counsel and chief compliance officer
Galileo Japan KK, Japan
Associate general counsel
Logitech, Hong Kong
Asia Division, Hays Plc, Singapore
Peter De Neef
Senior legal counsel
GDF Suez, Thailand
General counsel Asia Pacific and head of compliance
General counsel and chief compliance officer
Dymon Asia Capital, Singapore
Loo Hwee Fang
Group general counsel/joint company secretary
Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd., Singapore
Vice president AP, Legal
General counsel – Asia Pacific
Morgan Stanley, Hong Kong
Head of legal
Société Générale (China) Limited, China
Head of legal, Asia
ANZ, Hong Kong
Vice president legal and compliance
Director of legal affairs – Asia Pacific
Harley Davidson, Singapore
Baring Private Equity Asia, Hong Kong
Vice president and general counsel
San Miguel Corporation, Philippines
Head of legal, Asia Pacific
Petroleum Geo-Services, Singapore
Director and associate general counsel
Coach Inc., Hong Kong
INPEX Corporation, Japan
Vice president, country compliance officer, country legal counsel
Director and associate general counsel - head of international legal
Intellectual property chief officer
Nikon Corporation, Japan
General counsel and company secretary
Senior vice president, legal, ap
CEVA Logistics Asia Pacific Holdings, Singapore
Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, Singapore
Kher Sheng Lee
Azentus Capital, Hong Kong
KT&G Corporation, Korea
Chief legal officer
State Grid International Development, China
China National Electric Engineering Corporation, China
Associate general counsel
General counsel, executive vice president, corporate communications & CSR and company secretary
Singapore press holdings, Singapore
Director of legal services Asia Pacific
China National Cotton Reserves Corporation, China
Hoi Yean Loi
Vale Malaysia Minerals, Malaysia
Chief legal officer
Nikko Asset Management, Japan
RRJ Capital, Hong Kong
Sentosa Development Corporation, Singapore
Director, head of legal/IP department, general counsel,
attorney at law
Novartis Holding Japan K.K., Japan
GE Japan, Japan
Navis Capital Partners, Singapore
Director, legal division
NTT Docomo, Japan
Corporate officer, head of legal
Group general counsel
AIA Group, Hong Kong
General counsel Asia Pacific
CBRE Global Investors, Hong Kong
Executive director, head of equity capital market (North Asia)
Morgan Stanley, Hong Kong
Head of legal, wholesale bank, Hong Kong and NEA
Standard Chartered Bank, Hong Kong
Asia general counsel
Bain Capital, Hong Kong
Qualcomm Korea, Korea
Siok Lan Pek
General counsel and senior managing director
UBS, Hong Kong
Regional Director, Legal and Compliance
LaSalle Investment Management, Singapore
Legal director, Asia Pacific
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Hong Kong
Yu Quan Shi
Director of legal department
Chinalco (Aluminum Corporation of China Limited), China
Goldman Sachs, Singapore
Alibaba, Hong Kong
Chief counsel, director of legal affairs
Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Japan
Lay Sang Tan
General counsel, ASEAN, global growth and operations
GE Electric, Singapore
Country legal head
ABN AMRO Bank NV, Singapore
San Miguel Brewery, Philippines
Lam Vu Thao
Head of legal, patents and compliance
Lai Minh Thuy
Country legal counsel
General legal manager
Mitsui & Co, Japan
John Paul Huntington Vigman
Veolia Water Japan K.K., Japan
René von Samson-Himmelstjerna
Daimler Greater China, China
Vice president – general counsel, Asia Pacific
Reckitt Benckiser, Singapore
Senior director and general counsel
Ooredoo Asia, Singapore
Managing director/general counsel
UBS, Hong Kong
Hing Yew Woo
Group general counsel and corporate development
Chief IP counsel
Ya Fang Xia
LVMH Asia Pacific, Hong Kong
China Life Insurance Company, China
Head of legal (M&A)
China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), China
Alibaba Cloud, China
During his decade-long career at global telecommunications company Telstra, Paul Abfalter has handled some of its most significant transactions. In his current role, he takes a deep involvement in strategic business decisions affecting its Asia operations, and has more than doubled the continent’s legal team, to create what he dubs ‘the best legal team in Asia’. Originally joining Telstra’s Sydney office in 2005, Abfalter headed all M&A activity, including divestment of Australian Administration Services and its KPN (Xantic) satellite joint venture. From 2008 to 2010, Abfalter acted as general counsel for leading Hong Kong mobile phone provider, CSL (a Telstra subsidiary), during a period of seismic change for the company. This included its rebranding and the roll out of turnkey 3G & 4G networks, not to mention responding to significant regulatory developments. Abfalter’s 24-strong team across Asia Pacific, New York and London handles all legal and regulatory aspects of the company’s investments outside Australia, including Telstra’s $2.425bn sale of its 76.4% stake in CSL in 2014. In Abfalter’s view, outside counsel should move towards more of a ‘partnering mentality’, through measures such as fixed fees, risk sharing and secondee availability.
Faris Alsagoff manages 175 people across luxury resort and casino Marina Bay Sands’ legal and surveillance functions. Delphi Automative’s former Asia Pacific general counsel joined in 2010 when the centre was still under construction, and proceeded to build the now 17-strong legal department from scratch. ‘I have led and managed regional legal teams in three multinational companies and in all that time I have only ever lost one lawyer from my team to other career opportunities’, says Alsagoff. ‘In today’s competitive environment, I think that is not a bad statistic.’ Building the legal function entailed not only a considered recruitment program, but also intensive training and mentoring, to ensure it fully met Marina Bay Sand’s complex business needs. The challenge of fulfilling the needs of one of the world’s largest casinos, in a country with particularly onerous gambling regulations, was heightened by the lack of gaming law specialists available in Singaporean firms. The sheer scale alone of the entertainment complex also meant considerable depth and breadth of expertise was required. The diversity of legal work this creates is, for Alsagoff, one of the major attractions of the role. ‘On a typical day, I could be meeting with government agencies to discuss regulatory issues in the morning; negotiating an entertainment contract or the purchase of a work of art in the afternoon; and strategizing with my litigation team on an ongoing High Court case in the evening’.
Millette Asuncion-Arnedo has primary responsibility for Pfizer’s Asia Pacific’s legal function, spanning 12 jurisdictions. ‘As an in-house counsel, you are expected not just to give a legal opinion that is legally safe and risk-free’, she says. ‘You are continuously challenged to provide creative and practical solutions to enable the business to do what it needs to do’. In addition to the significant projects she has implemented within challenging jurisdictions, Asuncion-Arnedo says she finds managing and developing team members ‘particularly gratifying’. When working with outside counsel, she says, the company looks for a long term ‘partnership’ where both sides take time to get to know each other’s business and not every conversation is charged by the hour. ‘Millette impresses us with her ability to bridge understandings,’ says one law firm partner. ‘She demonstrates the value of true partnering and fostering long-term relationships with law firms, based on mutual trust and reciprocation’.
The first lawyer in Korea to join a certified public accountants’ firm, Seung Jae Baek established a ‘first-of-its-kind’ legal function from scratch. He also founded the Korea In-house Counsel Association (KICA); the leading industry association for in-house counsel.
The Carlyle Group is now the largest private equity firm in Asia, and general counsel Wayne Bannon became managing director in 2012, the same year the company became publicly listed. ‘The breadth of Wayne’s portfolio – not just in business lines but also in geography – is astounding,’ says Andrew Ostrognai of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. ‘But he handles it all with efficiency, a calm manner, intelligence and remarkable good humour’.
For the past three years, Simon Bladen has built up and led a nine-lawyer team across Mongolia and China, dealing with all legal aspects of Rio Tinto’s game-changing Oyu Tolgoi project. Potentially one of the largest mining projects in the world, it is, in Simon Bladen’s view‘a national icon’ with ‘the capacity to represent nearly a third of the country’s GDP’. On the flipside, the joint venture with Mongolia’s government has been subject to its fair share of conflict and setbacks along the way. ‘Simon has had to deal with a wide array of legal challenges,’ Michael Aldrich at Hogan Lovells (Ulaanbaatar) LLC says, and Bladen concedes, ‘Crisis management has frequently felt like the norm’. During his time leading the team, the project progressed from a construction one, to that of an operating mine. Bladen has led the implementation of a number of core processes and functions to, in his words, ‘achieve our aim of becoming the best in-house legal function in Mongolia (which we believe we have achieved) and head towards our ultimate goal of becoming the best in-house legal function in any non-OECD country’. These have included measures related to budgeting, choosing external counsel, training, risk assessment and building precedents. In efforts to support Mongolia’s evolving legal profession and education, Bladen has built relationships with national law schools to give students direct exposure to the project and help them understand its future impact on the country.
‘Innovative and forward looking, with strategic vision’, Tan Gin Boon heads both legal and risk at leading regional telecommunications company Axiata. ‘The highlights have been building the department from a start-up to where it is today, and being recognised by my peers as someone who is more than just a lawyer,’ Boon says. When he joined in 2004 the company was already in growth mode, and amid the demands of implementing the new legal department’s processes and hiring staff, there were also sizeable transactions to contend with. Axiata Group’s demerger with Telekom Malaysia and its subsequent listing on the Malaysian Stock Exchange also further complicated the company’s legal and regulatory regime. This was not only due to its change in status, but also to the new control it had acquired over various subsidiaries. The rapidly-evolving nature of the region’s telecommunications industry has demanded ongoing adaptation as the law struggles to keep up. An added challenge, Boon explains, has been contending with a general reluctance to involve the legal department in the early stages of transactions. ‘In my part of the world the awareness of getting the legal team involved is still quite low, and legal is seen more as a part of compliance’.
Shunming Cao, as the general manager of legal department of China Reinsurance (Group) Corporation, leads all legal and compliance functions at China’s largest reinsurer, state-owned China Reinsurance (Group). One of his biggest achievements at China Reinsurance, has been his team’s role in helping to obtain $4bn investment and to take over the shares of subsidiaries from minority shareholders. During his eight years at the company, Shunming Cao established the legal function and all its processes from scratch with the support and under the leadership of his boss. ‘What I enjoy most about my role is that I can solve, or help my staff to solve, difficult problems in a different way, sometimes beyond imagination,’ he says. Standing director of both the China Society of Insurance Law and the China Society of Behaviour Law, Shunming Cao works as part-time graduate tutor at China Academy of Social Science and Tsinghua University, and is also an arbitrator. When dealing with law firms, he suggests problem-solving is an area they need to improve on.
Otis Elevator Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of lifts and escalators. Since becoming general counsel, Chae has made concerted efforts to promote a more collaborative working environment through the introduction of regular meetings and updates, and a stronger focus upon individual development. Previously a corporate partner at Shin & Kim, the closer proximity to the business of his current role is very important to him. ‘As an active member of senior management, my position allows me to make an actual difference in our organisation’.
Southeast Asian copper and gold producer PanAust has a portfolio of organic growth projects in Laos, Papua New Guinea and Chile. Its Laos-registered company Phu Bia Mining is centred on two key gold and silver mining projects, as well as several other early stage projects. A recognised industry expert, Carol Chapman has been with PanAust Asia since 2009. She has over 18 years’ experience in the region’s energy and natural resources market with past employers including Vung Ang II Power Company, CLP Group and Entergy.
Hony Capital, one of China’s biggest private equity firms, worth over $7bn, announced its $1.54bn purchase of restaurant chain Pizza Express in 2014. The move comes as part of Hony’s broader plans to invest more internationally, alongside its traditional focus on SOE funding and restructuring; an area of deep knowledge for Gary Chaucer. ‘Gary does a superb job of keeping all the parts moving of this rapidly growing and increasingly diverse business,’ Andrew Ostrognai of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP says. Chaucer has been with the company since 2004. A member of the management team, he leads all risk management, human resources and administrative function. In Ostrognai’s words, ‘he brings his remarkable managerial skills and intellect to bear in upholding Hony’s very high standards’. Highly experienced in Chinese buyouts, Chaucer’s other expertise include securities and foreign direct investment in China.
Clare Cheah provides front-line legal support to Disney’s real estate activities across the whole of Asia Pacific. She acted as lead negotiator for the legal real estate and development aspects of negotiations to build a resort in Shanghai, involving $5bn in investment. What she enjoys most about her role is the opportunity to assist a multi-faceted business expand into Asia and beyond, and also ‘working within a legal department that expects the highest standards and is staffed with skilled lawyers who practis e at a high level.’ After being based in Japan for 13 years, Clare relocated to Hong Kong in October 2014.
CIMB’s award-winning group legal head Chee Fei Meng is highly respected not only in her own organisation, but across the industry as a whole. ‘CIMB is relatively young in terms of having achieved the status of a universal bank franchise and has grown very fast regionally in a short period of time,’ she says. ‘Building it from the ground up, the legal team is constantly being challenged to “think outside the box”, ensure smooth execution of deals and manage the risks effectively at the same time.’ One of the greatest challenges, Fei Meng believes, is raising the legal team in CIMB’s profile to be recognised alongside the acclaimed legal teams of larger players in Asean and globally. For some, she has already achieved this. ‘Fei Meng has very successfully raised the skill levels of her investment banking legal team to be on par with the best in-house legal teams in the international investment banks,’ Adrian Chee Meng Yang at Adnan Sundra & Low says. Another private practice source points to Fei Meng’s technical expertise: ‘She is well known for her strong capabilities in the area of equity capital markets’. When Fei Meng joined the team five years ago, she set about making significant changes to the way CIMB Group’s legal function was run. ‘I have transformed legal to be more transaction-based in certain areas, instead of serving merely as an advisory function,’ she says. ‘In short, we now strive to support the business from the start of the structuring to settling, through to completing or closing the deal.’ Fei Meng has trained CIMB’s in-house legal team to review documentation in its entirety, hence reducing the level of dependency on external counsels to spot issues. ‘In order to ensure accuracy of the information and fair counsel, many times, if not all the time, it is proven that a second “set of eyes” helps tremendously to ensure that all angles are covered.’ Such processes and resources have been duly put in place under Fei Meng’s leadership. Fei Meng has also worked towards creating key specialisms within the team, which has helped in adding more value and creating greater collaboration with the banking and operations arms of the business. ‘I enjoy working closely with the bankers and finding solutions to issues that arise daily,’ she says. ‘Seeing a deal through to successful completion after much hard work brings great satisfaction indeed!’
Christine Yixin Chen oversees JPMorgan Chase’s China legal function. A dual-qualified lawyer, her current position gives her a unique perspective on the challenges facing US financial institutions operating in the jurisdiction. Chen took up the role in 2010, at a time when the company was making a consolidated effort to grow within the jurisdiction through a number of new initiatives. She previously spent nine years with Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, practising across its New York, Hong Kong and Beijing offices. Chen lectured at Shanghai’s Fudan University School of Law from 1995 to 2000. During this period, she was a research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London in 1998 and 1999, and worked on the city’s UK-China Forum in 1999.
In August 2013, Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation (CIC) was responsible for managing $572.2bn of China’s foreign exchange reserves. Jennifer Chen joined CIC in 2010, after 10 years working in international law firms, and one of her first tasks was to build up the small in-house legal team to deal with the fund’s growing scale.
‘Highly competent and technical’ in the view of the law firms she instructs, Sok Theng Cheng is acclaimed both for her skills as a lawyer and for her management of Morgan Stanley’s legal function. ‘She is absolutely outstanding,’ says a colleague. ‘Emerging markets are very challenging because the systems are so different. In our industry not many women climb the ladder and as a mother of three children, she is also a tremendous example of balancing work and a family’. Fluent in Malay, Bahasa Indonesia and Mandarin, Cheng co-chairs Morgan Stanley’s Singaporean Women Business Network, and plays a pivotal role in the region’s legal and operational functions. She established Morgan Stanley’s Indonesian business, set up its Singaporean branch for its wealth management arm and worked on the group’s acquisition of an exchange membership on IDX. Active in capital markets, mergers & acquisitions, trading, derivatives and private wealth management, her most prominent recent deals include BTS Infrastructure Fund’s Thai IPO; ThaiBev/TCC’s takeover of F&N; and Felda Global Ventures’ Malaysian IPO. A Cambridge graduate, she practised at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s London office for eight years, before joining Morgan Stanley, London in 2006 and relocating to Singapore in 2008.
As well as managing all legal and risk functions, Gordon Chin sits on many of Lunar’s funds’ investment committees, keeping him exceptionally close to the business. ‘Lunar is a very entrepreneurial firm, and I was given a broad mandate to execute my vision on the legal side of the business,’ he says. ‘My biggest challenge in the role has also been my biggest accomplishment – namely the ability to apply a very rigorous institutional framework to a very fluid and dynamic environment – by that I mean not just Lunar but China’. Formerly general counsel at ARC China, Gordon Chin’s role at Lunar Capital requires him to deal with complex, cross-border structures. ‘We are pretty robust team which engages in the whole investment process, especially the portfolio management side,’ says Chin. Andrew Ostrognai of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP says: ‘Gordon’s careful, rigorous and thoughtful approach to issues, and to working with outside counsel, makes him a superb corporate counsel’. Looking forwards, Chin sees continued growth for the organisation, particularly as smaller family business owners in the jurisdiction may potentially begin selling to funds like them. ‘The challenge is going to be to keep continually pushing forward to become more business-oriented, professional and institutional as you expand. When you grow a business, you need to have that infrastructure and platform or you can’t handle the growth’.
When Mitsuro Claire Chino became executive officer in 2013, she was not only Itochu’s youngest employee to do so, but the first woman to reach executive level in any of Japan’s trading houses. Now in her fourteenth year at the company, Chino has championed women’s professional advancement within the nation’s notoriously male-dominated corporate culture. In 2004, she instigated extensive diversity initiatives at the company, contributing to a rise in its female employees from 2% in 2003 to 9% in 2012. ‘I think that as I’m the first female head of legal for the company, my female colleagues are more comfortable as a result of my presence,’ Chino observes. ‘I was able to make the department very gender neutral’. Rated as ‘outstanding’ and ‘an excellent in-house counsel’ by the firms she instructs, Chino’s recent achievements include leading Itochu’s $1bn tie up with Thailand’s CP Group, completed in July 2014. ‘I’ve been able to work on quite a number of very high-profile projects – that’s very satisfying,’ Chino says. ‘I’ve also been able to contribute to non-legal aspects of the business’. She began her career in private practice in the US, where she rose to partnership, before taking the decision to return to Japan and join Itochu in 2000. ‘People thought I was crazy,’ Chino recalls,‘but what really appealed to me was working for a trading company’. As the first lateral hire into the legal department at a company where most people spent their entire careers, she says she had to work hard to makes contacts and gain the appropriate visibility, and with it information, to effectively lead the department. At the same time, Chino believes the unique perspective she obtained from her private practice background has been a real advantage. ‘I think when you are in private practice, you really look at your clients as your clients. To serve them and stay competitive, you have to be creative’. She adds: ‘I have been very vocal with colleagues that our vision is to be a practical legal department which moves business forwards’. Chino is active with the Inter-Pacific Bar Association and lectures at Keio Law School and Hitotsubashi Business School.
Praised for his ‘drive’ and ‘strategic vision’, US-qualified Gunny Cho has a varied legal and entrepreneurial career history, including a deep involvement in Asia’s financial services sector. Formerly an attorney at defunct US firm Coudert Brothers’ Hong Kong office, Cho was also managing director at private equity firm KTB Investments. With over 20 years of experience in corporate and securities law, he has particular expertise in cross-border M&A.
Justus Chua led on the legal aspects of Reckitt Benckiser’s de-merger and spin off of its pharmaceuticals arm into a stand-alone business. As the first in-house lawyer in Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals’ Singapore office, Chua has been active in building relationships across the company in order to increase its involvement in strategic business decisions affecting the group’s developing markets. ‘Promoting legal compliance as an acceptable mindset among business functions’ has been his biggest challenge, he says.
Former head of DFDL’s Laos offering, Brennan Coleman, is RMA Group’s first general counsel. The company specialises in assisting governments, aid agencies and other non-commercial enterprises with support in developing jurisdictions, offering infrastructure solutions to needs such as fresh water and power. Coleman was previously president of the Australia New Zealand Business Association (ANZBA) in Laos, aiming to represent antipodean interests in the region.
‘As in-house counsel we can no longer content ourselves with just being good lawyers,’ says Elizabeth Colfer. ‘We need to invest time and energy, and factor into our legal analysis the cultural and business aspects of our environment so as to ensure that we are also a valued and reliable business partner’. After successfully setting up a multi-cultural team supporting the business and projects’ teams in the Middle East in her role as deputy general, Colfer joined GDF Suez’s Indonesian office in September 2013. Taking a cross-cultural approach, the multinational, multi-disciplined team focuses on project aspects that potentially span multiple jurisdictions. In Colfer’s view, her biggest achievement in her current role to date has been the seamless transition from the Middle East to Asia-Pacific region and the new professional challenges that this represented. ‘Adapting and responding to the exigencies of different jurisdictional issues whilst actively contributing as a business partner is a challenging but very worthwhile objective,’ Colfer adds.
The Galileo Japan Trust is a $900m real estate investment trust listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, and a part of The Galileo Group, which is involved in numerous Australian investments. Galileo Japan’s award-winning general counsel Edmond Courtroul has over a decade of in-house experience, with previous roles at Panasonic and logistics investment firm The Redwood Group. He joined specialist property funds manager Galileo in 2010. In the view of one private practice source: ‘Ed is instrumental in driving initiatives and developing opinions within his company’.
‘One of Logitech’s mottos is that “success is never final”,’ Judith Crosbie-Chen says. ‘I agree with that statement but also tell my team members that “on the Journey, successes need to be recognised and celebrated”!’ Crosbie-Chen has faced a number of changes during her six years at global technology company Logitech. The range and volume of its Asian sales base has expanded dramatically, as have the regulatory demands on the business. ‘The global financial crisis, which occurred shortly after I took on this role, has resulted in a much greater focus upon compliance and risk control work,’ she explains. The key to combatting these challenges, she says, has been empowering her five-strong team to ‘embrace change’, and to develop their skillsets across a full spectrum, be it business, legal or foreign languages, through outside training. Crosbie-Chen has had varied experience within consumer markets throughout her in-house career, having previously served as associate general counsel for Gap in Asia and as chief legal officer for Mcdonald’s China. In the latter role, she worked on the strategy team behind the opening of over 700 restaurants and almost a dozen joint venture across the nation during the 90s. This achievement she says ‘is a memory which always brings a smile to my face’.
Currently heading the Asia legal function for Hays Plc, UK and Australia-qualified Chris Dancey’s career has moved full circle, having once worked as a legal recruitment consultant. He developed Hays’ Asia Pacific legal function from scratch, creating, ‘a world class legal team that ultimately went on to win Hays’ corporate services function of the year’. After setting up the broader, regional function, Dancey went on to an Asia-specific legal and governance function, where, he says, ‘a similar pioneering mindset was required’. ‘My current role is much wider than a traditional legal role,’ Dancey adds. ‘It encompasses risk, compliance, regulatory, secretarial and corporate strategy. Doing business in a cross cultural context results in a very challenging but enjoyable role’. His varied in-house employers have included Vodafone, United Utilities and ASX 100 listed gaming company Aristocrat Leisure.
‘It is cliché perhaps, but what I enjoy the most is definitively being so close to the business,’ Peter De Neef says on his role at GDF Suez. ‘I deliberately chose to go in-house in a company in a line of business that personally interested me.’ Though he is still at an early stage of his in-house career, De Neef has already made a meaningful impression on those around him. ‘Peter has been at the forefront of developing projects in the most challenging jurisdictions,’ says one private practice source of De Neef, who spent three years in the Middle East, prior to joining GDF Suez’s South East Asian arm in 2011. His achievements to date include playing a central role in structuring Mongolia’s CHP5 project, one of GDF’s major investments in the region. De Neef himself says he is particularly proud of successfully closing an IPP (power plant) project in Abu Dhabi. ‘I was completely new to the business,’ he recalls. ‘The closing was supposed to be pretty straightforward. However, right then, the 2008 financial crisis hit, leading to months of very difficult negotiations with contractors in Germany and Korea, the government of Abu Dhabi, Japanese partners and banks’. The entire experience – and the fact the plant itself is today fully operational – was, for De Neef, a defining moment in his early career. ‘For me, this project in Abu Dhabi really meant: learn to swim, or drown – but I learned so much and the feeling of achievement was huge’. As well as completing the task at hand, De Neef has proved particularly popular with the outside counsel he instructs. ‘Peter is a strong team player,’ opines Anna Collyer at Allens. ‘He has great technical skill and focus on detail, while still maintaining a clear commercial perspective and appreciating the nuances of doing business in emerging economies’. The need to adapt and work well with others is something De Neef himself is very aware of. ‘I typically get along quite well with the business teams and other departments,’ he says, though he concedes certain past experiences have impressed upon him the need to be ‘flexible’ and to understand different people’s approaches. Amongst the changes De Neef has made to the legal team in his current role, he feels his introduction of a centralised document management system across Dubai, Bangkok and Jakarta has been particularly significant. ‘This is in line with my strong belief in knowledge sharing,’ explains De Neef, who participates in various knowledge-sharing groups and initiatives worldwide.
Chris Drake has been general counsel at finance portfolio manager Portigon for 15 years and currently manages a team of five lawyers across Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney. During his time in the role, he has taken positive steps to empower his team to take greater ownership of their work. ‘The turbo boost to your department’s output is phenomenal,’ he says. ‘I’m not sure if it’s a paradox or if lawyers are just naturally careful, but taking away the oversight made my people more invested in their work’. The introduction of compliance to his role he admits was ‘a bit daunting’, but one which has had successful outcome to date: ‘We haven’t stepped on a banana skin since I took office’.
‘Work at Dymon Asia is never mundane or routine,’ says Jason Eng, general counsel and compliance head of leading alternative asset manager Dymon Asia. During his time at the company, Eng has been party to, in his words ‘seminal achievements tracking the major milestones in Dymon Asia’s corporate history and transformation’. These ‘milestones’ include establishing the business’s first private equity fund and its subsequent portfolio investments, overseeing from a legal perspective Temasek’s $500m venture with Dymon Asia to back new hedge fund managers and strategies; as well as setting up Dymon Asia’s UK office. Some of his biggest challenges, he says, have been adapting to ‘the never-ending wave of financial services and other regulations which affect hedge fund and private equity fund managers’, including Dodd-Frank Act, FATCA, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering legislation. As general counsel, he points to the need to be a ‘“jack of all trades”’, and to ‘grasp and dissect varied issues quickly’.
Loo Hwee Fang is praised for her ‘agility’ and ‘innovative’ approach to structuring deals in ‘the foremost frontier market’ of Myanmar. Hwee Fang joined Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. in 2013. The company is a leading business corporation with real estate, agriculture, automotive, luxury tourism and retail/F&B businesses in Myanmar, which has undergone substantial growth in recent times. Prior to joining Yoma Strategic Holdings, Fang was a corporate partner at Lee & Lee, where she specialised in corporate finance, capital markets and fund management.
A leading figure in Asia’s telecommunications market, Equinix’s ‘outstanding’ Asia Pacific vice president Yolande Goh is the first to admit not everything in her career has followed a pre-designed plan. ‘I graduated during the Asian financial crisis,’ she explains. She joined StarHub prior to the company being launched as the second telco in Singapore, and was first headhunted for Equinix in 2004, where she relished the challenge of moving to a start-up environment. ‘The person who asked me to join is very smart and I had great respect for her.’ Goh has been involved in a number of ground-breaking transactions during her 10 years at the company. ‘I wouldn’t say I had one biggest achievement,’ she reflects. ‘I do something different every year in this role. I could be doing an M&A deal across three jurisdictions. We do something significant every year.’ As an example, the company plans to convert to a REIT during 2014: ‘This is something very few people in the world do. It’s a massive exercise.’ Goh has built an ‘amazing team’ of highly skilled senior lawyers. ‘I’ve managed to find people who have recommended each other, so we’re all connected.’ She has also taken steps to improve efficiency with initiatives like moving to a paperless system. Most of all, she is quick to emphasise how much she has been empowered by the organisation. ‘It’s a different, refreshing approach compared to other companies. From the outset you really work as a business partner, and it’s something people immediately sense’.
Brett Graham, who heads a team of around 50, relishes the variety of work involved in his role as Asia Pacific general counsel for one of the world’s leading financial services institutions. During his time in the role, he has worked alongside the business’s compliance function to promote a greater level of individual responsibility and has taken measures to improve regional co-ordination within the legal function. One of the biggest challenges, Graham says, is keeping hold of the high-quality people they employ: ‘We have great lawyers and other banks think so too’.
Société Générale was the first French bank to provide services in China in 2008, after China fully opened up to the Société Générale group in 2006. It was also one of the first foreign banks to launch its activities in China in 1981. Xin Gu has headed the bank’s China legal function since 2007, supporting business lines domestically and overseas. He spent five months as Singapore’s acting legal head in 2013. Xin Gu has worked in the banking sector ever since he began his career in 1999. He is PRC qualified, and a Guang Zhou Arbitration Commission arbitrator.
ANZ’s Asia legal head Ben Hamilton finds leading and developing people one of the greatest sources of satisfaction in his role. ‘I feel overwhelmed by having such talented people who are so different and add something very unique to what they do. I feel honoured to lead them.’ Hamilton, who manages 36 lawyers across eight different jurisdictions, feels he has improved communication between legal and the bank’s Australian head office. ‘I had a lot of contacts across the organisation from my in-house and private practice experience, which I think helped me build trust through honesty and accountability, and making sure people understand what we’re able to do. I’ve worked on better dialogue.’ Managing people based in different jurisdictions, he admits, is tough sometimes. ‘I try to make people understand I want them to be honest with me and tell me what is and isn’t working for them’. Beginning his career in private practice in London, Hamilton has worked at CMS, DLA Piper and what is now King & Wood Mallesons. He also worked in-house at Deutsche Bank’s Hong Kong office.
Stéphane Harmand has a long history with world-leading vehicle manufacturer Volvo, having headed their French legal operations for 10 years, before relocating to their China branch in 2008. In his current position at Volvo Group Trucks Sales & Marketing APAC in Tokyo, Harmand leads the company’s legal and compliance division not only in Japan, but also remotely across China, Australia and Singapore. His work includes brand development in Volvo’s truck business across Asia Pacific. He also supports the new UD Trucks worldwide brand strategy and the development of new projects with partners across Asia.
When Kristen Harris joined Harley Davidson in 2011, she was taking on an entirely new role, with all legal work previously handled in the Milwaukee global headquarters. ‘The initial phase of building the legal function was transformational,’ says Harris. ‘I was tasked with building a legal infrastructure where we previously didn’t have one’. This task was a crucial component to the continued growth of the world-leading brand within the region, though paradoxically, it came a long time after Harley Davidson’s arrival in Asia. With the heightened demand for the product, Harris admits its ‘lean’, three-year-old legal team operates under pressure. Supporting 12 direct markets and subsidiaries across China, India, Japan, Australia and Singapore, Harris handles all aspects of legal and compliance work in the region and has served on the Asia Pacific leadership team. In recent times she has led all levels of legal support for the launch of new motorcycle “The Street”. After three years at Harley Davidson within an in-house career spanning decades, Harris is very clear on what keeps her coming into work every day. ‘Being part of the in-house team allows me to work with the business,’ she says. ‘When added to the fact that the business team is filled with an amazing range of talented and interesting people, I can say this is the best job I have ever had’.
‘I have been fascinated by China since secondary school,’ says US-educated former journalist William Hay on his two-decade career in the continent. ‘A class act’ in the words of a former colleague, Hay’s legal career in the region has spanned GE Capital, MGM MIRAGE, real estate fund Colony Capital and Internet Capital Group. ‘In every respect, Will is the dean of the corporate counsel bar in Asia,’ says Andrew Ostrognai of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. ‘I can’t think of anyone else who has the depth of experience, judgment, and just plain smarts over such a wide variety of work and for such a long time’. At GE Capital, Hay helped to set off 20 different product lines, including the largest distressed debt in Asia during the 90s financial crisis. At Baring, he leads a four-lawyer, multi-jurisdictional team and has been active in strengthening the legal team and increasing its involvement in the business. ‘Asia is adopting a more US role,’ he says. ‘In the US if you get something wrong it can be very damaging to the business so lawyers tend to be consulted more. Elsewhere in the world consequences weren’t as bad but now things are getting tightened, with developments like FATCA and new anti-money laundering rules – global checks are coming into play, so the same pressures are there’.
‘Our litigation department has the best expertise in Taiwan for handling international disputes,’ says Wei-Fu Hsu, general counsel of TSX-listed technology company MediaTek. The group’s current strength follows a decade-long, carefully planned out and executed introduction of comprehensive training and procedures, spearheaded by Hsu. Having spent over a decade building MediaTek’s in-house team, Hsu now leads 80 people in total across the legal and IP function of the business, and the number is still growing. After he joined the business, Hsu took an active role in building up the lines of communication, and devising training programs, compliance, corporate governance and legal policies and procedures. ‘I even had IP and legal exams for our engineers,’ he says. Most crucially, he turned his attention to the company’s approach to patent filing. ‘We were facing more and more patent litigation from competitors or companies trying to license their portfolios,’ he explained. ‘So I started aggressively purchasing thousands of quality patents’. Hsu has also handled several M&A projects, including the company’s $4.5bn MStar project.
As San Miguel Corporation’s general counsel, Virgilio Jacinto has been active in the ongoing diversification of the Group’s investment portfolio. Stretching way beyond beer, this currently includes: packaging, property development, power, fuel, mining, infrastructure, telecommunications and even airlines. Jacinto oversees all work across the 53-strong legal team and works closely with the company’s finance, treasury, transactional and human resources departments.
Vanita Jegathesan oversees all Chevron’s disputes and investigations for the downstream markets across Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. Since starting her role she has worked closely with managing counsel and the US legal function to implement comprehensive procedures for managing investigations across these regions. ‘Prior to this, there was no established process for managing investigations in the downstream,’ she says. ‘This process ensures that we have a consistent approach and the right amount of visibility for business leaders. The business has been responding positively.’ Since taking on the role Jegathesan has tried to introduce further formalised processes to promote consistency in the way disputes and investigations are managed across her regions. The complex and diverse legal and political climates in these countries make dispute and investigation management challenging and interesting, she says. While her approach to issues remains as complex and strategic as it was in private practice, Jegathesan greatly enjoys being closer to the business. ‘You see an immediate value in the work you’re doing for a client. The way I think about the problem and address it is the same – the objective remains to achieve the best outcome for the client. The key difference between practice and in-house for me is where you are in the equation.’
Mark Jenkinson holds a combined legal and commercial role at innovative Norwegian oil and gas exploration company Petroleum Geo-Services. ‘It’s an opportunity to deal with quite unique work,’ he explains. ‘With my region covering such diverse and interesting jurisdictions, it can be very challenging, but when I think back to my days working in London the issues were relatively mundane in comparison’. Jenkinson first joined PGS on secondment from his employer at the time, Watson, Farley & Williams LLP, and the experience opened his eyes to this alternative career avenue. ‘I really enjoyed the culture – it made me realise how much more attuned I was to an in-house role’. Jenkinson returned to the company one year later to become their regional in-house counsel, with an executive MBA thrown in as part of the deal. ‘I was scared of hitting a glass ceiling in the company so I thought more business understanding would be helpful,’ he explains. After completing his MBA in 2011, Jenkinson began handling equity investment opportunities in Asia Pacific, alongside his legal duties.‘It’s a very transactional role and because it’s so document-heavy, it’s a natural extension of the legal role’.
Most recently director and associate general counsel for New York and Hong Kong-listed luxury brand Coach Inc., Jasmine Karimi’s varied in-house career has spanned multiple jurisdictions in diverse industries including retail, manufacturing and media. ‘They’ve all been different and yet they’ve all had similarities,’ she says of her various employers. ‘What makes any company and role interesting is getting to know the product, services and the business truly well in order to bring real value-add’. UK, Singapore, Canada and Hong Kong-qualified, Karimi is a sought after speaker at industry conferences in Asia and has been featured in various legal publications. Elected as President of Hong Kong’s Corporate Counsel Association (HKCCA) almost five years ago, she has seen the organisation grow from approximately 300 to 900 members. ‘We are trying to give the in-house community a bigger voice and a seat at the table,’ she says on HKCCA’s goals. ‘We are really working to push forward soft skills workshops which go beyond hard law and show in-house counsel how to really engage as a true business partner, empowering them to act as agents of change.’ Alongside resources, bringing management round to legal’s value-added, Karimi says, is one of the most consistent challenges faced by in-house counsel. ‘Some still see you as a backhouse function, which can be frustrating.’ Karimi first started practising as a litigator in Singapore. She then moved to Toronto, Canada, initially at magic circle firm Blakes, before accepting her first in-house role as a media lawyer at CHUM (since bought out by Rogers Media), and thereafter Corus Entertainment. Here she headed legal support for the company’s 52 radio stations nationwide and provided specialist advice on IP, IT and defamation law across its 17 TV channels. Often required to provide accurate advice on the spot where the stakes were high, such as whether or not to run a major news story, Karimi says ‘I always found those scenarios made me a better lawyer.’ In 2006 Karimi returned to Asia and joined Hong Kong-listed power tools manufacturer Techtronic Industries, heading the APAC legal team supporting various business units across Asia and EMEA on expansion, restructuring and operational issues. From here Karimi moved into retail manufacturing at Braiform, then a division of Aus/NZ-listed Spotless Group, setting up the global legal function, travelling across Europe, the United States, and Asia. She also completed a wide-scale strategic review of the company’s patent portfolio, involving a major cull which significantly cut costs. At the beginning of 2012 she was headhunted by Coach to set up their Asia Pacific legal function. ‘Coach was doing a lot of very interesting deals, and there was a much work to be done on the Asia business function. The challenge of setting up the function is always exciting’. Starting off as the region’s sole in-house lawyer, she grew the team and also helped when the company take its brand back from distributors in Korea and other jurisdictions. Korea, Karimi agrees, is a ‘challenging market’. ‘As someone who thrives on challenges, it resonated well with me.’ When asked what law firms could do better, Karimi points to ‘proactivity’ and greater focus on the client’s business.
‘Hiro established and is currently building one of the most innovative legal teams in Japan,’ says one bystander. When Hiro Kato joined the international oil and gas company, it had no dedicated legal function or staff. A year later he leads a team of six foreign lawyers, and company policy has been amended to ensure they support all overseas projects, review all major contracts, and handle the appointment and management of all external counsel. ‘I believe our biggest achievements to date have been the successful creation of the legal department from scratch and its seamless incorporation into our corporate infrastructure,’ Kato says. ‘These achievements speak volumes of the foresight of our senior management and the calibre of our in-house personnel’. Building a legal review stage into business operations and with it changing entire corporate-wide behaviour, he admits, has been challenging, but the success is already tangible. ‘I believe the legal department has already become an integral part of INPEX’s daily business operations’. At the centre of this outcome, Kato is clear, lies the people not only in legal but across the wider business. ‘I work with talented, engaging and forward-thinking people,’ he says. ‘This has allowed us to build something exceptional: a fully-integrated transaction-focused legal department with purpose-built systems, processes and tools, all from scratch.’
In his role as country compliance officer and legal counsel at ABB, Nobou Karakami prides himself on ‘embedding an integrity culture into the organisation’. His recent professional highlights include handling a merger among group companies with a tax-optimised scheme.
Chris Kim currently leads an eight-strong team which he built up himself, overseeing Facebook’s international legal function. ‘I love being ringside for the Facebook story. I love the variety. You never know what your day is going to look like’. Beginning his legal career in the US, Kim left private practice to work for Yahoo!, and then Google, with a stint in between at his own start-up company. At Google, Kim’s remit included support for YouTube and the GoogleX project. In 2007, Kim joined Facebook in San Francisco, and seven years later, he is the legal team’s longest-serving member. The appeal, he says, lay in being part of a fast growing organisation, and seeing the ‘impact’ of what he was doing. Three years ago Kim moved over to Singapore to develop Facebook’s international legal function. ‘One of the biggest challenges in building a strong legal department is finding lawyers that are a fit from a corporate culture, skill and attitude perspective,’ he says, adding: ‘When you deal with multiple countries it gets even more challenging.’ Maintaining the culture of the legal team as it expands is very important to Facebook. ‘It’s a move-fast culture. We value a “hacker” mentally in trying to solve problems very quickly.’ One of the biggest challenges he faces is keeping pace not only with the internet’s rapidly-evolving industry and regulatory framework, but also with developments at Facebook itself.
When asked what he enjoys most about leading Nikon’s 120-strong IP Division, Eric Kirsch replies, ‘solving problems’. Since he began his role he has taken steps to improve communication lines within the team and has made it a particular focus to improve the way litigation is handled by the company.
Michelle Koh began her career handling business maintenance contracts at Pidemco Land, which would later merge with DBS Land to become CapitaLand, before studying her law degree via distance learning. After qualifying and working in private practice, Koh returned to what was now Capitaland as a junior officer, where she worked her way up to the role of general counsel. In her current role Koh manages the centralised legal and secretariat functions and is responsible for all corporate governance and compliance policies.
‘Having been in an in-house role with the company for 15 years, it has been a great journey to see it grow from a private limited to a blue chip listed company,’ reflects Veronica Lai, the multi-award-winning head of Starhub’s multi-awarding-winning team. During her long tenure, Starhub has expanded from pure telco to offering television and broadband services amid an industry in a state of perpetual flux on a local and global level. ‘The competitive landscape and regulatory regime have undergone seething changes,’ says Lai. ‘There have also been rapid changes in technology, with a push towards convergence across the media and telecoms industries. These necessitate a technically savvy and nimble legal team to keep pace’. In the face of the constant changes, for Lai the only course of survival is to be ‘creative’ and ‘willing to test new boundaries’ without compromising the company’s interests. Her team is structured along the lines of the business, so that each lawyer has their own distinct focus, empowering them to, in Lai’s words ‘take ownership, understand the commercial drivers, and hence be able to render more effective legal service’.
‘One of the success factors of an in-house counsel is the ability to stay close to the business,’ opines Diana Lee, Ceva Asia Pacific’s senior vice president. Lee began her role as the sole legal counsel and was tasked with ‘building a team that is highly effective and efficient’, which, to date, has six members. Her recent work highlights include resolving a complex and high-stakes shareholder dispute.
John Lee is managing director for Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA), which is the world’s largest private manager on infrastructure assets. He works as general counsel for MIRA’s Asia-based private equity funds in Singapore, India, Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea and the PRC. Lee manages four other lawyers in the region. Lee previously worked at Linklaters in Shanghai and Hong Kong and what is now King & Wood Mallesons in Brisbane; he joined Macquarie in 2008.
Founder of peer-to-peer networking group The Asian Hedge Fund Legal and Regulatory Group, Kher Sheng Lee is the first general counsel of Azentus Capital. An SFC-regulated, multi-strategy, global investment manager, Azentus was behind the launch of what – at $2bn – was one of the largest day-one hedge fund launches following the 2008 crisis. As sole legal counsel in a lean, dynamic organisation of this kind, Lee was responsible for designing the business’s entire compliance framework. The free-standing nature of his role was, in part, his motivation for forming the group, which allows other corporate counsel in the same position to bounce ideas off one another. Dual-qualified in law and finance, Lee has had various articles published in the investment space including one which won the Mondaq award in 2009. Lee was appointed the inaugural chair of the AIMA Sound Practices Committee in 2014. This newly set-up 40-strong global committee provides strategic guidance and oversight into AIMA’s sound practices and industry guidance products.
In 2006, US billionaire investor Carl Icahn attempted a $10bn hostile takeover of Korean tobacco business KT&G Corporation. ‘This was probably one of the biggest challenges that my company had to face’, says general counsel Seung-Jun Lee. ‘It was also the biggest professional challenge I had to face at that time. After all this was the first ever foreign takeover attempt on a Korean company. I had no precedent to rely on. I had to focus on creating practical legal solutions on the fly’. The role he played in the company’s successful defeat of the takeover, Lee says, turned out to be the highlight of his professional career to date. During his long tenure with KT&G Lee has won a high level of respect from those he deals with professionally. For one private practice source : ‘He has shown great business capability, expertise, communication skills and passion to be a role model of others.’ Now heading a team of eight, Lee was responsible for developing KT&G’s entire global legal function. ‘KT&G Corporation did not have a fully functional legal department prior to my appointment,’ he explains. ‘I established the basic legal protocols currently being utilised on a company-wide basis’. To achieve this, Lee was required to create comprehensive contract templates and reporting and compliance procedures, whilst implementing day-to-day risk management. Though the process was tough, Lee feels a real sense of achievement at the outcome: ‘Not many attorneys can claim that they took part in building a legal department from the ground up.’ When asked what he enjoys most about his role, Lee points to the strong level of personal interaction. ‘I am inherently a gregarious person who advocates a hands-on approach.’ When asked what law firms could do to improve the service they provide, he points to a greater awareness of client needs, highlighting listening, responsiveness and tailored advice as areas of particular importance. ‘Selecting external counsel is like entering into a long term relationship.’
State Grid International Development (SGID) is the state-owned entity’s flagship body for international business and overseas investment. During Li Ling’s tenure as legal head and executive board member, SGID has been involved in several innovative ventures. In 2009 executive committee member Li’s legal team worked on China’s first successful bid for an overseas national grid, when its subsidiary National Grid Corporation of the Philippines won a $4bn, 25-year concession to run the island group’s power transmission system. In 2010 came the organisation’s $1.1bn purchase of four Brazilian transmission companies from Plena Transmissoras, giving it a monopoly in the region. A key component to Li’s work is researching the legal and regulatory framework for overseas investment and power industries in target jurisdictions, as well as working through all stages of projects, from drafting, negotiation, procurement and disputes.
China National Electric Engineering Corporation (CNEEC) successfully agreed to expand Thailand’s TPI PP 60MW MSW Power Plant in 2014. General counsel Li Liwen led all legal aspects of the agreement, seen by many as a landmark in CNEEC’s development. CNEEC has undertaken several TPI PL projects over recent years, including the 30MW Cement Kiln Heat Recovery Power Plant.
In six years, Sheila Liang has built up leading Chinese internet provider Tencent’s specialist M&A and technology transaction teams from scratch. After having no specialist transactional lawyers when she arrived, Liang now leads 14 lawyers across the two distinct strands.‘I have been coaching the two teams into the most sophisticated teams with the highest legal skill and competency compared with peer companies, I believe,’ she says, adding: ‘The two teams are very strong and truly international’. Liang’s arrival marked a period of growth and international activity for the company, which had previously focused on domestic transactions and, at that time, was doing very few M&A deals at all. Since then, the M&A team has handled hundreds of transactions involving billions of dollars. These included Tencent’s award-winning Sogou-Soso deal, which created the “Sogou Model”; an entirely new deal-structuring design. Operating internationally within a unique market like China remains a major appeal of the role for Liang from both a legal and a business perspective: ‘I very much enjoy serving as a bridge between international practice and domestic habit, between western cultural and Chinese cultural’. When asked about the biggest challenges of her role, Liang points to the constant tension between business needs and risk control: ‘Which is the forever topic.’
‘Looking back at my career, I believe my biggest personal achievement is having built up a strong, capable, dedicated, effective and conscientious team,’ says Ginney Lim, reflecting on her 20 years heading leading Asia news portal SPH’s legal function. ‘To me, the biggest challenge is how to manage people well, whether it be those who report to me, my peers or my bosses’. During this period, SPH’s core business has diversified from traditional print media to include broadcasting, new media and even areas such as property. Lim handled SPH’s REIT IPO in 2013 and became a non-executive director on its board. She also played key roles in the IPO of AsiaOne, SPH’s internet arm. Her other achievements included Singapore CableVision and Starhubs’ 2002 merger; MediaCorp and SPH’s merger in 2004; SPH Magazines’ 2004 acquisition of Blu Inc Group; and the 2012 acquisition of ACP Singapore, which brought key women’s magazine titles, including Cleo and Singapore Women’s Weekly, to SPH. As some sign of her deep entrenchment in the organisation, Lim’s professional remit stretches far beyond that of a typical GC. She manages 24 staff across all corporate secretarial, legal, risk, insurance and corporate communications functions, including seven lawyers. ‘I enjoy that my current job is not only confined to doing just legal work,’ Lim says. ‘I am involved in senior management steering committees, where high-level discussions are debated and proposals put forth to the board of directors thereafter. I also find the challenge of representing my company as a nominee director on some boards a huge challenge and highly satisfying’. Her broad role also reflects the legal function’s strong business focus. ‘The credo that we have adopted is to be the indispensable partner-in-law to all SPH businesses,’ says Lim. ‘To this end I have inculcated a culture amongst my team of being business focused, ensuring that the organisation’s long term interests and reputation are paramount in whatever we do’. Many of her team members have worked closely with her for more than five years, while others have gone on to work in other parts of the company, including business development and media strategy. Lim structured the team so that each lawyer takes ownership of multiple business units, while at the same time employing a ‘buddy system’, which means there is always someone who understands another person’s work if they are unavailable.
The ‘very impressive’ Thierry Lintermans manages a team of around 75 across the whole of Asia Pacific, including Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan and China. He previously spent ten years in Accenture’s Belgium office, before relocating to Singapore three years ago. ‘It’s a booming and emerging market,’ he said on the move. ‘It was an opportunity not to be missed’. One major focus in his current position has been developing the prominence of the Asia Pacific part of Accenture’s legal function, and‘making sure people understand the need to think outside the box’. The changes Lintermans has made to achieve this have included two team reorganisations with the aims of developing talent and increasing people’s ability to work independently. ‘My biggest achievement has been working with and developing people to ensure they are highly engaged,’ he says.‘Culture comes into it a lot, and working out how people want to work with you and how they perceive you is just an amazing challenge’. On the subject of outside counsel, Lintermans emphasises the need to be practical and to work in partnership with lawyers inside the business: ‘Sometimes they don’t recognise we know as much as they do’.
Hua Liu is general counsel for state-owned entity China National Cotton Reserves Corporation (CNCRC). Established to manage, regulate and distribute national cotton reserves, CNCRC has become the largest cotton warehouse and distributor in the country.
Vale is the world’s second largest mining company. ‘Practical, very efficient and dedicated’ Hoi Yean Loi heads a small team covering all legal aspects of central and northern Malaysian operations, and also supporting work across Africa, Asia and Australia. She was project lawyer for Vale’s construction of the largest jetty in the region, dealing with all building, construction and regulatory issues. During her time in the team, Loi has taken steps to improve cost and time efficiency in the legal department. She also completed a short-term assignment in Morocco, where she successfully incorporated an oil and gas company single-handedly. In her opinion, ‘speed, understanding clients’ needs and cost effectiveness’ are areas firms could sometimes improve upon. Loi previously worked for Genting Energy, and IT company Silverlake Systems.
Ross Long joined Asia’s leading asset manager Nikko Asset Management’s senior management team to lead all global legal functions in 2013. Long has extensive legal and regulatory experience across multiple Asia Pacific jurisdictions. His top level legal and financial roles have included group counsel and executive management member for the CLSA Group, partner at Lovell White Durrant and also at Parker & Parker. ‘The relationship between corporate counsel and law firms has changed a lot for the better, over the past 10-15 years,’ says Long. ‘Both have adapted well to the rapidly changing environment and the 21st century of global law and finance.’ For him, the greatest challenge is always ‘getting the right balance between helping to drive a business forward but at the same time protecting it and minimising legal risks.’
‘It was a good time to join – it’s exciting to be a part of something that’s growing,’ says Joanne Low, on her decision to become RRJ Capital’s first in-house lawyer. The challenges of implementing a coherent legal and regulatory framework in its entirety where nothing formal had existed before, she admits, were considerable. ‘I had all these ideas about what I’d implement but trying to get it done is a whole different process’. Among her initial tasks were drafting a compliance manual, while implementing all the necessary procedures remains an ongoing process. On the plus side, the size and fluidity of the organisation is also an advantage. ‘If you need to discuss anything everyone just gets into a room and discusses it – things happen very quickly’. Having come from a private practice background herself, she highlights ‘proactivity’ and ‘giving advice more tailored to my needs’ as areas for firms to focus on.
Theresa Low's appointment as General Counsel and Company Secretary of the Sentosa Development Corporation Group of Companies was the latest in an in house legal career that spanned from listco Dairy Farm International Holdings' South Asia office to Burger King's Asia Pacific office where she was actively involved in the company's entry into new markets across the region. Being a strong advocate of education, she is the driving force behind the advancement of legal training and setting up the new PDPA compliance regime as her organisation's Data Protection Officer. In all her roles, she has been tasked with a vast array of complex strategic issues in different areas of law where she has demonstrated not just sound legal knowledge but also business savvy and practicality. She has been described as a very dynamic individual who is passionate about her role and rises to the challenge of 'doing more with less'. ‘I have always thought that we are like in-house doctors,’ she says. ‘We try to fix our clients’ problems when they consult with us and try to help them along with an immunity jab for prevention’.
Burat Luengthada led a cross-functional team in the implementation of new FCPA-related procedures, including a new pre-approval online system and process for Thailand and Indochina. He greatly relishes the daily challenges of collaborating with colleagues at a local and global level within the world’s largest pharmaceutical company: ‘There is always something new’. During his time in the role, Luengthada says he has taken steps to streamline processes in the legal department and shift mindsets in the organisation on handling compliance. ‘Burat impresses with his thorough understanding of business complexities in his industry,’ says one private practice lawyer. ‘His ability to maintain a reciprocal and trusting relationship is key to the efficient and true partnering between in-house and outside counsels, to the benefits of both’.
‘I enjoy it most when the company successfully achieves a goal through cross-divisional collaboration,’ Mariko Mimura says. Mimura heads a 27-strong team, including Japan and foreign-qualified lawyers. ‘I changed legal department culture from reactive legal check of transactions to proactive business growth support,’ she adds, on changes she has brought during her time at Novartis. In particularly, she feels she has instigated a move towards more structured and effective risk management. Mimura has also been actively engaged in industry groups outside of the organisation. On positive changes law firms can make, she points to providing more ‘strategic’ and focused, rather than purely legalistic, advice.
‘Very pragmatic and solution-orientated’ Robert Morimoto is ‘fair and courteous to all stakeholders’ and ‘truly invested in developing those around him’. He has held the post of general counsel at GE Japan since January 2014. Previously holding a specialist M&A role for the Group, Morimoto led the sale of GE Money to Standard Chartered in 2011.
‘I have a passion for practising law but at the same time I see myself as an entrepreneur,’ says Rik Muilwijk. ‘Hence, being the general counsel of one of Asia’s most prominent investment firms is really the best of both worlds’. In his role at Navis Capital Partners, Muilwijk aims to combine legal, risk management and strategic advice simultaneously to offer a ‘holistic perspective’. In achieving this, he says, his background in both law and finance has been ‘invaluable’. Specialising in Asia buyouts, Navis manages funds worth $4bn collectively, and has one of the region’s largest private equity teams. Partner and investment committee member Muilwijk designed and implemented legal and compliance functions across all seven offices when he arrived with Navis in 2007. ‘The overriding goal was to ensure that the legal and compliance function could be seamlessly integrated into the firm’s investment processes and add value by managing the business risks,’ he explains, adding: ‘The benefit of building the legal and compliance function from scratch was that I could customize it to the firm’s needs.’ Like many in the industry, he admits the increased regulatory scrutiny has made his job more difficult. ‘This is generally a very good development, at least from my perspective,’ he says, ‘but requires a change in behaviour and conduct of the business people’. When it comes to outside counsel, Muilwijk has a firm preference for the ‘devil’s advocate’ approach. ‘Having the courage to disagree with your client and together create better solutions, to me, is a crucial attribute of a good legal practitioner’.
Tadashi Nagae, who heads an 80-strong team, including 30 lawyers, acted on Dentsu’s acquisition of Aegis Media and measures related to its subsequent integration. During his time in the role, Nagae has taken steps towards what he describes as the ‘globalisation and diversification of the team’.
With more than 55 million customers in Japan, NTT Docomo is one of the world’s largest mobile communications operators and has been influential in pushing forwards technological advancement and standards in the industry. Yutaka Nakamura has headed its international legal function since 1999. During that period the company launched i-mode, the world’s most popular mobile internet platform, and FOMA, the first 3G commercial mobile service, which considerably boosted Docomo’s global brand. An executive committee member, Nakamora takes an active role in strategic decisions-making. He previously served as a senior counsel at leading Japanese manufacturer JFE Steel for 12 years. His extensive experience includes international M&A, IP licensing projects and dispute resolution, as well as domestic experience in telecommunication regulatory matters. A New York State Bar member, he is on the examination committee for a Japanese in-house counsel education program and lectures at Japanese law schools on IP and telecom regulations.
Global integrated healthcare leader Sanofi develops and distributes therapeutic solutions, with seven growth platforms including: diabetes solutions, human vaccines, innovative drugs, consumer healthcare, emerging markets, animal health and its new Genzyme business. Muneki Natani heads all legal and compliance functions.
Hong Kong-listed AIA Group is the world’s largest independent, publicly-listed, pan-Asian life insurance group. It has wholly-owned main operating subsidiaries or branches in 14 markets in Asia Pacific, including China, Korea, Australia, Macau, Malaysia and Brunei, and a 26% joint venture shareholding in India. Its comprehensive products and services include retirement planning, life insurance and accident and health insurance for individuals and employee benefits, credit life and pension services to corporate clients. Mitchell New is responsible for the Group’s legal services, corporate governance and company secretarial services and is a director of various companies within the Group. He took up in his role in 2011, at a time when the business was in growth mode. New was previously senior vice-president & chief legal officer for Asia at Manulife Financial, where he was responsible for providing legal services to 10 countries across Asia. During his 14-year career at Manulife Financial, he handled its Asia demutualisation and subsequent listing on Hong Kong’s and the Philippines’ Stock Exchanges. He also headed its Canada legal and compliance functions, and held various senior posts across Asia, overseeing a variety of jurisdictions including Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and key countries across Southeast Asia.
‘Being in investment management, we need to capture investments when markets are positive and navigate the markets when recoveries are slow,’ says Amy Ng on her role at CBRE Global Investors. In her role as Asia Pacific general counsel, Ng provides legal support across the whole region, and has taken an active role in the business’ growth to more than ten funds since she joined the company in 2005. For those who deal with her, Amy particularly excels in managing the regional team and in her dealings with a broad subsection of internal people from different parts of the business. ‘I very much enjoy working with different people from our different countries and with different roles,’ Ng says. Her work on the closing of China Opportunity Fund II was, for some, a particular accolade. She has helped to form new separate accounts with institutional investors in Korea and the Middle East. In 2010 Ng worked on CBRE Global Investors Asia’s merger with ING Real Estate Investment Management Asia, which made the real estate investment manager one of the largest around. In 2008 Ng handled taking over the management of two funds in Japan. ‘The variety of my work is very great,’ she says. ‘It ranges from acquisitions, disposals, re-financing to formation of Cayman funds, formation of a hariah-compliant fund – so things are never dull’. When it comes to dealing with private practice, she has firm views on the level of service which encourages her to work with firms on an ongoing basis. ‘I like to see firms and teams that are focused, client-oriented and able to stand on our side’.
‘Very technically strong and yet very practical’, Pamela Ng has acted on some of the largest IPOs in Asia and the world. In total, Ng, and her award-winning team, have advised on over 50 Asian IPOs, making them M&A leaders regionally. ‘Legal are at the frontend of most complex transactions,’ she explains. ‘We are able to provide lots of innovative ideas’. Ng works with a small senior level legal team, which supports the work of over 300 bankers across Northern Asia. She has also taken an active involvement in industry groups (‘in the in-house market information-sharing is very useful’.). She has also worked on drafting precedent documents to assist Morgan Stanley’s legal and the wider business teams, and it is her ambition to do similar things industry-wide. When it comes to ways outside counsel could improve, she suggests: ‘Sometimes think outside of the box. What I want some of the more quality advisors to say is not just “yes you can do this,” but “actually this solution would be better…”’. Keeping abreast with legal and commercial developments in the market is also key, she adds.
Richard has over 20 years practise as corporate counsel in banking and financial services in Asia. As well as having a strong regulatory knowledge of the region his experience over this period spans a wide range of transactional and banking services acrossa variety of products and sectors.
Melissa Obegi ‘has that rare combination of remarkable intelligence, a steady hand and plenty of charm’. She was previously managing director and regional counsel for Oaktree Capital’s Asia Principal Opportunities group, where she focused on private equity investments across Asia Pacific. Her transactional experience includes a broad range of global emerging markets.
‘Calvin Park is an IT and antitrust lawyer with unrivalled expertise and experience in Korea,’ according to one source. As in-house counsel at mobile phone company Qualcomm Korea, Park has operated at the cutting edge of legal developments in the IT and telecommunications space, and has handled transactions involving Samsung and LG. ‘Intellectual property law and antitrust law are in a period of rapid developments and conversions,’ says Park. ‘It is refreshing to witness and be part of these changes.’ He is currently handling Qualcomm Korea’s high-profile abuse of dominance case before the Supreme Court of Korea, which has been ongoing since 2010. As the company’s first in-house counsel in Korea, Park built all legal operations and has also worked to maintain tight compliance requirements. He has also participated in several conferences and seminars, including 2013’s US-Korea IP Judicial Conference and 2012’s AIPPLI Seoul Congress. Like many, Park cites commercial awareness and client focus as typical areas outside counsel should focus on. ‘It is always better to work with outside counsel who provide solutions rather than restatement of black letter law. In order to provide solutions, the outside counsel needs to understand the client’s business.’
‘Tier one’ and ‘very experienced’, Siok Lan Pek joined £223bn investment company Temasek in 2012. She was previously executive vice president and general counsel at ST Telemedia, where she handled all legal, regulatory and corporate secretarial affairs. With over 25 years’ legal experience, she is highly skilled in complex M&A transactions.
‘Very technically strong and yet very practical,’ Hoon-Leng Phuak leads a small team overseeing UBS’s corporate function across Asia. ‘My role is to be a trusted advisor,’ he says. ‘But with full recognition of the fact that we need to be the ones telling the business to do things in the right way’. During his time in the role Phuak has helped to set up an onshore securities entity in Beijing. In his internal management of the team, he also implemented a range of standard documentation to enable lawyers to concentrate on more complex issues. ‘My main focus was to find out how to make our department more efficient,’ he says.
One of the world’s leading real estate investors, LaSalle manages $50bn assets under management, operating across 16 countries worldwide. Praised for her ‘efficiency’ and management of a regional team, Marnie Prater has been with the company since 2009. She was previously general counsel at Fraser Centerpoint Asset Management and before that Allco Finance Group.
‘Business is conducted in an ever-increasing, fast-paced environment,’ Roland Samosir says. ‘Business leaders need to make decisions swiftly with as much information as possible and I enjoy providing counsel in such situations’. Formerly Asia Pacific general counsel at GE Energy and before that at Alcatel-Lucent, Roland Samsosir has over 20 years’ experience working in-house at major global brands within the region. His key drivers throughout this period have been both assisting in strategic decisions and also improving internal structure within legal departments to support staff and improve its effectiveness. Experienced in emerging markets, he was part of the GE team focused on entry into Myamar. Throughout his career Samosir has also taken an active role in mentoring staff. ‘I believe in developing my team members to their fullest potential,’ he says. Prior to joining Dyson, the Singapore legal team primarily supported operations within Malaysia and Singapore. Under his leadership, it now provides legal support to all of Dyson’s businesses across the Asia Pacific region, including Hong Kong, Japan, China, Singapore and Australia in both legal and compliance. ‘I would like to think that I have grown the Asia Pacific legal department to fully support all Dyson businesses and functions in the region,’ Samosir says. His team has commenced on an information compliance audit across the region, and plans a legal audit also. When asked what certain law firms could improve upon, he points to obtaining a deeper understanding of clients and ‘providing holistic counsel and solutions’.
Though he acknowledges ‘creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace’ will take time, Peter Siembab feels the cause is ‘trending’. Siembab is an active participant in Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s LGBT Network, whose membership across the region has risen from a handful to more than 400. Among other things, he emphasises the benefits of people having ‘visible allies’ in an organisation. ‘It’s about managing unconscious bias and overcoming perceptions of differences.’ Among other measures, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has begun including points on diversity and inclusion in discussions with law firms they engage. On the challenges of his role as head of legal for Asia Pacific’s investment banking function he highlights the ‘fragmented regulatory regimes’ of its many jurisdictions. ‘We operate across multiple regulatory frameworks, languages, cultures and levels of market development.’ For those who deal with him professionally, this is an area of particular strength for Siembab. ‘Peter stands out in the debt capital markets as a real guardian of standards,’ says one private practice source. As a senior member of the bank’s regional legal team, Siembab has helped develop best practices internally, and has been involved in a number of industry initiatives across the region. ‘I do think we as in-house counsels are important stakeholders in the market,’ he says. ‘Its integrity is dependent on the engagement and confidence of all participants. That’s why it’s so important to work together.’
Aluminum Corporation of China Limited is a multinational aluminium company headquartered in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. It is the world’s second-largest alumina producer and third-largest primary aluminium producer. Yu Quan Shi is a key figure within its legal operation and comes highly recommended.
‘Very well regarded’ managing director and senior counsel Matthew Slater has been Goldman Sachs for eight years, and was formerly at Latham & Watkins and Clifford Chance. He is particularly knowledgeable in Asian M&A markets such as India, with expertise including corporate finance, hedge funds and corporate governance.
‘Extremely good with exceptional depth’, Tim Steinert is currently leading Alibaba’s US IPO, which ‘could be the largest initial stock offering in US history’. Steinert has served as Alibaba Group’s general counsel and corporate secretary for seven years. During that time he has closed over 15 M&A deals, including HiChina’s acquisition and the company’s billion-dollar online payment spin-out, Alipay. Steinert oversees a legal department of over 80 lawyers, split across key specialisms including intellectual property and investment. Before Alibaba, Mr Steinert was a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and also worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Coudert Brothers. He is particularly experienced in cross-border M&A, Hong Kong IPOs and overseas stock offerings of Chinese companies, and is fluent in Mandarin.
Kenji Tagaya has worked at Japan Bank for International Cooperation for four years and was promoted to chief counsel and director of legal affairs in 2013. He previously worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and before that in private practice for Allen & Overy. His experience includes finance within the utilities sector.
Prior to her current role, Lay Sang Tan had a long history in Asia’s telecommunications sector, through roles at France Telecom subsidiary Equant in Singapore, and Nokia Siemens Networks in China. ‘She is accomplished in both common and civil law jurisdictions in Asia’, and particularly experienced in corporate governance, joint ventures and intellectual property.
‘Generally, what is great about in-house work is that it is so much more tangible than private practice work,’ Valerie Tan says. She joined ABN AMRO in 2010 just after the bank had undergone a demerger and merger. ‘The legal team was pulled together post-financial crisis,’ she explains. ‘The initial task was to regroup the legal department, restart relationships with businesses and head office and set up a knowledgebase that had been lost to other institutions’. The fact that she was able to achieve all of this whilst maintaining and growing the team, Tan counts as a major achievement of her in-house career to date. Her small, senior-level team covers private banking, clearing bank, commercial banking and investment banking. On challenges, she says ‘the answer du jour is the flood of regulations’. She also feels aware of the constant need to keep legal relevant within the fast-moving environment of investment banking. ‘To be clear though, none of these challenges have made the work not fun or not possible’.
San Miguel Brewery (SMB)’s first legal head following SMC’s restructure, Rosabel Teston-Balan sees herself as carrying out a dual role. ‘As general counsel of an operating business unit, I take pride that I am now a business manager who happens to be a lawyer’. Building a legal team somewhere where there had not been one for 20 years, meant among other things, she had to show the business they needed one. ‘I had to prove our worth and value-added to the business. We had to demonstrate that we could provide both legal and business savvy advice, that we are not business “blockers” but business “partners”. I would like to believe that I have succeeded in doing that’. During her time in the position Teston-Balan has made significant efforts to heighten efficiency and decrease cost in the legal team. These have included focusing on core expertise and outsourcing others, developing in-house IP capabilities and template documents, and making use of IT resources. She also set up a compliance management system and implemented an award-winning initiative to raise corporate governance awareness in the company. She has focused on training lawyers and improving communication between legal and the rest of the business. As a culmination of these measures, Teston-Balan believes she has ‘transformed the legal department from one-stop-shop law firm to business partners and counsellors’. Manufacturer and distributor of San Miguel beer products, SMB is SMC’s biggest core business, with two publicly listed companies in Hong Kong and Indonesia and breweries and bottling plants across the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. It also exports beer products to North America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Teston-Balan has had a long career at SMC, with past positions including corporate and regionalisation head, where she led a specialist M&A team. Her major transactional highlights have included the acquisitions and subsequent divestments of National Foods Company and Berri in Australia, Thai Amarit Brewery’s 2003 acquisition, Purefoods Corporation’s acquisition and 2009’s initial public offering of SMB itself.
Leading global pharmaceutical Bayer specialises across healthcare, agriculture and high-tech polymer materials. With over 15 years’ private practice and in-house experience combined, Lam Vu Thao heads the Vietnam business’s legal and compliance functions. Since he has been in the role, Thao has made a concerted effort to encourage ‘business partnering’ in the legal team. ‘Essentially, I have asked people in my department to talk more with business,’ he explains. ‘Good communication can solve many issues’. Thao previously spent over six years as Intel’s Vietnamese counsel, where he was involved in strategic decision-making, driving legal compliance forwards and supporting a variety of regional projects.
‘I believe I face the same challenge that every general counsel is facing today,’ says Lai Minh Thuy, Citigroup’s Vietnam legal counsel. ‘We are responsible for advising our business partners to do the right thing in a rapidly evolving regulatory framework’. During her ten years at Citibank’s now multi-award-winning Vietnam business, Lai Minh Thuy has built up the country’s entire legal and compliance function. ‘Citibank Vietnam was a very small franchise when I joined,’ she says. ‘Over the years we built, launched and grew many business lines, products and services in Vietnam, and have become market leaders on various fronts’. Vietnam is the first country in Citi to successfully launch consumer banking on an existing corporate banking platform. Lai Minh Thuy works closely with the business on strategy planning, product development and transactions. In managing the legal team, she has helped every team member to develop their own specific business area to focus on. ‘I give them the necessary independence to do their work with my little supervision, while appreciating team spirit and information and experience sharing’. Lai Minh Thuy is chairwoman of the legal/compliance sub-committee of the Bank Working Group. An association of all Vietnam’s foreign banks, the group is in dialogue with the State Bank of Vietnam on industry-wide issues and regulatory developments. ‘This role allows me to understand the regulator’s direction,’ she says.‘It also gives me the opportunity to contribute best practice and international experience to my company, with the aim of a stronger banking industry’.
Osamu Toriumi has been at Mitsui & Co for over 30 years, and has spent time working in its New York and London offices. During this period, he has expanded the legal department considerably, with a strong focus on diversity. Currently leading more than 160 legal staff, he has worked to expand the role of Mitsui & Co’s legal function to take a more active role in areas such as crisis management and government relations. Structuring the team along geographical remits of responsibility, he has also introduced pockets of specialism into the team, focusing on ‘common global themes’ such as agriculture and medical healthcare. Managing the team, Toriumi says, is an aspect of work which he gains particular satisfaction from. When choosing external counsel he always focuses on individual lawyers rather than firms, but says: ‘I need firms to help me by providing candid and accurate information about their expertise’.
‘A great lawyer’, ‘highly energetic’ and ‘results-oriented’, John Paul Huntington Vigman has 13 years’ in-house experience across Holland, Germany and Japan. He is particularly skilled in major project financings across energy, infrastructure and hospitality, following private practice experience at Shearman & Sterling LLP and King & Spalding LLP, and in-house roles such as Renaissance Hotels International. As Japan general counsel, for global water and waste water manager Veolia, he is responsible for all entities in Japan, and for Japanese clients across Asia.
René von Samson-Himmelstjerna is general counsel for German automotive company Daimler’s China business. Established in January 2001 and headquartered in Beijing, Daimler Greater China handles operations of Mercedes-Benz vehicles across mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Production in the Chinese market began for Daimler’s first electric car, which it jointly developed with BYD, in 2014. In the same year, the business was also subject to accusations of monopolistic behaviour by Chinese regulatory authorities, as part of a general trend placing foreign businesses under increased pressure in the jurisdiction.
Richard Walker has been with consumer goods multinational Reckitt Benckiser for nine years, focusing on a number of regions, including Europe and Latin America. In his second general counsel role with the business, he is responsible for all legal support across Asia Pacific. Walker is on the board of directors for the Association for Corporate Counsel’s Singapore chapter. The chapter focuses on competition law, data protection and compliance, providing education programmes and networks to connect members and help Singapore lawyers collaborate.
‘Incredibly hands on, very good at managing external resources,’ Scott Weenink has vast experience in the telecommunications sector, spanning Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Mobile communications investment company Ooredoo has numerous holdings across Asia, including Starhub, Asia Mobile and Wi-tribe. Ooredoo Myanmar launched in 2014, and Weenink led the process of obtaining one of the two licenses for its operations in the jurisdiction. Weenink helped establish Ooredoo’s Singapore office in 2009, when the company purchased a controlling stake in Indosat, a takeover he himself led. Since then Ooredoo’s Singapore team has grown to 13 people, and covers operations across Asia, with Weenink managing all legal, regulatory, HR and administrative functions. Originating from New Zealand, Weenink began his career at leading national firm Bell Gully, before completing a masters at Oxford University and spending five years as an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright. During his first in-house role at Telecom New Zealand, Weenink handled the high-profile sale of Yellow Pages NZ to a private equity consortium in 2007. ‘We managed to secure an extraordinarily high price on a very complex and difficult transaction,’ he says. When it comes to working with outside counsel, Weenink looks for lawyers who are focused on identifying business solutions alongside the risks.
Frances Wong leads a large, highly skilled team and is actively involved in industry groups. Wong most enjoys working closely with her legal team and the business on resolving transactional issues. Wong feels that outside law firms could at times be ‘more proactive’ and willing to express their own opinion rather than purely describing the law.
Former Ng & Partners partner Hing Yew Woo has 10 years’ experience focusing on maritime businesses within electronic and mechanical instrumentation specialist, The IMC Group. He is currently group general counsel at IMC’s leading Asia-focused industrial solutions provider MC Industrial, which offers services across dry and wet bulk shipping, ship and crew management, offshore and marine engineering, oil & gas assets and and logistics. Headquartered in Singapore, MC has more than 9,000 staff in 15 countries. From 2004 to 2007, Woo was regional counsel at IMC’s ship-owning arm, Aurora Tankers.
‘Honeywell is a unique platform because its businesses encompass several different industries,’ says the company’s ‘diligent, detail-oriented and organised’ China IP head Jerry Xia. ‘I particularly enjoy such cross-industry exposure at one company as well as the vast variety of the technologies and brands and the associated IP issues I deal with’. A highly-regarded specialist, Xia and his team have won awards for their Chinese IP protection program. The team established pioneering IP steering committees to selectively review and make filing decisions to protect “East for East” inventions; in Xia’s words, ‘launching in China at “China speed”’. This came within broader processes which Xia has introduced during his seven-year tenure to help align Honeywell’s Chinese business with its global IP strategies, whilst ensuring compliance with local law. He has built up the country’s IP team from one to seven IP professionals who provide full contentious and non-contentious IP support to around 12,000 employees. On his greatest challenges, Xia points to China’s ever-changing laws and policies and their impact on both IP protection and regulatory compliance for multinational companies operating in the jurisdiction. When asked what law firms could improve upon, Xia points first to ‘cost-effectiveness’ and secondly to client focus: ‘Outside counsel need to learn more about their clients’ businesses and overall legal strategies rather than simply focusing on the specific legal matters brought to them’. A former Baker & McKenzie lawyer, Xia has also provided specialist IP support at Datang Mobile, China.
Ya Fang Xia established the seven-strong Asia Pacific legal department at French multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, whose portfolio includes Louis Vuitton, Veuve Clicquot and Fendi. ‘She demonstrates sound judgment and decisiveness in her work, as well as pragmatism,’ says one private practice source. Her greatest achievement, she says, has been gaining trust from the business.
A recognised insurance expert, Chongmiao Xu has co-authored several texts focusing on legal developments in the industry. China Life Insurance Company’s legal department grew significantly following the company’s 2003 New York and Hong Kong listing and Xu now manages over 20 lawyers directly. His recent work highlights include establishing Chinalife’s joint venture with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia: CMG Life Insurance Company. When it comes to outside counsel, Xu feels points to ‘in-depth understanding of customer needs’ as a key area of improvement.
‘In the past 10 years, I participated in almost all the major outbound petroleum M&A events that Chinese SOEs initiated, and also witnessed a lot of landmark transactions’. To name a few highlights, CNOOC M&A head Leslie Zhang was part of the core team handling the company’s $15.1bn acquisition of all Nexen Inc’s outstanding common and preferred shares; ‘the biggest transaction any Chinese company has ever completed’. He also led the team which completed a $4bn debt offering by way of the first SEC registration completed by a Chinese SOE. In 2014, Zhang assisted in a major restructuring of CNOOC’s legal department, which involved integrating M&A and corporate commercial operations into one team and delegating certain assignments to CNOOC group subsidiaries’ legal departments. Zhang has also focused on improving not only technical expertise, but also managerial, communication and commercial capabilities. To this end, he introduced ‘evaluation factors’ into the performance reviews, focusing on the latter skills. When asked what he enjoys most about his position, Zhang highlights the part he plays in the business’s growing expansion and his ‘national pride’ in CNOOC’s work.
‘Extremely good with exceptional depth’, Lily Zhang’s biggest challenge, she says, is ‘providing excellent legal support for the rapidly-evolving and growing business’. During her time with Alibaba Cloud she has taken steps to improve communication between the legal and business teams, and with it heighten the legal function’s involvement in decision-making. She sees the development of her 10-strong legal team as one of her major professional achievements to date and says ‘dealing with a group of young, energetic and very talented people’ is one of the high points of her work.
GC Powerlist: Deutschland 2014
GC Powerlist: Deutschland, first published in September 2014.
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