GC Powerlist China and Hong Kong
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For 29 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist 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: China and Hong Kong, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across China and Hong Kong, 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 list. The GC Powerlist: China and Hong Kong features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: China and Hong Kong, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in China, Hong Kong or global), please do get in touch at email@example.com.
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.
GC Powerlist: China and Hong Kong
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Group general counsel
Noble Group, Hong Kong
Vice president and regional general counsel international
Citrix Systems Hong Kong
Future Mobility Corporation, China
Assistant general counsel
Bank of America, Hong Kong
Prudential Corporation Asia, Hong Kong
Head of legal and compliance - Hong Kong branch
Agricultural Bank of China
Senior director, Asia Pacific legal
Viavi Solutions (Greater China)
PwC, Hong Kong
Chief legal officer and company secretary
WH Group (Shuanghui), China
Legal director, head of legal
Wei Hua Chen
China Southern Airlines
Director and associate general counsel, Asia
Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Asia), Hong Kong
Chief legal officer
Melco Crown Entertainment, Hong Kong
Company secretary, general counsel and assistant director
Hang Lung Group, Hong Kong
General counsel and head of risk and compliance
Jardine Lloyd Thompson Asia
Vice president and general counsel
General counsel, Asia Pacific
General manager - legal (operations and growth business)
MTR, Hong Kong
Vice president, legal and general counsel
Walmart eCommerce & Yihaodian, China
Regional general counsel, Asia Pacific
BNP Paribas, Hong Kong
General manager - legal
China Orient Asset Management Co.
Head of legal, Asia
ANZ Bank, Hong Kong
Group general counsel
Shanda Group, China
Head of legal, Asia Pacific (excluding China)
Tesla Motors, Hong Kong
General counsel and legal director
Alternate chief executive officer and general counsel
China CITIC Bank International
Head of legal affairs
Silk Road Fund, China
General counsel and company secretary
COSCO SHIPPING Ports Limited, Hong Kong
Vice president and general counsel
Tencent Holdings, China
Deputy general counsel
Shaanxi Motor Holding Group, China
China CITIC Bank
General manager, general counsel and director - legal
China National Petroleum Corporation
General counsel, Asia Pacific
Hitachi Data Systems, Hong Kong
Chief legal officer
Ping An Insurance, China
China Eastern Air Holding Company
Shanghai General Motors
General manager of legal department
Taikang Life Insurance, China
Head of legal and compliance department
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank
Director of banking legal
Barclays, Hong Kong
General manager - risk management, legal and compliance
China Life Investment
Estee Lauder China
General counsel and general manager of the legal and compliance department
The People's Insurance Company of China Group (PICC)
Assistant general counsel, M&A
Tencent Holdings, China
Vice president and general counsel
BOE Technology Group, China
The Hina Group, China
Head of legal
Standard Chartered Bank (China)
Chief legal officer
Chief human resources officer and general counsel
General counsel, head of legal and compliance
RRJ Capital, Hong Kong
Giordano International, Hong Kong
Deputy general manager - legal affairs
Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels
Legal and European business director
MTR, Hong Kong
General counsel, chief compliance officer and chief operating officer
Oasis Management, Hong Kong
Raymond Min-Yaw Goh
Director, legal and compliance
Anbang International Holdings, Hong Kong
General counsel, head of legal and compliance
Huarong Rongde (Hong Kong) Investment Management
Head of legal
China Construction Bank (CCB) International
Bain Capital Private Equity, Hong Kong
Vice president and general counsel, Asia Pacific
VF Corporation, Hong Kong
General director of legal affairs and secretary of the board
BGI Genomics, China
Vice president and general counsel, Asia Pacific
Danaher Corporation, China
President, executive director and general legal counsel
China Railway Construction Corporation
Area lead counsel, China
Chief legal officer
Henkel Greater China and Korea
Vice president and general counsel
Head group general counsel and company secretary
CK Hutchison Holdings, Hong Kong
Group general counsel and chief administrative officer
CLP, Hong Kong
Alibaba, Hong Kong
Vice president and assistant general counsel
Texas Instruments Incorporated, China
Yu Tat Fung
General manager of the legal department (HK)
Yuexiu Enterprises, Hong Kong
General counsel and vice president
Qihoo 360 Technology, China
Group general counsel
Li & Fung Group, Hong Kong
Maaike van Meer
Chief legal and compliance officer
AXA Hong Kong
Vice president, legal, Greater China
Starwood Hotels and Resorts
General counsel Asia Pacific
Executive vice president, general counsel and compliance officer
China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)
China Power International Development
Vice president and general counsel Asia Pacific
Yong Kai Wong
Managing director, head of legal and compliance
CITIC Capital Holdings, Hong Kong
Deputy general counsel and chief intellectual property counsel – Asia Pacific
Board member, vice president and general counsel
Tiens Group, China
Deputy general manager and general counsel
China National Chartering Co. (Sinochart)
Gu Ya Jing
Head of legal
BNP Paribas (China)
Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC Group)
China National Aviation Holding
China Grand Enterprises
FAW Group, China
Group vice president and general manager - legal affairs center
Dalian Wanda Group, China
Group general counsel and company secretary
Sun Hung Kai Properties
Leslie Zhang Weihua
Vice president and general counsel
United Energy Group, China
Senior vice president, legal and government affairs
Qualcomm Wireless Communication Technologies (China)
Vice president and general counsel - Greater China
Schneider Electric, China
Alex Zhouzhang Chen
Sinopec International Exploration and Production (SIPC), China
Noble Group is one of the largest commodities traders in the world and is a regular member of the Fortune global 500 rankings. With 2015 revenue of $67bn, headquarters in Hong Kong and shares traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange, the company has a reputation that is envied the world over. The past year, however, has seen Noble Group encounter some difficulties in response to falling global commodity prices, especially in coal, which have left the company in a less advantageous financial position than it has been in the past. It is at these times that an excellent legal team can make all the difference, as debt refinancing and other cost saving measures become more important. Fortunately, Noble can count on the services of Jeffrey Alam, a highly regarded and experienced group general counsel, to assist them in these initiatives. Qualified in both England and Hong Kong, Alam was originally educated at Manchester University before beginning his legal career in earnest. He has held a notable position as executive director in the law division of Morgan Stanley and, prior to working at Noble Group, he was also general counsel of AIG’s Asia Investment business unit. This wealth of professional experience allows Alam to effectively monitor and engage with the risks that affect Noble’s myriad operations.
With a ‘long and stable’ career that has seen her operate at the highest levels of both private practice and in-house advice, Angie Au-Yong is able to draw from the very well-rounded skillset that typically characterises those who have straddled both sides of the legal world. Au-Yong believes this has contributed to her success as in-house counsel in Hong Kong. She says that an extensive private practice career builds technical and analytical legal knowledge in a way that purely in-house work cannot, and conversely that in-house work improves business acumen and cooperative interpersonal skills as private practice is less able to. By all accounts, Au-Yong has been able to blend the two effortlessly and her tenure at Citrix, where she is now vice president and regional general counsel international, has been one of huge success for both her and the company. In 2004, Au-Yong was tasked with setting the Citrix legal department in Hong Kong. Since that time her role and the team have grown significantly. Au-Yong is now in charge of the group’s global legal function (excluding the Americas) and oversees a team of 15 lawyers across a 33 jurisdictions, providing both challenges and the ‘excitement’ that she feels when dealing with the ‘rich and diverse cultures’ across her work remit. When building her team, Au-Yong looked to reflect the company’s transnational scope in her team selection: ‘diversity was a huge priority that was really embraced’, she explains, ‘and we now have 12 nationalities and a balance of genders in the team’, which has had a huge positive impact on the team’s ‘range of perspectives’ on how to deal with challenges. Au-Yong’s versatility and depth of experience has been very useful when navigating the challenges faced by the business during her tenure, including the company’s expansion into adjacent markets, new geographies, re-deploying resources and changing into new operation models. Au-Yong is also heavily involved in the company’s transition to cloud-based operations, a complex task that has meant coordination across the business functions. Au-Yong is grateful for her time as an in-house counsel, which has provided ‘a more enriching experience’ than would have been the case had she stayed solely in private practice.
After eight successful years in legal leadership positions at Lenovo, a Fortune 500 technology leader, Matt Barter was appointed as the first general counsel for Future Mobility Corporation (FMC) in 2016. The start-up company operates in five global locations and is rapidly pioneering the latest technological advancements in the automotive sector, with a particular focus on developing electric vehicles and autonomous driving technologies. In addition to advising FMC’s leadership and operational teams regarding all aspects of its business, in his new role, Barter is establishing the company’s legal function by putting in place essential processes and focusing on strategic priorities. Essential to this process are tasks such as managing the regulatory landscape and building a robust intellectual property portfolio as engineers develop products. Barter gained industry recognition during his time as associate general counsel at Lenovo through his leadership of the multinational’s legal function in EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America. He was responsible for strategic M&A deals, significant litigation and regulatory matters, and advising on key commercial relationships with Google, Intel and Microsoft. Barter was also part of the executive team leading Lenovo’s entry into smartphones in emerging markets, launching in 12 countries over 12 months and achieving targeted one million device sales. For this project, Barter’s lean in-house team became heavily involved in risk assessments, regulatory matters, intellectual property and gaining local legal knowledge of markets. Barter believes the key to success as an in-house lawyer includes: enabling business; being proactive; building strong client relationships; and forever keeping your composure. Before moving in-house Barter worked at law firms Jones Day and Howrey. He obtained his LLB from Trinity College, Dublin and LLM with distinction from Georgetown University.
After spending time as an associate at London-based Watson, Farley & Williams, Fiona Callanan-Thorsby took the opportunity to move to Hong Kong as an associate with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 2007. She has been based in Asia Pacific ever since, though from 2009-2014 she moved to Singapore where she held in-house roles with CSR and then Barclays. Both of these roles were notable, the former for the fact that it was a more business-focused consultancy role, and the latter because in the four years she spent at Barclays she was able to hone her skills as a litigation specialist in cross-border disputes throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This expertise allowed her to move into her current role as assistant general counsel and head of litigation for Asia Pacific at Bank of America, a position she has held since 2014. Based in Hong Kong, Callanan-Thorsby has overall responsibility for litigation matters and other disputes throughout Asia, also being the final point of contact for regulatory enquiries. While the Asian arm of Bank of America has not been as active in terms of their disputes as the American arm, which has had a particularly busy period of litigation over the past year, given the size and complexity of the region this translates to a very high workload for Callanan-Thorsby to deal with. Given this, it is even more exceptional that she engages in a large amount of extra-curricular activity both in and outside of work. She is head of Bank of America’s disability advocacy network, and she also engages in a high volume of charity work, raising money and awareness in the process.
Alice Chan’s career is notable for encompassing three branches of legal work: private practice, academia and in-house. Chan enjoyed a successful private practice career culminating in a corporate partner role at Clifford Chance, having worked in their Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok offices. In 2002 she decided to take up a position as a professor of law with Hong Kong University after she started a family, and two years later she was recruited to be the general counsel of Pacific Century Premium Developments, a Hong Kong listed company under businessman Richard Li. Chan’s expertise and experience then led to her being appointed as the Asia general counsel of Prudential in February 2009. In her eight years with Prudential, a multinational insurance company, Chan’s work has involved executing highly complex cross-border deals, including the acquisitions of Thanachart Life in Thailand and UOB Life in Singapore, along with setting up internal policies and procedures and providing staff training aimed at properly managing legal risk across 14 jurisdictions in Asia. An expert in dealing with regulatory bodies, Chan advises it is important to ensure that ‘messages to different regulators are consistent, as they do communicate with each other’. She has also successfully grown the legal team since her appointment, expanding it to around six lawyers at the regional level now and around 70 across the local business units. In order to ensure that legal support is provided whenever needed, Chan has streamlined communication procedures within the business: ‘Each regional office department and local business unit has a designated lawyer in the regional team as their contact person… we require our lawyers to be quite versatile as we have limited in-house resources and do not have a rigid division of work by geography or practice area’. Chan believes that to be a successful in-house lawyer, one should bear in mind that ‘trust and respect are earned, and do not come with the job title’, an important fact given that this means that the business will approach the legal team early which will pay dividends in the better management of legal risks. ‘It is important to establish this kind of working relationship with the business people in order for the legal function to be effective’, Chan explains, ‘for the sake of the company and our lawyers. If legal is involved very late in the process there will not be enough time to do a proper review and negotiation of the contract and, where relevant, the deal structure’.
A financial legal specialist, Derek Chan completed his education at the University of Hong Kong, where he received LLB, PCLL and LLM qualifications. His career since has been extensive and contains a number of highlights at large financial institutions. After being head of legal for Wing Lung Bank, Chan moved into a senior role with banking giant Standard Chartered, before then being made deputy head of legal and compliance at Dah Sing Bank. In October 2013, Chan then moved on to his current role, as head of legal and compliance for the Hong Kong branch of Agricultural Bank of China, rated by Forbes in 2015 as the third most powerful company in the world. In over three years, Chan has made his mark at what has been a period of growth for the company. Among other initiatives, the bank’s shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange jumped after news of the creation of a new wholly-owned subsidiary dealing with debt-for-equity-swaps.
A highly experienced legal professional with particular skill in negotiation, risk avoidance and management, Regina Chan has been with her current employer, tech and communications company Viavi Solutions (formerly JDSU), for almost a decade. Chan was appointed senior legal director after ‘facilitating… expanding and growing [the] business in [the] Asia Pacific region, achieving and exceeding [the] company’s goal of revenue share’ Chan was then promoted to senior director and legal lead of Viavi following the spin-off of its communications and commercial optical product division and subsequent restructuring. In this spin-off and restructuring process, Chan was ‘responsible for transactional matters in Asia incorporating new entities and effecting business transfers including employees and assets in an unusually tight timeframe’. She is the founding member of the company’s Asia Council, which aims at ‘promoting branding and incorporating strong Asia cultural awareness into execution and achievement of company strategy’. During her career path, Chan points to managing the challenges from workers, an often undesirable by-product of divestiture of plants and businesses for successfully completing any company restructuring, as evidence of her crisis management abilities. As well as being regional legal lead for the company, she has also had a major impact on the overall company’s operations. Chan says: ‘I pioneered the global compliance program for channel partner selection processes in view of the increased awareness on anti-corruption practices including setting up the channel partner due diligence programs in 2008. Most importantly, I also rolled out in-class training to employees in different countries to raise awareness of the regulatory requirements’. Chan believes that, for all regional in-house counsel, ‘it is important to know and understand the business direction of the company, to be sure that resources are aligned to support the growth of the company’ in the most appropriate manner. She also emphasises that ‘it is always good to be engaged earlier on in the cycle rather than later’.
With over 25 years of experience in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong in national, Asia-wide and global in-house roles, Sharyn Ch’ang has enjoyed a diverse legal career spanning the IT, education, information management and professional services industries. Ch’ang has been at PwC for over 10 years, and currently serves as both global counsel - innovation and technology, and as the sole PwC counsel in Asia in a global role. She leads global and multi-territory initiatives, involving innovation and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, internet of things and blockchain, which will disrupt and transform traditional professional services provided by the “big four” professional services firms. In a previous role as PwC’s global brand counsel, Ch’ang established a New York based legal team whose remit was to protect and globally license PwC’s most valuable intellectual property, a $17bn portfolio of PwC brand assets, helping the firm to grow into the world’s strongest business-to-business brand. Aligned with the global brand team, Ch’ang and her team introduced new policies, governance and guidance to ensure proper control over the use and licensing of PwC’s powerful brand. ‘Optimising brand use and maintaining good governance, while minimising legal and brand dilution risk issues across the PwC global network of over 157 countries, is essential to protect and continue to grow the value of the PwC brand’ says Ch’ang. Together with her legal responsibilities, Ch’ang finds time to support external initiatives that she is passionate about. She has been a director of the Hong Kong Corporate Counsel Association for four years, and as part of PwC’s corporate social responsibility initiatives has mentored not-for-profit charities, assisting them with business sustainability, transparency and communications strategies. Ch’ang has also held Australian government and non-executive director roles – external appointments which have enriched her professional executive experience.
A giant meat processing company with impressive credentials including being the largest pork producer in the world, Shanghui, also known as WH Group and Shineway in English speaking countries, is one of the most important companies in Hong Kong and China. Ho Chau took over Shuanghui’s chief legal officer role in February 2014 and is a highly regarded individual in the region who possesses over two decades of experience in the legal field. Chau took over at a particularly active time for the business in terms of its M&A and transactional profile. The year before he assumed the top legal position, the company had announced a landmark deal to purchase US-based Smithfield Foods in a $4.7bn deal that represents the largest Chinese acquisition of a US company to date. The deal received a large amount of media attention in the US, making it especially important for the company and its legal advisers to show cultural sensitivities with the counterparty. There was also a high degree of scrutiny from US regulators before the deal was approved. As well as his legal responsibilities, Chau is tasked with company secretarial work at Shuanghui and sits on the company’s leadership committee, providing him with significant input to the company’s strategic direction.
Internet company 58.com runs one of the largest online marketplaces in China, serving local merchants and consumers across the country. Yi Chen, legal director and head of the legal department since 2011, has been a driving force in the company during a period when it has rapidly grown and now has over 10,000 employees. To support this growth and avoid unnecessary legal risks, Chen created the company’s intellectual property rights system, trademark system and patent portfolio. In addition, she has formed a 15-strong legal team that combines the skillset of industry leading law firms and internet companies. Among Chen’s other achievements at 58.com is successfully completing the company’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange and Second Public Offering within a 12 month period. Furthermore she has played an integral role in 58.com’s investment activities over the past five years including the acquisition of anjuke.com and chinahr.com, the strategic investment into ganji.com and raising $736m in investment from Tencent. Prominent in the Chinese in-house legal community, Chen has recently spoken at legal affairs conferences and in 2010 co-authored “Network Infringement and News Infringement”.
China Southern Airlines, the largest airline in China, maintains over 500 aircraft and had revenue of over $16bn in 2015, making it one of the major global players in the airline industry. General counsel Wei Hua Chen is a corporate aviation law specialist who has a phenomenal body of experience drawn from a career in the industry that stretches back to 1988. Wei holds an executive MBA, highlighting the extent to which he looks to synergise legal expertise with business and strategic affairs. Since assuming the general counsel role in 2004, Wei has been at the helm of the legal department during an important period for the company, taking over at the height of the Chinese “economic miracle” that allowed a large expansion to their air operations. As befits his credentials and vast experience, Wei occupies an important position in the upper echelons of the business, having a key role in terms of business organisation and regulatory compliance.
Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) is a major global institutional investor, with the Asia Pacific region receiving around $14bn of their investments to date. Jaimie Cheung, in her role as director and associate general counsel for Asia, heads up a compact but highly skilled team in OTPP’s Hong Kong office. Cheung believes that the region is an ‘environment of ever increasing regulatory and public scrutiny’, which requires her team to ‘act as a gatekeeper to protect against legal, reputational and other risks’. Balancing this ‘against our job in assisting the business in achieving great investment returns’, she says, can lead to ‘having to navigate complex situations’ at times. Cheung has been with the business since it first opened its Hong Kong office, which was the first time the company had an overseas legal team. It also was the first time an entity of the company had been regulated by a financial authority, which meant that Cheung had a significant role to play in the fledgling office’s compliance procedures. ‘I implemented fully tailored guidelines and processes such as training, manuals and a non-disclosure agreement programme’, she explains, ‘and many of these processes have proved to be useful precedents for when we converted our London branch into a subsidiary’. Cheung is keen to maintain an ‘agile and user friendly’ approach within the legal team, in order to ‘deal with the competition for deals’ in the most effective manner possible. In addition, she makes every effort possible to ensure ‘that our internal clients can rely on us for support and problem solving’, to give the legal team the largest possible positive impact.
Stephanie Cheung has been described by one source as an ‘astonishing attorney [who] plays a vital role’ in the management of her business. After qualifying in 1986, Cheung worked for a number of private practice firms before becoming general counsel at her current employer, Melco Crown Entertainment, in 2006. Progressing to the role of vice president and chief legal officer for the leisure and entertainment company in 2008, sources praise Cheung’s abilities as ‘an excellent communicator with vast experience in dealing with a large range of stakeholders’. Cheung has played a significant role in many of the company’s complex operations, and notably recently closed a particularly large refinancing deal. An existing $1.4bn loan for their Macau Studio City project had to be renegotiated in reaction to changing local market conditions; the move was met positively with a large jump in the company’s stock market value. This is just one example of Cheung’s ability to swiftly negotiate large and complex matters having a positive effect on the overall fortunes of the business, and highlights why she is a truly exceptional in-house legal counsel. Indeed, the risk, compliance and due diligence groundwork for the company’s landmark purchase of a 60% share of the joint venture for the Studio City project was extensive given the complexity of the deal. Cheung explains that ‘[the] gaming industry is highly regulated and getting more so’, and she provides strategic advice for dealing with this. ‘Delivering intelligent legal advice to the company in order to navigate regulatory requirements, while meeting business and operational objectives for growth and development is paramount’.
Bella Peck Lim Chhoa has spent five years as assistant director – corporate affairs, general counsel and company secretary at Hong Kong-based property company Hang Lung. In this role she has successfully combined technical legal knowledge and superb business acumen. Aside from legal matters, Chhoa is involved in company secretarial work, training and is even responsible overall for human resources issues. She is a key executive of the company and plays an important role in corporate governance and strategic decision making. Chhoa’s tenure with Hang Lung has seen the company grow exponentially, with workforce numbers more than doubling from 2,000 to almost 5000. To deal with this huge influx of new talent Chhoa devised and implemented improvements to Hang Lung’s management trainee program, a major boon to their onboarding process. A mark of her commitment to improvement of the legal profession as a whole and the esteem she is held in, Chhoa is active on the conference circuit and can often be found speaking on matters ranging from legal business to training and human resources processes. She held a variety of in-house roles prior to joining Hang Lung, including at fashion manufacturer Esprit Holdings, and holds both a law degree and an MBA.
After seven years in private practice with Gouldens Solicitors (now known as Jones Day), during which time he established their representative office in Hong Kong, Jonathan Collins moved in-house to Jardine Fleming, an Asian regional investment banking operation jointly owned by Flemings and the Jardine Matheson Group. Jardine Fleming was taken over by JP Morgan Chase in 2000, with Collins staying in his role until 2001 when he got his ‘big break’ by securing the head of group legal role for the overall Jardine Matheson Group. Collins believes that his ‘drive and execution… along with being very business-like and business minded’ led to the considerable achievement of being made head of legal for one of Hong Kong’s largest blue chip conglomerates at the age of 34. Once at Jardine Matheson Group, Collins explains that he made significant improvements to their internal legal function: ‘When I started at Jardines, [the function] was very old-fashioned and very reactive rather than being a proactive and relevant legal partner in a dynamic and multi-faceted business environment’. After the completion of a series of major divestments within the Jardine Matheson Group, Collins desired a new challenge and was invited by senior management to take on a purely business role as managing director of engineering company Jardine Schindler’s regional operations. His time in this role is a perfect illustration of Collins’ desire to be an excellent businessperson as well as a leading legal professional. Six years later, after driving market leading growth in South East Asia for Jardine Schindler, he moved back to a more broad general counsel position at Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) Asia, a leading insurance and risk solutions company, with additional responsibilities as head of risk and compliance and head of M&A. At JLT Asia, Collins has built a risk and compliance framework from scratch, established systematic processes maintained by dedicated staff and successfully completed seven acquisitions and one divestment in four years. Throughout his career Collins has made efforts to develop team members, encouraging ‘junior staff to move around other businesses entities, creating career development opportunities’. He explains that ‘in America so many GCs end up running businesses’, but that ‘you don’t see that so much in Hong Kong’; the exposure to business roles is something that could help change that.
Unsurprisingly given the country’s massive customer base and rapidly growing economy, fast food giant McDonald’s has built a significant presence in China since opening its first restaurant in 1990. The franchise has expanded in China to the point that it now operates over 2,200 restaurants, in what is the third largest market for McDonald’s after the United States and Japan. Christine Dekker, vice president and general counsel of McDonald’s China, has been with the company since 2008 when she took a role as a senior litigation counsel. After growing within this role for five years, Dekker showed her commercial acumen by taking on a more client-focused role as West Division business counsel for two years. This position, which involved providing legal support to franchisees as and when required, highlighted her adaptability and commitment to developing a versatile skillset. Once again, Dekker looked for a new challenge, and in 2014 made the move to her current role. Based in Shanghai, she has taken over at an interesting time for the McDonald’s China as domestic and international investors have been competing to purchase the company’s local assets in a multi-billion dollar franchising deal. The agreement, announced in January 2017, will see the company franchise out 80% of its directly-operated restaurants in China, as part of a worldwide cost cutting initiative. As the management of McDonald’s looks to reorganise and simplify their international business structure, Dekker’s role as both a legal and business head assumes greater importance.
Educated both in China and the United States, Len Ding has accumulated professional experience from large multinational corporations, including ArcelorMittal, Michelin and Philips, and from international law firm Simmons & Simmons’ Shanghai office. It was while with ArcelorMittal in 2005 that Ding was first given the opportunity to lead a legal department, a milestone that he picks as a particular career highlight and which allowed him to mould a team around his own concept of what a legal department should embody. Since 2014, Ding been general counsel at Kemira, a Finnish chemical company. During a busy time for the company, Ding has ‘set up Kemira legal entities’ in Japan and Thailand, taken part in the restructuring of the existing Indonesian and South Korean entities of the business, and provided advice and guidance during the ‘acquisition of Akzo Nobel’s global Paper & Pulp Chemicals Segment and the post-M&A integration’. Internally, Ding has made notable improvements to contract management throughout the company. An increased monitoring of contracts has meant that ‘the number of legal proceedings has decreased year-by-year dramatically’. Ding emphasises the importance of maintaining a business mind-set when operating as a corporate counsel, stating that ‘knowledge of law is not enough’ and that individuals looking to get ahead in the industry should ‘well understand’ the business in order to provide advice that is ‘compliant, practical and business-oriented’. While the legal team has made a huge contribution to Kemira’s recent successes, Ding believes that businesses in China and Hong Kong could benefit from an increased prominence of the in-house legal role as a whole, and he seeks to ‘further enhance the positive image’ of this in the future.
Reporting in to overall legal director Gill Meller, general manager - legal (operations and growth business) Brian Downie is responsible for MTR’s operations and growth legal department. The company’s legal requirements are split between three sections, with Downie’s operations and growth team taking on the lion’s share of legal work which, at a company as complex as MTR, translates as a diverse workload. Downie explains that his work deals with ‘employment, IP, IT, prosecutions, statutory compliance, property, corporate finance and projects issues’ across the jurisdictions that MTR operates in. His 32-strong team is therefore made up of legal professionals with impressive knowledge bases to draw from, and Downie is no exception. His successful private practice career as a corporate and projects specialist culminated as a partner with Simmons & Simmons before Downie decided to take a position in-house with Leighton Asia, India & Offshore as General Counsel, where he spent two years in a ‘complex business covering 14-15 countries with numerous subsidiary companies’ to oversee. Downie moved from this role to MTR in September 2014, when they had ‘a huge amount of projects and construction work on and, as well as my being a good fit for the company, they realised specialist expertise in this area was required’, with his experience in this area making him an ideal choice. Downie believes that, while the department was ‘extremely well run’ at MTR before he took over the role, his greatest contribution to his team’s work has come in ‘reshaping the department to meet the challenges of a growing and changing business’ and in hiring specialists to deal with the changing workload. Downie is mindful of the fact that the transport sector is ‘almost always political’, and that he has to work very closely with local governments on their projects. This is challenging, he explains, because ‘governments are always looking to do more with less public money’, with the result that each subsequent deal results in the need to improve our offering. Ameliorating this effect requires excellent communicative and consensus-building abilities and Downie believes these are some of the key traits that an in-house counsel should display. Downie explains that ‘relationships are everything, particularly for in-house work. There are multiple stakeholders, both internal and external, who can have diverse perspectives and objectives which must be taken into account. It is critical to have a direct and positive relationship with all stakeholders in order to understand their needs and help them to meet their objectives’.
Huandong Gao is highly experienced at heading legal teams, having first done so over a decade ago at international delivery company DHL. From his first leadership role with DHL, Gao moved through The Home Depot and InterContinental Hotels Group before being hired by his current company Yihaodian, an e-commerce operator previously owned by Wal-Mart. Having been in the role for four years, Gao is now general counsel and vice president and has been heavily involved in the business’ high profile transactions over the past few years. Firstly, in 2015, Walmart succeeded in increasing its majority stake in Yihaodian to 100%, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary. Secondly, in mid-2016, Gao’s expertise helped facilitate the sale of Yihaodian from Walmart to JD.com in return for a 5% stake in JD. This deal, valued at around $1.5bn was one of the most significant in China in the past year, and its complexity and scale meant a great deal of work for Gao and his team. The successful navigation of this issue shows the level at which Gao and his team are able to operate.
Having worked at French multinational bank and financial services company BNP Paribas since 1997, Derek Göbel has learnt first-hand from the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. Indeed Göbel describes it as ‘the perfect fire-drill’ for learning how to deal with crisis. He was the sole lawyer for BNP Paribas in Asia at the time and his ability to handle matters in extremely difficult circumstances was rewarded with a promotion to the position of head of legal and transactions - Asia Pacific. In this role, while based in Hong Kong, he set up the Asian legal and transaction management team. After almost seven years he moved back to Europe as the global head of derivatives - CIB Legal for the company in 2007. His appointment was swiftly followed by the global financial crisis and he had to rely on the crisis management skills he developed a decade earlier. Reflecting on this period Göbel says, ‘as global head of derivatives I was in the eye of the storm and dealing with all of the most senior management at the bank on a daily basis’. In his current role as regional general counsel for Asia Pacific, which he has held since 2011, Göbel has hired litigation and investigation specialists as well as a group of generalist lawyers as a response to what he sees as a significantly increased regulatory environment. ‘We are all having to do a lot more, but with less. This squeeze is the challenge for in-house legal departments and the winners will be the ones that can reduce the reliance on external counsel and then prioritise and deal with the major legal risks internally’, he says. Göbel has also achieved recognition for building an international legal team and seeing it flourish whilst maintaining a strong focus on seeking efficiencies, via employing better technologies and software as well as exploring off-shoring capabilities. ‘These are initiatives that are being looked at closely from a global perspective as it is often the case that Asia is leading on these kinds of projects’, he adds. Before joining BNP Paribas, Göbel was an associate at law firm Ede Charlton (then Andersen Legal) for one year and at Simmons & Simmons before that between 1992 and 1996.
China Orient Asset Management Co. (COAMC) is a state-owned comprehensive financial service group jointly established by the Ministry of Finance and National Council for Social Security Fund, with a registered capital of CNY 55.6bn. As general manager of its legal department since 2010, Wu Guangyao has been involved in the company’s most important projects and deals. One of his highlights at COAMC involved an investment of $1.24bn into China United Property Insurance Co., a deal which saw COAMC become the insurer’s controlling shareholder, with a 51.01% stake acquired in 2012. More recently, in 2015 Guangyao participated in COAMC’s acquisition of a 50% stake in Bank of Dalian worth approximately RMB 18bn. Guangyao’s legal team has earned a series of internal awards and he himself has gained industry recognition in recent years. In 2016 he gave speeches on the topic of non-performing assets to industry peers.
Ben Hamilton joined the Hong Kong offices of Australian bank ANZ as head of legal in May 2012 and has since worked hard at ‘changing cultures and approaches to legal matters’ within the team. His cooperative approach, along with his method of finding ‘common-sense solutions’ in order to reach agreements, has been extremely effective when dealing with regulators. He explains that recent years have ‘been a period of intense change’ due to the regulatory environment in the region, the effects of which have made up a large part of the legal team’s work and caused the overall business to reposition their regional strategy. Hamilton has put significant effort into establishing relationships and ‘building networks around the region’ providing an important local knowledge base to feed back in to the regional management committee, of which Hamilton is a member. In addition, his role includes overseeing legal matters across 15 countries and liaising with the CEOs of each of the relevant entities. The countries he looks after contain a ‘disparate spread of cultures, laws and economic development’, requiring a tailored approach that highlights the level of versatility that is required from Hamilton and his team. In terms of how to approach issues in these often very different jurisdictions, Hamilton relies on his instinct and excellent business acumen, explaining that ’while some jurisdictions, like Hong Kong, are black and white, others have less well established frameworks’ to work within. His advice to aspiring general counsel is as follows: ‘Challenge, and don’t be afraid to challenge. Don’t follow the crowd and always try to look at the big picture, particularly as a transactional lawyer. Don’t just think about booking revenue on that one deal, but consider things in totality; legal, credit and reputational risk of that particular industry, it’s supply chain, how your shareholders and regulators may view it, now and in the future, and how this may affect your business going forward.’ Hamilton moved in-house in 2006 following a successful career in private practice with CMS in London and King & Wood Mallesons in Australia and Hong Kong. His first in-house role was at Deutsche Bank where he served as part of the global markets department’s legal team.
Li Han’s extensive private practice career gave her excellent legal expertise and provided her with the tools to become a financial services legal specialist. While working with Davis Polk & Wardwell and Sullivan & Cromwell in Hong Kong and New York respectively, Han undertook work with some of the most important investment banks in these two major financial centres. She advised on capital markets transactions, high yield bond offerings, equity and credit derivatives and various complex M&A transactions, making her an ideal candidate for an in-house role at Shanda Group in 2011. As the privately-held investment company’s group general counsel, Han covers a broad remit; along with legal work, she also undertakes compliance, corporate records and risk management duties. She is therefore a key member of the strategic element of the company’s management, and provides the benefit of her legal insight early on in projects to mitigate risk. In recognition of her considerable M&A expertise, Han is also involved in negotiating with target companies for Shanda’s active portfolio, which includes real estate, public and private securities, technology and healthcare. Given the company’s operations and the expanding regulatory environment it operates in, Han has made great efforts to ensure that the company’s compliance capabilities are of excellent quality, having originally set this team up when she began her role in 2011.
In a number of ways, Denise Ho’s background made her an ideal candidate to set up the legal function for Tesla’s operations in Hong Kong. Firstly, although she always coveted a legal career, she actually qualified as chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in Berlin and her native Vancouver. This, she says, was a ‘great formative experience’ for her later in-house career, especially when it is often assumed by businesspeople that their legal staff may not share their gift for numbers; ‘the joke is’, she relates, ‘that lawyers can’t count’. Secondly, she is proficient in both English and Cantonese, which made her an ideal go between for the Hong Kong office and Tesla’s headquarters in the United States. Finally, while practicing with Shearman & Sterling, Ho amassed a wealth of experience in M&A transactions, a purposely-chosen speciality as this would have the most relevance to a later career as an in-house counsel. Tesla, a pioneer of electric car technology, recognised all of these stellar attributes and more – trusting her abilities would allow her to succeed in setting up the company’s Hong Kong legal team. This required Ho to go ‘from being specialised in M&A to being a generalist in-house lawyer’. Tesla’s foresight in appointing Ho has paid dividends as her tenure has seen its Hong Kong operation expand from being seen as ‘an electric car company to a tech company that happens to make electric cars’. Ho works very closely with local regulators and this takes up a large proportion of her workload, simply because many Tesla products are so cutting-edge that they do not have precedents and are ‘always outpacing regulation’. This means creative solutions must be found by Ho, who is always keen to be a ‘business enabler’ to empower the management to realise their ambitions. Ho believes this to be the key task of in-house counsel, who should be ‘open minded about taking risks’ so that they can give useful advice rather than being a team that ‘just say no’.
Ashley Howlett’s career in private practice saw him live and work in Auckland, London, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing and ascend to the very top of the profession as a partner at Jones Day. His time with the firm contained a number of impressive highlights, including establishing Jones Day’s office in Beijing in the early 2000s. Always looking for a challenge, Howlett made the move in-house in July 2015, a re-orientation that would require him to master a significantly different area of legal work combined with a business management role. As a mark of the respect for his achievements in private practice throughout Asia, Howlett was offered the director of legal role with Gammon Construction, one of the most prestigious construction companies in Hong Kong, and is the first general counsel the company has ever had. Howlett has had a major effect on how the legal team operates in his time at Gammon. First on his agenda was ‘rationalising the internal processes’ of the department based on his experiences of organising a legal team. He has also ensured that he and his team are approachable, believing that ‘excellent interpersonal skills’ along with the ability to be ‘diplomatic, pragmatic and patient’ with business colleagues marks out the best in-house counsel. Operating in the construction sector, Gammon’s work is more subject to external political and social forces than many other businesses, and Howlett undertakes a significant amount of lobbying work as a member of various chambers of commerce and other industry groups. On top of this, he also oversees the company secretarial and insurance functions within Gammon and is part of their ‘top management’ team that provides input to the strategic direction of the company. Comparing his time in-house with that spent in private practice, Howlett comments that there are ‘vast differences being involved in the management of a company that employs around 8,000 people, especially when a lot of the decisions that have to be made are not legal matters’. This has required him to be assertive when putting across his viewpoints, and he advises other in-house legal professionals to ‘speak out and stand up for what you believe to be the best course of action’.
Roy Huang is alternative chief executive officer and general counsel of China CITIC Bank International, the offshore arm of China CITIC Bank. Huang has worked in senior legal and regulatory positions in Hong Kong and the US for more than 30 years and was previously partner-in-charge of legal affairs for Asia Pacific at Andersen Worldwide. He was appointed general counsel of China CITIC Bank International, then known as CITIC Ka Wah Bank, in 2004 and became its alternative chief executive officer in 2009. Huang also serves as the bank’s group head of internal control and as group general counsel at parent-level company CITIC International Financial Holdings.
Established in December 2014, Silk Road Fund is a $40bn state-owned fund that invests under China’s new strategic initiatives, namely the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, often referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative. Cao Hui joined the company in May 2015 to serve as deputy general counsel of the fund. Drawing on her 12 years of experience in private practice, in a short space of time Cao has already earned industry recognition for the support she provides to the activities of Silk Road Fund, which are designed to boost links between China and countries on trade routes from Asia to Europe. As Cao’s role combines compliance, strategy, and transactional work for the Fund, highlights of her time include concluding Silk Road Fund’s acquisition of a 9.9% stake in the Yamal liquefied natural gas (LNG) project to construct a plant with annual capacity of 16.5 million tons per annum based on the feedstock resources of the South-Tambeyskoye field. Cao also participated in financing the project by securing the Fund’s provision of an additional loan of €730m. In another proposed deal, Cao was involved in an equity investment agreement with global Fortune 500 company China National Chemical Corporation to take a 25% stake in a joint venture for the purpose of making a $7.7bn acquisition of Italian tire maker Pirelli. In dealing with the international scope of her role, Cao has gained further recognition for her ability in handling legal and business risks across the Belt and Road Initiatives where there are diverse cultural differences. Prior to her current role, Cao gained private practice experience in New York and Beijing at international law firms including Coudert Brothers, Schulte Roth & Zabel, O’Melveny & Meyers and Steptoe & Johnson.
A subsidiary of the COSCO Group, COSCO SHIPPING Ports is principally engaged in the businesses of managing and operating container terminals and related services. Michelle Hung has held the position of general counsel and company secretary for COSCO SHIPPING Ports since 1996 and 2001, respectively. One of her biggest career highlights was playing an important role in the listing of the company’s controlling shareholder in 2005 by ‘acting as a bridge between China COSCO Holdings Company Limited (renamed as COSCO SHIPPING Holdings Co., Ltd.) and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’. As a result of the process, it issued 2,244,000,000 new shares and raised net proceeds of around HK$8.3bn. Another of Hung’s highlights was her establishment of the legal department of the company from scratch. Since then, various compliance practices and procedures have been developed and revised in accordance with the continual dynamic changes in the regulatory regime. Now with a team of nine colleagues, the department is responsible for handling the legal matters relating to corporate development, financing arrangements, business operations, corporate governance and compliance obligations. Some of Hung’s personal achievements in support of the development of COSCO SHIPPING Ports include the acquisition of concession rights to develop and operate piers at the Piraeus Port in Greece, the sale of a 21.8% equity interest in China International Marine Containers and the acquisition of a significant stake in Sigma Enterprises. The last of these achievements was particularly notable as it increased the company’s shareholding in Yantian International Container Terminal, one of the largest by annual throughput and the first world class natural deep-water port in the People’s Republic of China. In taking an active role in every major transaction throughout the implementation process from initiation to completion, Hung says ‘the ultimate objective is to maintain a systematic structure which effectively achieves corporate objectives in adherence to the directives of the board of directors, whilst addressing the needs and interests of all stakeholders in a balanced and transparent manner’. Hung also advises both the managing directors and the board of directors, and is a member of the corporate governance and risk management committees. Regarding her public office commitments, she is a fellow member of both The Hong Kong Institute of Directors and The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries, and a member of the Hong Kong Professionals and Senior Executives Association.
Brent Irvin is one of the best-known GCs in China, and is often featured in the industry and commercial press for his interesting and highly successful approach to legal and business roles. Irvin’s role with Tencent was secured on the back of a distinguished career as a private practice lawyer specialising in corporate and M&A work in the technology sector; an ideal preparation for his in-house legal career with a Chinese investment holding company whose subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, internet and mobile phone value-added services and operate online advertising services. Joining Tencent in 2010, Irvin developed the legal team from scratch, into the current three-figure staff count, in order to keep pace with the company’s rapid domestic and international growth. Irvin also explains that he changed the structure of the department, ‘creating a team of “front line” product-support lawyers in addition to specialist teams such as litigation, IP and transactions’, in a move that allowed the team to tackle these various practice areas more effectively. Members of the legal department are grouped into six teams that deal with specific corporate functions or legal areas, such as e-commerce or IP, with the leaders of these teams reporting directly to Irvin. Organising the team this way was a conscious effort to emulate the structure Irvin worked with during his time with Palo Alto-based law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. In order to pre-empt any potential risks before they emerge, Irvin has also created ‘a strong policy team that in addition to legislative analysis or lobbying also does more general policy work relating to the technological, economic and social impact of Tencent products’. In accordance with the company’s ethos, Irvin has fully embraced technology within the legal department, producing knowledge sharing software and tools to maximise the team’s efficiency in response to emerging challenges. His proactivity and innovation in legal matters also carries over to his extra-curricular activities, as he is a regular on the conference circuit speaking on matters ranging from intellectual property to internet regulation.
As the largest land line and third largest mobile telephone operator in the People’s Republic of China, China Telecom is a truly enormous operation. Among other impressive statistics, the organisation boasts 2015 operating revenue of over $47bn and is listed on both the Hong Kong and New York Stock Exchanges, though the Chinese government retains majority ownership. Zhang Jianbin, deputy general counsel and deputy managing director of the corporate strategy department (legal department), has a large number of responsibilities as part of his day-to-day work. As well as providing legal advice, Zhang is also part of the company’s supervisory committee as the employee representative supervisor which adds a HR element to his legal work. With a total workforce of over 300,000 individuals, Zhang’s role in this regard is a complex and significant one, and highlights how he is willing to take on responsibilities beyond his primary remit. In addition to this, Zhang is an economics expert specialising in telecommunications legislation and contributes to the company’s strategy in this capacity. His telecommunications knowledge is bolstered by his spell as Directorate General of Communications at government communications body Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Keen to combine his legal knowhow with business acumen and theoretical knowledge, Zhang has completed an executive MBA degree in addition to his LLM. Zhang’s vast knowledge of telecommunications affairs, combined with his legal education and business ability, make him stand out in the Chinese corporate counsel community.
Shaanxi Motor Holding Group’s core business is heavy vehicle manufacturing, with bus and truck production making up the majority of their output. On the back of its success in this sector, the company now employs around 23,000 individuals and has annual turnover of over $4bn. Shaanxi’s general counsel Hongmei Jiang is an intellectual property (IP) law specialist, a skill that is a particularly useful addition to her repertoire given the range of products produced by the company. Indicative of her established status in IP circles, Hongmei is a vice president of the Shaanxi Intellectual Property Society and a member of Intellectual Property Rights Committee of the Chinese Automobile Industry Association. During the course of her tenure with the company, she has been involved in successfully trademarking a number of Shaanxi’s products, which have since been listed as among the most famous in China. Beyond this, Hongmei has had a role to play in the company’s other business endeavours, including a joint venture that was recently signed with South Korean Ssangyong Motor Co to produce a major manufacturing plant in China.
China CITIC Bank is a full-service commercial bank that offers a broad spectrum of financial services including wealth management, personal banking, wholesale banking as well as global markets and treasury solutions. With aspirations of being “China’s Bank of Choice,” the financial services company chose Wen Jianxiu to head its legal affairs, a choice which has proven highly fruitful. Jianxiu has been responsible for implementing a plethora of innovative and risk-minimising systems at CITIC such as a database which standardises contracts and legal review guidelines. The on-site legal training of branches and other business areas that she implemented has been a particular success and hallmark of her outstanding tenure so far. However, by achieving an almost near perfect win-rate in lawsuits after implementing a company-wide system for the handling of litigation, Jianxiu has gained significant recognition both internally and from the in-house legal community. Her impressive results have led to her speaking at conferences on the wealth management business of banks at the Beijing Arbitration Conference.
A member of China’s “big three” oil and gas producers along with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the largest integrated energy company in China and parent company of PetroChina, the country’s largest oil producer by volume and one of the most profitable companies in Asia. CNPC is major structural component of China’s economy, not least through its employment of almost a million people in the country (around 10 times the headcount of each of the largest multinational oil majors). It takes a formidable strategist to oversee the complexities of such an organisation, and with three decades’ worth of experience in the oil and gas industry, Guo Jinping, general counsel and director of the legal department at CNPC, occupies a position of authority matched by few others in the country. Since joining CNCP he has served, among other things, as the chief economist to the bureau of policy and regulations, the deputy director of development and research, and the general manager of the legal department. He was appointed to the position of director of the legal department in 2005 and was made general counsel in 2007. He is also chairman of the board of supervisors and assistant to the general manager of CNPC.
Owen Jones’ success in the in-house world was built on a solid foundation as a corporate lawyer for Linklaters, Charles Russell and Burges Salmon based in both London and Paris. Deciding to move to an in-house role in 2006, Jones took on a position with Hitachi Data Systems, first in the United Kingdom and by 2008 in Hong Kong. After around three years as part of the Asia Pacific legal team at Hitachi, Jones was made general counsel for the region, a role he has held for five years. Jones cites ‘moving to Asia Pacific and experiencing the way business is done in very different jurisdictions’ as a career highlight, and also speaks fondly of ‘working on some very large, ground-breaking global managed services deals’. Jones is satisfied with the advancements the team has made during his tenure, advising that they ‘now have a team of six extremely strong and capable lawyers covering the Asia Pacific region... and each key sub region (North Asia, South Asia and Australia and New Zealand), which aligns with our business’. This commercial alignment ties in with what Jones believes to be one of the essential attributes of an in-house counsel: ‘I believe that the most important quality in an in-house lawyer is pragmatism. You can be the best academic lawyer on the planet and still fail as a corporate counsel if you fail to take a commercial approach. Clearly, there is a tight rope to be walked and we have fiduciary duties which trump all else, but we must be business-friendly and strive to get deals done’. Jones is also optimistic that a common regulatory approach can be found across Asia Pacific: ‘My hope is that, as we globalise, our laws and regulations will be harmonised to a greater and greater extent’, making cross border business easier for all parties concerned.
Ping An Insurance, a constituent of the Shanghai Stock Exchange 50 list, operates a diversified portfolio of financial services, including banking and insurance. Yao Jun has been chief legal officer of the company since 2003 and assumed responsibility for company secretarial duties in 2008. Yao contributes to the corporate governance of the company as a whole, the high standards of which were recognised with an award from the industry press. Yao also holds directorships at a number of the group’s subsidiaries, including their much vaunted banking operation, highlighting that his expertise is valued across the conglomerate. Ping An Insurance has been involved in some very important and legally complex matters recently, including its decision to open 10,000 medical clinics across mainland China, helping to relieve pressure on the country’s overburdened public health system. Prior to his career at Ping An, Yao provided himself with a very solid academic base on which to build, achieving a master’s degree in civil and commercial law along with a doctorate in legal sociology, which provided him with extensive technical legal knowledge. Yao is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, in conjunction with his company secretarial role at Ping An.
With a fleet size approaching 500 aircrafts, China Eastern Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world, operating extensive services both domestically and internationally. Guo Junxiu, general counsel of China Eastern Air Holding Company, their owner is a highly knowledgeable legal professional who had a distinguished career in academia before moving on to his current path as a corporate counsel. Previously an associate professor and vice president of the law school at Xiamen University, Guo developed an extensive technical legal knowledge that he is able to draw from, having decided to put his theoretical knowhow into practice by joining China Eastern Air Holding Company in 2007. This proved to be an astute career move, and Guo and his team have received numerous plaudits for their achievements since that time. Guo was named one of the top 10 general counsels of state-owned corporations two years running by the industry press. He has not abandoned academic background however, and is a part time professor of law at Xiamen University and part time professor of shipping law at East China University of Political Science and Law. He is active on the conference and speaking circuit, providing the benefit of his immense knowledge and experience in order to further the legal profession as a whole.
John Kajander has held a number of roles atypical for a legal professional. He has previously served as Brigade Chief of Operations in the United States armed forces reserves and undertook a 14 month combat tour where he was responsible for organising around 6,000 troops in often difficult circumstances. This ability to produce excellent work under pressure has come in useful in his time as legal counsel. Kajander’s in-house career has been largely spent at General Motors, where he began as an executive attorney in March 2006. He was appointed regional counsel of their consolidated international operations department and worked as a transactions specialist dealing with cross-border joint ventures and collaborations in a number of jurisdictions including China, Russia, India and the Middle East. His impeccable work during these deals, and his collaboration with senior management in the company saw Kajander handed the role as general counsel at SAIC General Motors, a joint venture between General Motors and SAIC. His role in the company covers everything from routine legal advice to offering strategic business guidance to senior management. He oversees a team of 17 lawyers that deals with a range of issues, from compliance polices, insurance, joint ventures and large asset purchases. Kajander serves as executive director of the company and is a prominent figure in the region’s automotive sector. Part of Kajander’s success in the sector can be attributed to his time spent as an engineer at General Dynamics and Ford at the start of his career.
Jeffrey King made an immediate impact at Taikang Life Insurance, the ninth largest life insurer by premium income in China, when he took on the role of general manager of its legal and compliance departments in July 2014. During his tenure he has established an intellectual property management system and transformed the department’s management framework to industry standards. The streamlined approach gives comprehensive legal coverage on Taikang’s insurance operations and for the management of its litigation, contract and intellectual property matters. As testament to his exceptional work, King was recently entrusted with the additional responsibility of heading the compliance function. King has regular interaction with Taikang’s senior management as a trusted business adviser who can balance legal risk and company goals. He is set to play a key role in Taikang’s joint venture with New York-based NorthStar Realty Finance Corp. The venture, which will see the company acquire an approximately $1bn interest in NorthStar’s existing portfolio of healthcare assets in the US and the UK, will be Taikang’s largest investment in healthcare assets outside of China and marks its entry into the global healthcare real estate market. Prior to his current role, King gained 15 years of in-house legal experience in the Chinese insurance sector by serving companies such as SKL-HNA Life Insurance Company and China Life Insurance in senior positions.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPDB) began operations in 1993 as a commercial bank tasked with helping to develop the Shanghai economy to global financial centre status. With 2015 asets under mangement of $676bn and around 31,000 employees, it has grown into one of the most significant commercial banks in the region, with its shares traded on the Shanghai stock exchange. Iris Kwok, SPDB’s head of legal and compliance, is a financial legal specialist with a wealth of experience with some of the major players in the industry. Kwok held the head of legal and compliance role with Agricultural Bank of China over two separate spells from 2006-2009 and 2010-2013 respectively, a significant achievement given the significance and prestige attached to the bank. She also undertook a one year period as head of the legal and compliance department with China Construction Bank, another vast Chinese banking concern that again highlights Kwok’s high-level credentials. Beginning her tenure with SPDB in 2013, Kwok joined at a time when the pace of growth in China, while still rapid, has not reached the heights previously achieved This has provided unique challenges for the bank, especially in the field of compliance as the regulatory framework of the Chinese banking sector becomes better codified and more sophisticated.
Bobby Ladwa began his legal career at Clifford Chance in London, spending 12 years in the firm’s capital markets practice. Through various secondments in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai Ladwa developed an interest in in-house work and ‘knew [he] could add value’ to a legal team. He got the chance to put his belief to the test when he was offered a position with Barclays’ recently formed Hong Kong in-house capital markets legal team. This, Ladwa says, was an opportunity for him to show his versatility and ‘adapt to changes both within Barclays globally and regionally, as well as macroeconomic changes in the market, in the climate of a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape within Asia Pacific and globally’. The Barclays Hong Kong team continued to grow ‘from being a debt capital markets [DCM] powerhouse to working on equity capital markets [ECM], M&A and other areas’. Ladwa is proud of his accomplishments, pointing in particular to applying his skills as a UK and Hong Kong dual-qualified lawyer to drive legal businesses forward through major periods of change, and achieving a personal goal by operating successfully at the highest level of the capital markets profession. The variety of legal work Ladwa has experienced, having spent considerable time in both private practice and in-house roles in diverse jurisdictions around the world, is something that he is immensely grateful for: ‘If I had stayed in London I would be a different type of lawyer’, says Ladwa. The capital markets team at Barclays is compact but highly skilled, with each team member possessing a large amount of knowledge on the jurisdictions in which the bank operates. This is especially important for Ladwa, who points to the massively expanded regulatory framework in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific as evidence that ‘managing change is essential’ in a legal team. In business terms, he adds, Asia is ‘no longer [as] laissez-faire’ as it is often assumed to be; in certain respects Asian legal practices and developments are leading the way globally. Ladwa also believes that the effective use of technology ‘unchain[s] lawyers from desks’, which is a boon for team morale and helps with staff retention, further bolstering organisational productivity and colleague engagement.
Set up in 2007, China Life Investment is the alternative investment subsidiary of the China Life Group. Currently managing over $14bn in assets China Life Investment is recognised as one of the largest domestic alternative investment companies in China. Kang Le originally joined the Group in 2004, initially working in its asset management division. Following the establishment of China Life Investment, Kang was appointed as general manager of the risk management, legal and compliance department. To assist the company on deals, she established a proactive and efficient legal department aligned to the business to ensure a healthy stream of interaction between the two. In one of the latest transactions, the company raised $600m in investment for Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing app, with Wang Junhui, the president of China Life Investment hailing it as a ‘vital link in the innovation-driven growth strategy of China Life’. Other significant achievements for King have been developing an effective litigation strategy, creating risk management systems and setting the industry benchmark on internal control and compliance levels, according to one source. Kang has received a number of internal awards in recognition of her contribution to the success of the organisation.
Over the course of her career, Ally Li has spent seven years in the private practice and two decades in-house. As such, she has a wealth of experience to draw from, including in-house legal roles with Walmart and Best Buy, the latter of which she spent a total of eight years at and advanced to the position of general counsel. At Best Buy, Li reported directly to the global general counsel and successfully developed the legal team from a cost centre to a profit centre. She was also involved in the closure of Best Buy’s retail operations in China and successfully implementing the change with the minimum possible cost to the overall business. Li moved to cosmetics giant Estee Lauder in January 2016, and in the 12 months since she has made her mark as a versatile and effective legal professional. Li explains that she prizes ‘collaborative relationships…based on trust and respect’. Li is keen to ensure her team fulfil their full potential, explaining that she ‘identifies and cultivates the essential skills and attributes [of the team] to maximise individual contributions, engagement capabilities and management systems’. As well as holding responsibility for legal affairs and regulatory compliance both in China and overseas, Li also deals with trademark protection efforts and site security for the company’s offices around China. She is positive about the future role that technology will play in legal affairs: ‘I would like to see more artificial intelligence used in routine legal work’, she enthuses, ‘to improve efficiency and cost management’. Li’s achievements as the first general counsel for China at Estee Lauder, and her broad remit are evidence of the esteem with which she is held in by the company as a whole.
With assets totalling an estimated $126bn, The People’s Insurance Company of China Group (PICC) is one of the largest insurers in the country. One of its primary subsidiaries, PICC Property and Casualty Company Limited (PICC P&C) is China’s largest insurer of casualty insurance and with overseas offices it is the designated agent within the People’s Republic of China for most international insurance companies. Zhuyong Li joined PICC in 1998 and currently serves as the state-owned company’s general counsel and general manager of the legal and compliance department. With over 20 years of experience in the field of legal compliance and risk management, and having been active in the law-making process related to several insurance laws and regulations, Zhuyong is held in high esteem by both colleagues and external peers. In March 2016, Zhuyong participated in the legal matters related to PICC and PICC P&C’s setting up of China’s third local reinsurer, PICC Re which will have a registered capital of $153m. Zhuyong ensured regulatory approval for the deal swiftly and without any stumbling blocks. In September of the same year, he gained further recognition for his role in facilitating PICC’s purchase of $523m worth of shares in China Merchants Securities. Outside of PICC, Zhuyong holds a number of other significant positions such as executive director and deputy secretary general of the China Institute of Insurance Law and arbitrator of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission. He is also a part-time professor of China University of Political Science and Law. Zhuyong holds a master’s degree in law from Capital University of Economics and Business, and a doctorate degree in law from China University of Political Science and Law.
Heading the M&A legal team of Tencent, one of the largest internet companies in the world, Yan Li has gained enviable recognition in the Chinese in-house market for his prolific success in completing large deals since he joined in 2011. In 2013 he completed a strategic cooperation with Sogou worth $448m for a 36.5% equity stake in the search engine developer. This was the first in a series of ground-breaking deals that was heralded as both legally innovative and strategically important for Tencent and the internet industry in China. The following year, Li and his team secured a multi-billion transaction to merge Tencent’s own e-commerce operations with JD.com for a stake of approximately 20%. Reflecting on the deal, Li says: ‘It was, at the time, the largest deal we undertook and changed the e-commerce landscape in China’. The acquisitions made by the company have continued to increase in value and ambition and in 2016 Tencent completed the $8.6bn acquisition of Supercell using another innovative structure. Over his time in the role, Li has expanded the team from a handful of lawyers to 16 experts providing the requisite legal support for Tencent’s portfolio growth worldwide. ‘This has helped Tencent tremendously as it contributes to our confidence that we can negotiate and execute complex cross-border transactions on a world-class level’, he says. The scale of such important deals requires that Li works closely with Tencent’s senior management who ‘pay close attention to our advice and respect our role and the value we provide to the company’. In overcoming challenging regulatory changes in China, Li ensures his team ‘keep their ear close to the ground’ and work closely with regulators and other parties to find solutions and compromises. His advice to fellow in-house lawyers is simple: ‘always be business-minded but do not forget the legal principles’. Prior to joining Tencent, Li practiced law at international law firm O’Melveny & Myers in its Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai offices, focusing on M&A, private equity and venture capital and other cross-border transactions in China and United States.
Victor Liang is vice president and general counsel at leading Chinese web services company and internet search provider Baidu. Liang joined Baidu in 2005 and became vice president and general counsel in 2011. In addition to overseeing all legal matters at Baidu, Liang is responsible for online systems management, policy, intellectual property and patent-related matters. He also serves as executive assistant to co-founder and chief executive Robin Li. Liang played a significant part in Baidu’s 2005 initial public offering and has led on a number of strategically important M&A transactions for the company. He was educated in China, Australia and the US and has previously worked at the legislative affairs office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at Beijing-headquartered firm Jun He Law Offices and as a visiting attorney at the New York office of Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Founded in April 1993, BOE Technology is a supplier of “internet of things” technologies, products and services with three core business groups: display devices, smart systems and health services. Feng Liqiong has been at the company for over 20 years, reaching the position of senior vice president and the lead counsel in 2010, at which point she made significant structural changes to the legal team to increase its business support capabilities. As part of this change she has diversified her team’s role by moving it from a legal-heavy department to one which can understand and manage business and transactional matters. Another significant example of her internal work was creating a global legal compliance training system, which has been delivered to thousands of staff to date. In an important last 18 months for the company, Feng and her team supported the business on projects worth over RMB 10bn in addition to managing significant litigation cases. As recently as November and December 2016, Feng and the team participated on a deal which will see BOE Technology invest $842m in the AMOLED project in Sichuan as well as cover all legal requirements relating to a factory contruction that will greatly increase the company’s production capacity of glass substrates. Despite this busy period, Feng also finalised a buy-back for the company of over $28m worth of A-shares and $10.63m worth of B-shares between September and November 2016.
Lyman Liu began his career as an associate partner at Beijing Huanzhong & Partners before spending a year as a senior associate and director of the international business department at Jincheng Tongda Law Firm. In September 2007, after some enviable achievements during his private practice career, including representing the Chinese government at the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organisation, Liu moved into an in-house legal role with Chinese investment banking and private equity firm The Hina Group. Now as Hina’s general counsel, Liu has a broad remit that involves dealing both with general legal work and supporting the various divisions of the company, including investment banking and funds. Liu is also directly involved in the legal sphere of investment management and the organisation of Hina’s portfolio companies, including the initial public offerings when appropriate. Liu’s experience in contributing to investment decisions from a legal perspective means that he can be counted among the best specialists in China.
With roots dating back to 1858, Standard Chartered is the oldest foreign bank in China. The relationship looks set to continue, with the group’s recently appointed global chief executive Bill Winters having been vocal on the importance of China to the bank’s future plans. Ambitions to strengthen the bank’s position in the Chinese market have come during a difficult period for Standard Chartered, which in 2015 reported its first loss since the Asian financial crisis of 1998 (though it returned to profit the following year). Praised as ‘an outstanding lawyer with solid ethical values’, Standard Chartered Bank China’s head of legal Daniel Liu will play an important part in helping the bank to mitigate risks in one of its key territories, particularly with the country’s financial markets experiencing their own period of uncertainty. Liu leads a team of around 30 lawyers and was prominent in helping the bank through its recent restructuring.
Huawei, one of the world’s premier telecoms companies, manages a staggeringly complex set of operations. With more than 170,000 employees covering its global activities and revenues of over $60bn, it is a company that requires the very best representation from its advisers. As such, the position of chief legal officer at Huawei carries an extreme degree of responsibility, and it is Song Liuping that takes up this challenge. Fortunately, he is a prodigiously talented legal professional with a vast amount of experience. His career with Huawei began over two decades ago in 1996. Familiar with all aspects of the company’s operations, Song has had positions in a number of different departments within Huawei, including product strategy, intellectual property and external cooperation. He has also sat on the company’s human resources and compliance committees, providing them with the benefit of his legal advice while developing a deep understanding of the company’s operations.
As a Fortune 500 company with revenues of over CNY 180bn, NASDAQ listed JD.com is one of the largest online retailers in China. Current chief human resources officer and general counsel, Yu Long has been at JD.com since August 2012. She joined JD.com after a successful period at NASDAQ listed company UTStarcom Holdings Corp, where she held a number of senior positions such as general counsel, chief compliance officer and senior vice president between 2010 and 2012. Her time at JD.com has been marked by facilitating a range of large deals that have moulded the e-commerce company’s recent development. One of the standout deals was the strategic partnership with Tencent in March 2014 that aimed to ‘transform e-commerce industry in China’. In June 2016, Long handled the legal matters relating to US retail giant Walmart’s $1.5bn acquisition of a 5% stake in JD.com. Later that year, Long oversaw the transaction that saw Walmart sell its Chinese e-commerce business to JD.com, in a deal which also saw Walmart increase its stake in JD.com to over 9%. With technological innovation at the heart of the company, JD.com is currently building a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) enabled online shopping platform. On these latest developments, Long has been quoted as saying: ‘We don’t want to miss the future development of VR and AR technologies. They could provide better shopping experiences and bring convenience to our lives. At the same time, innovative technologies can drive the development of JD’s future business’. Prior to her professional career, Long graduated from the China Southwest Political and Law University in economic law and also and received an Executive MBA from the China Europe International Business School.
Joanne Low identifies joining RRJ Management (HK), an investment firm with almost $11bn assets under management, in 2013 as one of the highlights of her career because of the exposure it has given her to multi-billion dollar deals. For example, she was involved in negotiations which saw RRJ as the only non-Chinese direct investor when Sinopec, a Chinese oil and gas company, sold a $17.4bn stake in its retail unit in 2014. Two years later, Low assisted RRJ in raising funds for Tencent, a Chinese technology and investment holding company, for its purchase of SoftBank’s majority stake in gamemaker Supercell Oy, in a deal worth $8.6bn. The transaction is Tencent’s largest acquisition to date and helped Low win industry awards. She believes that the hands-on nature of in-house lawyers in deals like this is what differentiates their work from that of a private practice lawyer; something that Low finds incredibly rewarding. Her skills in conducting and structuring deals has shifted mind-sets of how the legal function is perceived internally, with the function now at the heart of developments from start to finish. Low says that building trust with senior management was crucial to this development, saying ‘[they] see you’re being constructive and creative rather than being restrictive. It makes the [senior management] team see that you are part of the solution‘.
Mark Loynd took up the position of genral counsel at Giordano International in 2013 and has since taken on the roles of company secretary, head of international brand collaborations and group human resources director. Highlights for Loynd during his time at Giordano include completing the acquisition of Giordano’s Middle Eastern franchisee and negotiating a strategic alliance and cooperative product line with outdoor brand Lowe Alpine. Of the franchisee acquisition, Loynd says that the entire project was running late and had become an ongoing issue for the business when he joined the legal function late in 2013. Loynd took over the project and navigated the final completion of the deal, which had become further complicated by extensive changes in local legislation across the Persian Gulf, until its close in early 2015. As part of the venture with Lowe Alpine, Loynd’s role was also significant. He ‘oversaw the entire process from design conceptualisation, to fabric sourcing, fitting and construction, as well as marketing, promotion and sales’. When discussing the characteristics that mark out the very best in-house counsel, Loynd remarks that those looking to get ahead should ‘know [their] business inside out, from all angles and at all levels’, which will allow them to ‘contribute towards [their] business by identifying material issues and formulating optimal resolution strategies in a way that external counsel simply could not’. Loynd’s determination to hold his legal and compliance functions to the highest professional standards while fully integrating them into the business setting means he stands out as among the most talented legal professionals in Hong Kong. He was called to the Hong Kong Bar in 2007 and worked on both criminal and civil cases. He began his in-house career as GC of Zheng He Financial Holdings.
With over 800 million customers, China Mobile Communications Corporation (known as China Mobile) is the largest mobile company in the world. Given the company’s vast array of operations and customer base, its deputy general manager of the department of legal affairs, Yu Mang, plays an integral role in any developments, expansion or changes to operations. In June 2016 Yu helped secure a $1.5bn one-year frame agreement with Nokia, which will help it transition to a flexible cloud network infrastructure. With the introduction of 5G technology in the coming years, China Mobile will be looking to Yu to continue executing deals. The new spectrum will provide opportunities for collaboration, will promote greater connection of different technologies and encourage deeper integration of vertical industries – for example, China Mobile and Samsung are already positioning themselves for a collaboration on a 5G mobile network standard. Yu joined China Mobile in 2000, having held various senior positions before his current role such as deputy director and director for the department of legal affairs. He is an esteemed member of a number of in-house associations and gives talks on a range of topics, such as issues surrounding intellectual property rights and alternative business models presented in the new digital environment, antitrust investigations and arbitration practices. Yu obtained his LLB from Jilin University in 1991 and his Executive MBA from the University of Science & Technology Beijing and University of Texas at Arlington in 2007.
Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels (HSH) was first established in 1866, and has built up an extensive portfolio of hotels across Asia, US and Europe during the course of its extensive history. Canada-born Nadine Maurellet, general counsel at HSH, has practiced in London, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and has studied in Hong Kong and the UK – emphasising the cosmopolitan business culture that one would expect at a major global hospitality company. In the years prior to joining HSH, Maurellet practiced corporate law and corporate finance law in major financial centres around the world and advised on a number of significant transactions including initial public offerings, joint ventures and M&A deals during her time with Linklaters and Morrison & Foerster. Maurellet initially joined HSH in 2006 as a legal counsel, and being made GC at the company speaks volumes to her technical skills and the ability to translate this to practical business solutions.
As legal and European business director of MTR, Gill Meller bears ultimate responsibility for one of the most diverse and complex in-house legal portfolios in Hong Kong. On top of its core business of building and operating Hong Kong’s metro system, MTR is also a significant real estate player, based on its practice of developing the areas around stations and depots. This has been highly successful, and MTR is now the second largest landowner in Hong Kong after the Government. Given its complex operations, MTR requires an excellent legal director and, as one of the most widely-respected legal counsel in Hong Kong, Meller fulfils this criteria. Meller first got a taste of the railway industry while providing advice to Metronet Rail as part of the London Underground public-private partnership project and found that she didn’t want to go back to private practice, such was her enjoyment of the role. Eventually deciding that in-house work was ‘a lot more fun’ and well suited to her talents, Meller moved to Hong Kong and to MTR in 2004, quickly proving herself to be an asset to ‘supporting their growth businesses, which included flying out to the UK, Sweden and Australia’. After impressing throughout her tenure, Meller ‘gradually took on a larger role in the legal team’ and, in 2011, was appointed legal director. Meller’s role has expanded further from here and, as well as ‘looking after corporate governance, risk and insurance’ for The MTR Group, she was recently placed in charge of the entire European arm of MTR’s operations. This non-legal role is further evidence of her considerable business acumen and commercially-minded approach. Meller has shaped the MTR legal team around her own philosophy of what makes an excellent corporate counsel: ‘I can’t bear the thought of a legal team that doesn’t understand the business, doesn’t know why they are doing a particular transaction and can’t give focused advice’, she comments. She has encouraged her team ‘to be proactive and a real part of the business’ first and foremost. Meller cites increasing regulatory pressures and ever increasing public expectations of businesses as challenges for the team. ‘Compliance used to be just for banks to worry about, but now all big corporates have to deal with it’, she explains. The role of the in-house legal team often being to advise on ‘the right thing to do’, as much as just being legally acceptable.
Phillip Meyer joined Oasis Management in 2007 and serves as its general counsel, chief compliance officer and chief operating officer. In this the role he is responsible for the full spectrum of the private investment management company’s legal and regulatory affairs from its offices in Hong Kong and leads a team of six. Meyer has been identified by one source for having ‘overseen the legal and compliance infrastructure that has supported the growth and success of the firm, which requires deep insights of the rapidly evolving regulatory environment in the markets that Oasis trades in whilst advising the firm on novel and complex investments that is a trademark of the firm’s success’. His skills have been vital for a company that aims to enter new markets ahead of its competitors and he has achieved this by ensuring the legal team is capable of making the company nimble when having to adapt. Meyer also developed a compliance programme as an overarching plan, rather than an ad hoc function that simply ‘plugs holes’, to create a dynamic multi-functional ethos in the legal team. He believes one of his biggest achievements is winding down a flagship fund in the aftermath of the financial crisis; a time that taught him a lot in terms of retaining key staff, and utilising people and resources to their fullest extent. Operating in multi-jurisdictional markets where there is no unified regulatory landscape and facing frequent issues of “first impression” in emerging markets, Meyer is recognised by peers for building relationships with the regulators and ‘playing a leading role in the industry’. To this effect he is involved in a number of industry bodies and is co-chair of the Alternative Investment Management Association Hong Kong Regulatory Committee, serves on the Sohn Hong Kong conference planning committee for the Karen Leung Foundation, and is a frequent contributor and speaker at various industry educational events and forums. A distinguishing feature of his contribution to the in-house market has been running an informal monthly networking lunch for fellow GCs to discuss their challenges and offer advice on various matters. Offering his own advice, Meyer says identifying the key industry contacts among external counsel as vital and hopes to see the roll-out of the robust technological systems that private practice firms enjoy but are too expensive for in-house currently. Immediately prior to his current role, Meyer was an associate in New York at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman (which became part of Dechert in 2005) between 2002 and 2007.
With a career that is punctuated with a a raft of awards and accolades, Raymond Goh possesses formidable legal and business skills, with a work ethic and creativity to match. This is borne out by his multiple extra-curricular achievements, which include contributing to a specialist guide for foreign investments into China, various speaking engagements on matters ranging from M&A to anti-corruption, and his presence on a number of notable panels at legal conferences. His academic achievements are no less impressive, and on top of legal qualifications in Europe and Asia, Goh has achieved professional qualifications in financial commerce, disruptive technologies and an advanced management programme. His propensity to achieve excellence in a range of disciplines has paid dividends in Goh’s career to date, which has included notable roles in both private practice and in-house positions. In the former, Goh worked with Baker McKenzie and Linklaters on intellectual property, corporate and M&A work. In the latter part of his career, he completed a six year tenure with Barclays Capital, finishing as vice president and legal officer for China, before taking on his current role in 2015. In the two years he has spent as director for legal and compliance at Anbang International Holdings, the global investment arm of Anbang Insurance Group, Raymond has retained overall management of the legal team but is also heavily involved in company strategy relating to financial investments globally.
Huarong Rongde (Hong Kong) Investment Management Company is the Hong Kong subsidiary of a joint venture established by China Huarong Asset Management Corporation (one of the “Big Four” asset management companies in China), Deutsche Bank AG, Clearwater Capital and other international financial institutions. Yang Na joined Huarong Rongde in January 2016, but has already made her mark on the company by creating the legal department and establishing a panel of experienced external counsel in different practice areas. In just 12 months, Yang and her legal team have supported Huarong Rongde on a series of deals and investment transactions with a total value of approximately RMB 10bn. Yang is also credited with formulating a full set of internal regulations and rules to cover all aspects of the company’s corporate governance and operational matters. As a member of the company’s investment committee Yang has ‘a very good and balanced relationship with the CEO and senior management’, and is extensively involved in the company’s potential investments. As Huarong Rongde focuses on fixed-income investment, which is interest-rate sensitive, Yang’s strong and thoughtful approach is welcomed internally. She says, ‘I have always suggested the company’s business teams and management carefully conduct the due diligence of every issuer and evaluate each bond that we will invest in to ensure the value of the bonds are worthwhile for the prices that we will pay and the issuers are financially capable for the repayment of the principals and interests’. Prior to her current role, Yang gained 10 years of experience working within leading international law firms, including Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Jones Day and Hogan Lovells. During her time in private practice, Yang represented Chinese and international clients including Fortune 500 companies, multi-national corporations and state-owned companies on a wide range of issues.
Andrew Ning’s 15-year private practice career has given him the technical knowledge and experience to make him a financial services specialist. His external counsel career saw him giving advice on M&A, foreign direct investment and corporate legal work for a range of high profile clients in Asia. In addition, prior to his current role, Ning was employed as an in-house counsel for a leading Chinese insurance company. In 2009 Ning took his in-house career to the next level when he joined CCB International, a subsidiary of China Construction Bank. At CCB international he has put his experience to use in an internal corporate financial setting, and is involved heavily in private equity, brokerage and investment funds throughout the company and its subsidiaries’ operations. Ning is now part of a number of CCB’s top-level committees, including the management and investment committees. On top of this, Ning is active at conferences and roundtables across Hong Kong, disseminating his knowledge to the rest of the legal community.
An in-house legal counsel with vast experience in international transactions and private equity, Melissa Obegi has been at the head of innovative legal work throughout her career. Before being asked to lead Bain Capital’s Asian legal function, Obegi was a managing director with Oaktree Capital’s Asia private equity business unit. Since joining Bain Capital in 2012, Obegi explains how she ‘establish[ed] the role and relationships required to manage legal risk across investment professionals in major financial centres, such as Hong Kong and Shanghai,… and other Asia Pacific financial centers’. When discussing career highlights, Obegi mentions that she is proud of ‘work[ing] collaboratively with diverse nationalities, languages, business cultures [and] legal regimes in Asia to invest in local markets and run our business consistent with our global standards’. Obegi also had a hand in the development of ‘a novel risk management training and practical improvement program for our portfolio companies in key risk areas such as internal controls, anti-corruption and cyber security’ while at Bain, displaying her disposition to pre-empt potential risks before they develop. Like many legal professionals in the financial sector, Obegi has developed strategies for dealing with changing regulatory matters. ‘Constantly evolving regulatory and tax regimes require sustained engagement and [a] nimble response’, she explains, ‘especially for a transaction-oriented business. The key factor to success in these markets is being able to find commercial solutions to the issues that arise in complex transactions and jurisdictions’.
Theo Pang, current vice president and general counsel for Asia Pacific at American clothing manufacturer VF Corporation, has worked in a variety of interesting and high profile roles across a 24 year career that has seen him move frequently between jurisdictions, practice areas and in-house and private practice roles. After qualifying in London, Pang moved back to Hong Kong and a role with Baker McKenzie before pursuing an in-house role with Morgan Stanley as an online trading counsel. This, a brand new role at the time, saw Pang picked ahead of a large number other applicants and was a major coup for him personally, though it was cut short when the dot com bubble burst in the late 1990s. Via a partner role at Bird & Bird’s Beijing office and a move back in-house at Mattel, Pang then moved into his current role at VF Corporation (VFC). Pang praises the ‘great personal development’ that he has been able to achieve while here, and is proud of the significant improvements he has made to the legal team’s reputation and internal efficiency. Despite operating in Asia for over two decades, VFC did not have an in-house legal function before Pang arrived, and he was even regarded with apprehension by some businesspeople who assumed the legal team would be a preventative rather than a supportive force. A testament to his excellent interpersonal skills, Pang successfully ‘changed the perspective of the staff’ by building trust through successful cooperation on their projects. This achievement has been recognised by the upper management of the company, and Pang is now part of the executive management team for Asia Pacific, based on his sharing of ‘the values and culture’ of the company. Pang has also ensured that the whole company has advanced leaps and bounds with their use of technology. Among other initiatives, Pang has been responsible for ‘setting up e-platforms to trade with VFC’s vendors in the region and house all documents in Asia’ and has also contributed to ‘a new mindset’ throughout the company in regards to the use of technology internally. When summing up how to be successful in the in-house legal world, Pang is sure that ‘soft skills’, interpersonal and cooperative ones, play a large role. ‘As an in-house counsel’, he explains, ‘you are a cost centre rather than a profit centre’, meaning that they must be able to get their business partners to ‘open up’ about their business issues so they can be resolved cooperatively.
After a successful tenure as the legal affairs supervisor at Huada Science & Technology Co., Xu Qian joined BGI Genomics, one of the world’s premier genome sequencing centres, in 2013 as general director of the legal affairs department. As part of her role, she is responsible for managing the company’s global legal affairs and risk management with regard to BGI’s domestic and overseas projects. In 2015, Xu was commended for her role in raising RMB 2bn in funds for BGI’s pre-IPO share reform. In recognition of her industry award winning activities, BGI Genomics entrusted her with further responsibility by appointing her secretary of the board later that year. With BGI Genomics starting its major expansion into North America in 2016, Xu was involved in activities related to the opening of its new overseas office in Seattle and will likely be at the forefront of the company’s business development and strategic decision-making. Highly regarded in China’s in-house legal community for her work, in 2016 Xu delivered a keynote speech on “Legal Risks and Countermeasures for Overseas Development of Enterprises” at a forum attended by senior industry peers.
Gangliang Qiao’s previous career provided him with the ideal tools to undertake his role as general counsel at international science and technology company Danaher Corporation. After a series of impressive academic achievements, including being awarded a Juris Doctor in law at Georgetown University Law Centre, he took his first legal role as a legal clerk in the Western District of Michigan court in the United States. This was a notable achievement, as Qiao holds the distinction of being the first Chinese national to be a Clerk for a US Federal Judge – an experience about which he wrote a bestselling book. From here, he moved into private practice work with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in both New York and Beijing, rising to the rank of associate during a four year period, before moving into his first in-house role with GE Healthcare in 2000. After spending eight years within the healthcare division, and rising to the rank of vice president and general counsel, Qiao became vice president and general counsel of GE Capital for a year before moving to Siemens Northeast Asia. In his four years at Siemens, and in an industry that was new to him, Qiao made a huge impression, finishing as executive vice president and general counsel. His experience in the technology sector and previous career achievements did not go unnoticed by Danaher, and in 2013 Qiao was asked to join the company as vice president and general counsel for China. His success in this role can be measured by his promotion in 2015 to the role of general counsel for the whole of Danaher’s operations in Asia Pacific. Bearing ultimate responsibility for legal matters across such a broad region is a testament to Qiao’s vast skill in the field of legal business.
An engineer by training, Zhuang Shangbiao is one of the most distinguished figures in China’s construction industry. To date, Zhuang’s positions include deputy general manager of the finance department of China Road and Bridge Construction Corporation, deputy general manager and the executive deputy general manager of China Road and Bridge Group, and chief accountant of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC). He has occupied a number of senior legal and financial positions at CRCC for over 10 years and in 2015 was appointed as the company’s president and executive director, a position he holds in addition to the role of general legal counsel. Zhuang has been pivotal to CRCC’s recent moves, including entering into a strategic cooperation agreement with Fosun Group and successfully negotiating a contract to construct 388km of the announced $2.3bn Chipata-Petauke-Serenje Railway project in Zambia.
Beginning his legal career working on foreign direct investment initiatives in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, Aaron Shao built on this valuable experience by progressing to a rewarding career in private practice of multiple years with Hogan Lovells (formerly Hogan & Hartson) and Jones Day, respectively. When US-based industry leading company SPX Flow Technology was looking for an in-house legal lead with extensive legal experience and outstanding leadership, Shao was an ideal candidate, and after securing the role he spent over five years there as the regional general counsel for Asia Pacific. Shao revolutionised his regional in-house legal function and role at SPX, and he recalls how he managed to change the incorrect perception of him as what he calls a ‘revenue prevention officer’ to that of ‘a well trusted business partner [who] was part of almost all major business decisions’ within ‘one to two years’. After ‘building [his team]… and the team structure’ successfully at SPX, Shao looked for a new challenge to ensure his success could be replicated elsewhere, and in February 2015 he moved on to his current role at leading international healthcare company Abbott Laboratory. Here, Shao explains that ‘the first change I made was to clarify the role with the team, global leadership and the local business leaders. The second was to the mentality and external perception of the local legal team, as I wanted them to have a stronger ownership and result oriented attitude towards making decisions together with businesses to resolve complicated issues and achieve positive results, rather than just executing orders or providing pure paper legal advice’. That this approach has been successful is borne out by the fact that his team has doubled in size and received increasing recognitions from local and global management during his almost two year tenure. Instead of giving direct advice to prospective in-house counsel, as he points out the specificities of each role preclude this, Shao posits two questions for those who are looking to make their way as an internal lawyer. ‘I would like peers to think about why a business needs in-house lawyers as opposed to external counsel and, furthermore, how they can be a true business partner to the company’.
German multinational consumer goods Henkel, established Henkel Chemicals in Hong Kong in 1971 to primarily sell adhesives and industrial cleaners to Chinese companies. Today the company sells a range of products in China from laundry detergents and household cleaners to cosmetics and body care brands, generating sales in excess of €250m in the country. Since joining the company, Victor Shen has gained recognition both internally and externally for the instrumental role he has played in achieving some of Henkel’s most important milestones in China. In leading his team to implement corporate infrastructure investment projects worth RMB 800m, he gained further recognition including from the company’s Asia Pacific’s regional management team. More recently, Shen has been involved in activities related to the opening of the world’s largest adhesives factory, a key development for its operations in China and the wider region. He also played a role in the opening of Asia’s first Loctite Impregnation Service Center, which is located close to major automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, meaning reduced transportation distances and therefore time and cost savings. Outside of the company, Shen is a revered member of the in-house community. He has been recognised with industry awards and has spoken at various conferences, including the AmCham China conference on the latest antitrust developments.
Total, a French oil and gas multinational that produces, refines and markets oil and petrochemicals, has been established in China for over 35 years, now has 4,350 employees and operates over 200 service stations across the country. As vice president and general counsel for Total China since 2014, Cuijun Shi has centralised the legal team to establish a unified legal team in a short space of time. ‘The functioning of the centralised legal team has exemplified Total’s inter-branch synergies and solidarity and implemented the group “One Total” vision’, she says. Showing the alignment with the wider company, Shi and her team have been closely involved in the dispute resolution process, which has the possibility to significantly impact Total China’s finances and reputation, by formulating litigation strategy to ensure cost efficiency and avoid disappointing results for the company. Shi has experienced internal recognition for her efforts and enjoys a good working relationship with senior executives and the branch business heads. All energy companies have been affected by the global slump in oil prices, and Shi has been asked to make cost savings in the legal team in line with this. Her department has contributed by freezing headcount, decreasing the number of panel law firms in order to gain preferential rates, and by internalising all legal work possible. Speaking generally about her role, Shi says that an in-house lawyer needs ‘good business sense as you need to stand in the shoes of your business partner and help them out. Interpersonal effectiveness is a key success for in-house counsel as we are part of the business and we will spend more time than outside counsel dealing with our business partners’. Prior to her current role, Shi spent three years as senior legal counsel at Siemens China where she worked with the German conglomerate’s group legal department on global M&A and divestment projects. Prior to Siemens, Shi was the general counsel of the financial arm of State Grid Corporation of China, heading its legal and compliance department for one year in her first in-house role. Shi initially spent a total of 10 years in private practice before making her in-house move in 2010. Reflecting her expertise, Shi is panel arbitrator at China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETEC) and contributes to the in-house industry by speaking at summits on dispute resolution.
With more than 260,000 employees worldwide and business interests in 52 countries, CK Hutchison Holdings became Hong Kong’s largest conglomerate after the merger of Cheung Kong Holdings and its main associate company Hutchison Whampoa in 2015. As head group general counsel and company secretary, Edith Shih is responsible for the legal, regulatory and compliance affairs of the newly formed company and supervises over 200 lawyers in approximately 60 offices and 22 countries. She has been quoted as saying ‘the most valuable asset in any legal department, are its employees, so I spend a lot of time grooming them and interviewing applicants’. Shih had been head of the legal department at Hutchison Whampoa since 1993, and therefore played a leading role in the major reorganisation of CK Hutchison and its affiliated companies in the 2015 merger. Because of the truly international scope of her role and the importance she places on communication and teamwork, Shih holds regional legal conferences solely for her CK Hutchison attorneys and is extremely active in the domestic business community. She holds a number of positions such as member and convener of one of the Financial Reporting Review Panels of the Financial Reporting Council and is a member of the Audit Professional Reform Advisory Group, the Corporate Governance Committee and the Remuneration Committee of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants. She is also chairman of the ICSA China Division and has been the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS) since December 2011.
Despite qualifying at a top-tier Australian-based law firm, David Simmonds explains that he ‘always had the mind set for going in-house’, a path that began upon his receiving dual law and commerce honours from university. This, along with his ambition and the technical knowledge gained from a private practice career as an M&A specialist, provided him with the ideal tools to succeed in-house when the opportunity presented itself. His first corporate counsel role occurred in 1999 with telecoms giant Telstra, around the end of the dot com boom, which Simmonds recalls as a ‘very interesting time [during which] the technology and industry was changing rapidly’, which led to business ‘evolution in almost every respect’. After impressing at Telstra, becoming general counsel of their wholesale and infrastructure business units, Simmonds was headhunted by CLP’s Australian subsidiary, Energy Australia, to become their general counsel and company secretary. In a particularly busy period for the integrated energy company, Simmonds was given an excellent opportunity to display his considerable talents to the top management at CLP, and within a year he had been offered the job of director of group legal, moving to the electricity supplier’s Hong Kong headquarters. When explaining how he managed these achievements in such a short time-frame, Simmonds believes that it was partly being in the right place at the right time combined with commercial skills that enabled him to contribute ‘beyond a technical legal role’. Considering one potential deal he was involved in, Simmonds explains: ‘I had reservations about the deal and gave forthright advice on the risks involved with it… this led to the decision being made that it wasn’t pursued, with the opinion ultimately being that this saved the company a lot of money’. An excellent example of corporate counsel successfully fulfilling their risk management role via business acumen, Simmonds acknowledges that speaking out ‘was a risky strategy’, but one that ultimately paid off. Once installed as group general counsel at CLP, Simmonds refreshed the legal team and aligned it closely with the business by creating separate general counsel roles for the company’s regional operations and establishing a specialised transactional team to support group businesses as required. Apart from ‘very good technical skills’, that are expected rather than prized, Simmonds believes that the very best in-house counsel should possess a ‘solutions-oriented approach to the advice they provide’, getting to know their business from top to bottom. ‘One of the biggest contributions you can make as an in-house lawyer’, Simmonds sums up, ‘is to bring the perspective that comes from involvement with various parts of the company and external advisors that we deal with and communicate this to senior management’.
Tim Steinert became general counsel of multi-billion dollar revenue e-commerce company Alibaba Group in 2007, and has played a key role in the company’s impressive growth since. Indeed, in 2014 the company was floated on the New York Stock Exchange in the largest initial public offering in history, raising $25bn after additional stock options. Steinert’s involvement in the, on average, 50 major transactions that the business undertakes yearly means he is a legal professional with almost unparalleled experience of corporate deal oversight. With extensive technical ability honed via a notable career as a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and ability to speak fluent Mandarin, he was identified as the ideal person to lead Alibaba’s fledgling legal team. Steinert created a culture of versatility and adaptability in his department, which now contains around 250 individuals. He is also at the forefront of innovation in the in-house legal sector in China. For example, he has been involved in Alibaba’s joint project with Zhejiang province to develop an online court able to resolve e-commerce disputes remotely, a project that has the added benefit of greatly enhancing the legal team’s knowledge base of litigation events and allowing them to identify potential future risks. Steinert and his team have also contributed to the regulatory environment in China for e-commerce through their dialogue with the Chinese government and other industry partners. Steinert’s overall influence on the development of the in-house legal role in China is highly significant, as he continues to reinvent the legal and business elements of the role.
One of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, Texas Instruments (TI) began operating in China in 1986 and works closely with many large domestic manufacturers to improve the core technology of China’s electronics industry. Since 2010, TI has established its first manufacturing facility in mainland China and a product distribution centre in Shanghai’s Pudong Airport Free Trade Zone, reducing the waiting time for distribution to Chinese customers by half. Beijing-based vice president and assistant general counsel John Sullivan is responsible for leading the legal team for TI’s Asian and Japanese operations. Under Sullivan’s guidance the legal team also supports TI’s worldwide technology, manufacturing and procurement and logistics groups. After joining the company in 2000 as senior counsel, Sullivan has held a number of positions within the company, acquiring a diverse knowledge in the process. His knowledge covers anti-counterfeiting and customs issues; compliance with anti-price fixing laws; anti-trust laws; competition laws; export control regulations and various other administrative and corporate laws. Sullivan also assists and supports TI’s business units throughout the 15 countries in the Asia Pacific region, where the company has 15‚000 employees and a plethora of operational facilities. Before his in-house move he worked in Beijing at law firms Baker McKenzie and Jun He Law Offices.
Yuexiu Group is a real estate, finance, transport and infrastructure conglomerate. At the core of this business is Yuexiu Property, a national real estate company that has developed over 80 residential and commercial property projects including the Guangzhou International Financial Center, one of the world’s tallest buildings. As head of the group’s legal and corporate secretarial department, Yu Tat Fung has gained credit for building a proficient and collegial team of lawyers and corporate secretarial personnel that handle the group’s growing needs. Despite the considerable size of the company’s operations and their diversified lines of business, Yu has been commended for always being ‘on top of the legal and commercial issues that they face’, being ‘well-versed in the rules and regulations to which the businesses are subject’. Demonstrating the instrumental role he has played in Yuexiu’s development and growth in the past decade, Yu was a member of the team that facilitated an expansion into the financial services sector. To achieve this diversification of business, Yu supported a series of strategic matters such as the landmark acquisition of Chong Hing Bank in a $1.5bn deal. Yu received industry accolades for his role in this deal. He also played a key role in the group’s property M&A transactions, debt capital markets transactions and liability management activities. Recent examples include bond issuances by Yuexiu Property Company Limited and Yuexiu Transport Infrastructure Limited in China, and the tender offer and consent solicitation exercise of Yuexiu Property Company Limited in respect of notes issued under its medium term note (MTN) program. Describing Yu, one nominator glowingly says ‘he never ceases to amaze us [with] his ability to dive deeply into intricate, novel and diverse issues and the speed with which he distils complex issues and concepts. His ability to look at issues through a legal, commercial and pragmatic lens and his visionary view of the group’s business direction make him an invaluable member of the group’s senior management team’.
China’s biggest internet security company, Qihoo 360 Technology specialises in antivirus software but is also known for its web browser service and mobile application store. Joining the company in 2010, Fu Tong took charge of company’s legal and intellectual property (IP) affairs as general counsel and vice president. Before she took on the role, Fu had already gained industry recognition for time spent as the chief lawyer at TOM Group, winning awards for her team’s contribution to the media company. Now continuing her excellent work at Qihoo 360, Fu has effectively supervised hundreds of litigation cases and has further fortified the company’s valuable intellectual property assets. Fu’s work developing a system to efficiently manage intellectual property rights in the company has been essential given their vast number of applications – in 2014, Qihoo 360’s application quantity in both utility patents and Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) international patents were in the top 10 among Chinese companies. Due to her experience in the fast-paced technological industry, Fu has been at the forefront of discussion about challenges and changes that face the sector. For instance she is involved in the legislative work of major issues concerning the National Social Science Fund, and has built up strong professional relationships with top universities in China to promote the combination of legal theory and practice by producing reports on industrial policies and cutting-edge legal issues. Outside of her role with Qihoo 360, Fu holds a number of respected industry positions: she is a member of the Beijing Law Committee of Jiu San Society; the vice-chairman of the Patent Protection Association of China; the vice-chairman of the China Trademark Association; and executive director of the Technology & Finance & Law Research Institution. In terms of her academic work, Fu has spoken at Peking University on IP rights, is a visiting professor of Chinese People’s Public Security University, an extramural postgraduate supervisor of Renmin University and a part-time social tutor at Xi’an Jiaotong University.
Supply-chain management specialist Li & Fung is a global business and one of Hong Kong’s most historically important companies, having been founded in 1906. The company has grown alongside the city and now enjoys multi-billion-dollar revenue on the back of supply chain planning for, among other areas, home furnishing, furniture products and personal apparel. Marcus Tsang, group general counsel, has career highlights gained during more than a decade of practicing as an in-house legal professional. Among these, Tsang spent two years as group general counsel of global shipping port manager Hutchison Port Holdings and a three year period as Asia general counsel of Office Depot. Having taken over at Li & Fung in 2011, Tsang has made a number of changes to the departmentand added top legal talent to the team’s ranks, including in January 2016 when he hired a highly qualified deputy general counsel. Tsang is proud of ‘having built a dynamic, open minded and energetic team of lawyers who are completely solution oriented and enjoy what they do’, and urges them to ‘keep an open mind and [know] that innovative solutions can come from anywhere’, especially when dealing with the rapid pace of change in the modern legal landscape. Tsang is highly focused on maintaining his team’s high standards, a necessity given the team of approximately 20 lawyers has to deal with issues in over 40 countries. He looks to divide responsibilities among the team in order to create a culture of expertise. ‘Each counsel covers a specific business unit and handles everything that this throws at him or her. They are effectively the GC for that specific business unit, which creates ownership and accountability and also helps build the relationship between the counsel and their management teams’.
After receiving her legal education at Leiden University, Maaike van Meer qualified with premier Dutch law firm NautaDutilh, where she served for over seven years, first in Amsterdam and then London. After returning to the Netherlands to manage the banking and finance practice at Amsterdam-based law firm Van Doorne, van Meer was headhunted to lead the legal services department at ING Investment Management. Her role at ING saw her first responsible for European activities, and then taking on global activities from 2009. After impressing in this role, van Meer moved overseas to ING’s Hong Kong branch in order to ‘look at the business from an Asian perspective’, staying here for a year after the 2012 divestment of the insurance and management side of the business. Having spent a stint as regional counsel for Mercer Investments, in September 2014 van Meer moved to her current role as chief legal and compliance officer for AXA Hong Kong. Throughout her in-house career, van Meer has focused on ‘managing through change, ensuring that quality and compliance are improved at every turn [and] economising large regulatory programs’. Her philosophy for in-house success is based around three core concepts. Firstly, one should appreciate the company they work for, as this is the basis for all successful work that follows. Secondly, one should recognise that ‘you are part of the whole value chain, and should look at everything that comprises it’, by getting to know business operations thoroughly. Finally, that one should ‘try to make complicated technical matters and advice simple because then you will get the buy in from the business and senior management’, and create trust in the legal team’s effectiveness as a whole. When looking back on her career highlights, van Meer is proud of her track record of ‘creating a client focus in each of [her] roles’ along with successfully ‘moving from an advisory function to a key business function’. As well as this, van Meer explains that her involvement in ‘creating regulatory advice functions helped management to see incoming risks’. On the state of the in-house legal role in Asia, van Meer explains that there should be a greater tendency towards tackling new regulations head on.
Having begun trading in China in 1963, the Dutch multinational life and materials science company DSM now employs over 4,000 people in the country and has sales of over $2bn. Dealing mainly with corporate law, foreign investment, labour law and contract law, Catherine Wang was appointed general counsel for DSM China in 2007, in large part because of her experiences in managing legal, compliance and corporate affairs for multinational companies. With her legal department of eight members, Wang has been responsible for closing several recent transactions in China, including the acquisition of Aland (China) to strengthen DSM’s vitamin C production position in 2015, and a joint venture deal with NHU to enhance its offering in the high performance engineering plastics space. Internally Wang also led the team on capital expenditure projects and established the Women Inspiration Network. Immediately prior to her current role, Wang was the head of legal and corporate affairs department for East China at Microsoft for almost three years. Between 1998 and 2004 she was the general counsel and company secretary at Nexans China (formerly Alcatel Cable China) in her first in-house role. Having also worked as an attorney for 10 years and a law lecturer at Su Zhou University for nine years, her career is congruent with her motto of ‘keep learning, keep improving’.
Kai Wang became vice president, legal for Greater China at Starwoods Hotels and Resorts in mid-2014. In doing so, she moved away from a highly successful private practice career, in which she held roles at Carlsmith Ball, Baker McKenzie and DLA Piper, a period in which a source praised her ‘knowledge, experience and advice’ that ‘by far exceeded expectations’. Her private practice specialism lay in construction, development and sales of hotels and other large properties. This, along with the technical legal knowledge she amassed, meant she was well placed to take on her first in-house role at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. In September 2016 she was part of Starwood’s $13.6bn merger with Marriott International, which formed the world’s largest hotel operator. The groundwork for such a landmark deal, requiring negotiation with antitrust institutions around the world along with many other oversight activities, was unsurprisingly significant. Her participation in this transaction is a testament to her technical ability, experience and work ethic.
Albert Wang’s extensive experience in both private practice and in-house roles allows him to bring an almost unparalleled body of knowledge to bear to his role as general counsel of 3M, an American multinational conglomerate. Leaving behind a private practice career that saw him advance to the position of chief representative of Coudert Brothers’ Shanghai office, Wang moved in-house in 2001 when he joined multinational technology company Dell. He stayed at Dell for almost 11 years, during a period of rapid growth for the company, and was legal director by the time he moved on to 3M in 2012. At 3M, Wang oversees a team of over 40 legal professionals across Asia Pacific, and takes command of compliance and business responsibilities in what is an approximately $11bn market for the company. Wang is known for his problem solving capabilities, instead of simply providing legal responses to queries. This means he makes the effort to understand and interact with every department within the company, talks to stakeholders and focuses on creating a positive end results. Looking to create a world-beating in-house legal team, Wang has populated the department with top talent and has continuously looked to develop leadership qualities, tenacity and a willingness to go the extra mile for the company’s goals. Wang himself believes that success in the corporate legal world is not reliant on knowledge and theoretical skills – as all legal staff should display these as standard – rather it is commitment and the ability to lead from the front that mark out excellent in-house lawyers.
China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) differs from China’s other two national oil concerns – China National Petroleum Corporation (owner of PetroChina) and China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) – in its focus on innovation; the company was, from the outset, intended to work with international joint venture partners. An engineer by training, Chen Wei has worked with CNOOC for more than 30 years and has gained substantive experience of interacting with international venture partners and foreign legal and compliance regimes. In his time with the company Chen has held a number of senior positions, including vice director of overseas, director of information at the CNOOC research centre, and general manager of human resources. He was appointed as CNOOC’s assistant president and executive vice president in 2013. Chen was appointed to the role of general counsel at at CNOOC in 2016 as part of a highly publicised series of changes to the company’s senior management that also saw him inherit the position of compliance officer from the departing Wu Guangqi. He also serves as employee director and assistant president of the company.
China Power International Development is the core subsidiary for the conventional energy business of State Power Investment Corporation, and the only integrated energy group which simultaneously owns coal-fired power, hydropower, nuclear power and renewable energy resources in the People’s Republic of China. As general counsel for the company for over 10 years, Xu Wei has demonstrated her pedigree in delivering legal services with an extremely business-focused approach. At the heart of her success has been negotiating and executing large transnational deals with her legal team. The deals include the issuance of commercial papers worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the US and in 2010 a 20-year sales agreement with Resourcehouse, the Australian coal and iron-ore project developer worth $60bn and Australia’s largest export contract at the time. Prior to her current position Xu worked for China’s Ministry of Finance where she was recognised as an “Excellent Enterprise Counsel” by the state-owned Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council for her work in managing documents related to the reform of state owned assets. Xu has also been a partner and a lawyer of Beijing Han Hua Law Firm. She gained her bachelor degree in politics from the China University of Political Science and Law and an LLM from Peking University.
A large global conglomerate with an extremely diversified portfolio of interests, Honeywell is perhaps most notable for its high tech solutions for the engineering, defence and aerospace sectors. The company’s multi-billion dollar revenue stream is drawn in significant part through its Asia Pacific operations, making it a key region for the company. Gerard Willis is general counsel for Honeywell’s Asia Pacific region, which is headquartered in Shanghai, and has adapted to the local market since moving from the US. Willis has stated in the past that negotiation skills assume greater prominence in Asia Pacific when compared to the West, and has made this an integral focus of his strategy for successful contract work in the region. He has also made efforts to reorganise the company in response to the general slowdown of the Chinese economy, with the company now aligned via a new set of business units that carry out their own macroeconomic forecasting. This has also meant rationalising and rethinking non-core business assets, along with increasing capital in core markets and making more efforts to engage in joint ventures where possible, in line with what Willis believes to be a global trend back towards this approach.
Established as a high-achiever after an excellent legal and business education at Cambridge University and Harvard Business School, and with what has been described by one source as ‘an intimidatingly good CV’, Yong Kai Wong set his sights on conquering the in-house legal market. Among other high-profile roles, Wong has been associate general counsel with APG Asset management, one of the three largest pension funds in the world, a period that he mentions as a career highlight due to the ‘work ethic, culture and institutional values’ of the company. From here, he moved on to his current company CITIC Capital in December 2012. He is now managing director, head of legal and compliance, a broad role that requires an appreciation ‘of both micro and macro factors’, along with being ‘at or near the cutting edge on legal and practical matters’. As part of his ‘most challenging role to date’, Wong has supported CITIC Capital through a number of complex deals with major players in the Chinese business landscape including Alibaba, FocusMedia and Asiainfo-Linkage. These deals are testament to the ‘execution-driven approach’ that he has helped to foster whilst here. On top of his technical skills, sources also point to Wong’s ‘excellent personal communication skills and reputation for an exceptional work ethic’, which is borne out by the improvements he has made to the legal team’s internal workings in the four years he has been with CITIC. Wong explains that he briefs his team to ‘be proud of what [they] do’ and take charge of ‘the commercial aspect’ of their work, which has led to ‘a more cohesive team as a whole’. Wong believes that many in-house counsel should focus on their main objective of adding value to their company. ‘The legal profession should realise that a lot of issues are not purely legal or purely commercial, and the reality is that laws are meant to facilitate commerce or economic relationships. What we should do is push forward and see what we can do to drive and create value for the business’.
Jerry Xia is deputy general counsel and chief intellectual property (IP) counsel – Asia Pacific at Honeywell, a US conglomerate with almost $40bn in global revenue. In this role, Xia manages a range of IP matters for every Honeywell business operating in the Asia Pacific region with his team of nine based in Shanghai and Beijing. In addition to successfully adapting to tough regulations such as the PRC Patent Law and Patent Law Implementing Regulations, Xia also has a particularly strong record of leading the company’s IP enforcement and litigation in China. Through his achievements at Honeywell since 2007 Xia is ‘widely recognised and respected in the local and international IP community’. He is listed by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) as an “IP Expert” in the industry and information technology field and has been the recipient of a series of industry awards for his work on landmark cases. He credits his achievements in managing high profile cases in part to ‘designing and implementing effective internal processes that fit our business operations to manage our IP portfolios under a clearly set strategy for IP protection’. Prior to his current position, Xia worked in the Hong Kong and Shanghai offices of the international law firm of Baker McKenzie, practicing all aspects of Chinese IP law between 2004 and 2007. Prior to that, he was a legal manager at Datang Mobile, a renowned telecom technology leader and equipment supplier, and also worked for the Sino-Europe Technology Transfer Center in the Netherlands.
Since joining Tiens Group, an international conglomerate that develops a diverse range of healthcare products, in 2012 Dr. Chenyang Xie has played an integral role in the company’s most significant developments. Through ‘thorough legal research and diligent follow-up’ Xie led his team successfully to settle a tough commercial dispute between a leading British bank and Tiens’ UK subsidiary, recovering the full amount of £11m for the company. In another important case for Tiens, Xie and his team won an important litigation at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, highlighting ‘much negotiation with local legal institutions, abundant proof and unremitting effort’ as the some of the reasons for the success. Under his stewardship, the Tiens legal department has become focused on preliminary risk control to greatly reduce disputes and the related remedial measures. To manage the national anti-corruption policy Xie built a new compliance system, developed a risk supervision system, as well as creating a Rewards and Penalties Committee. Xie has supported Tiens’ overseas expansion plans by registering new subsidiaries in 18 new countries. He says that ‘as the GC, I provide the all-around legal support, study the local relevant legal policies, and do the field trips on local cultures, to advise and to mitigate risk. Up to now, with our hard work, 18 overseas subsidiaries have been successfully registered in new countries. With the expanding new overseas market, we are required to timely focus on overseas policy changes, pay attention to market surveys and adapt the local policy. Therefore, it can ensure that our business operation runs smoothly’. Prior to joining Tiens, Xie was the head of legal at China Grand Enterprises between 2010 and 2011 and the general legal counsel for the North China division at Intech Group for three years before that.
China National Chartering Co., known as Sinochart, is an operator in the international maritime transportation industry and the largest non-vessel operation carrier in China. Its major business covers the import and export of general cargoes such as iron ore and coal. As deputy general manager and general counsel of the company, Naiqun Xing oversees the company’s dry bulk cargo shipping business and operations, and is particularly distinguished for her ‘excellent performance’ in handling a large quantity of maritime disputes. She has handled over 1,000 cases mainly relating to disputes over charter parties and bills of lading, but also including matters such as early redelivery, extension, withdrawal, off hire, over-consumption and under-performance, demurrage and cargo damage. According to one source, ‘Ms. Xing has accumulated rich experience through various cases. Since most cases were submitted to arbitration, Ms. Xing is knowledgeable about arbitration procedure, especially the procedure of London. Relying on past experience and professional background, she has successfully settled many disputes’. In addition to her role at Sinochart, Xing also plays an important role in the associations and committees of the industry, by being an arbitrator of the China Maritime Arbitration Commission, a member of Council of China Maritime Law association (CMLA) and a member of London Maritime Arbitrators Association’s Supporting Members Liaison Committee (Asia Pacific). Summing up the business-focused value Xing offers, one nominator describes her as ‘able to develop brilliant technical solutions to complex issues, create innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward and provide a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow’. Prior to joining Sinochart in 1991, Xing accumulated experience by working in various roles for the company’s parent Sinotrans, China’s largest logistics company, immediately after acquiring her bachelor’s degree in law from Dalian Maritime University in 1989.
Known as a banking specialist, Gu Ya Jing has been head of the PRC legal team at BNP Paribas since 2005. Throughout her career Ya Jing believes that she has ‘obtained great experience in dispute resolution’ and in ‘the negotiation and structuring of big project financing’, while supporting the operations of both BNP and a major Chinese state-owned bank. Ya Jing has also made significant operational improvements to the internal workings of the BNP Paribas legal team since joining, explaining that her adoption of a legal database for the department has streamlined routine work through ‘drafting various templates’ and creating ‘legal guidance notes’. In a ‘more aggressive’ business environment, Ya Jing has prioritised ‘face-to-face conversations’ within the department that have allowed the ‘legal department and business to understand each other better [in order to] come up with solutions’. Ya Jing’s relationship with senior management is exceptionally strong, based on her successful combination of legal and business skills: ‘I always provide clear advice to [the CEO’s office] whenever necessary, and also seek their advice from [a] business perspective’ to ensure that projects are executed correctly. If providing the benefit of her experience to up-and-coming in-house counsel, Ya Jing advises that they should attempt to ‘learn and change’ above all else. ‘We cannot stop learning’, she explains, ‘since there are so many new things going on each day [and] the legal environment is changing all the time’. Ya Jing is positive about the future of in-house counsel, believing that companies in China could improve their operations significantly if the profession was ‘more respected’ and provided more opportunity to showcase their skills.
State-owned Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC Group) is the holding company of several automobile and machine manufacturers, located in Beijing, China. With over 2.25 million vehicles manufactured in 2014, BAIC Group was the fourth largest Chinese producer among its domestic rivals. Sun Yanchen, general counsel, has led on a series of important strategic activities as the group continues to expand its operations. For example, when BAIC Group purchased Saab’s technology from General Motors for $200m, the Chinese car maker was able to roll out Saab-based cars from 2011 onwards, a crucial milestone at the time. In recent years Yanchen has continued to expertly navigate international corporate deals for BAIC, overseeing transactions ranging from acquisitions, joint ventures and initial public offerings. Some of the landmark pieces of work that Yanchen has completed include raising $1.4bn for an IPO ahead of BAIC Group’s Hong Kong listing (2014) and the restructuring of Beijing Benz, a joint venture between BAIC Group and Daimler AG (2016). Despite such a prolific few years of corporate activity, Yanchen is also distinguished for his dispute resolution and intellectual property work for the company.
After joining the legal team at Chinese international conglomerate and investment company Fosun in 2010, Xu Yao rose through the ranks quickly to assume the position of general counsel of the international legal team four years later. After the team merged with the domestic legal team in February 2016, Xu was appointed general counsel for the entire Fosun Group. Under his leadership, the department has transformed into an ‘international, professional and passionate’ legal team, with around 30 lawyers. Since 2013, Xu and the team have successfully concluded deals worth over $37bn, including the $1.4bn acquisition of Fidelidade, and $725m purchase of One Chase Manhattan Plaza in 2015. As Fosun continues to invest across the globe, Xu has set up a team of international legal talents with dual-qualifications to fulfil the company expansion plans as well as combat the challenge of a domestic economy that has recently slowed. He says ‘managing a good team consisting of excellent lawyers is not only dependent on money but also relys on team cohesiveness. Make your team members happy and they will be willing to work with you’.
China National Aviation Holding (CNAH) is the 100% shareholder of China Air, the flag carrier of China and an enormous aviation organisation that boasts a fleet of almost 400 aircraft. In addition to this, CNAH holds a controlling stake in a number of other airlines, including Macau Air, and a minority stake in China Eastern Airlines. Nie Ying, general counsel of CNAH, is an aviation law expert who has used his more than 20 years of research and professional experience to help shape the Chinese aviation sector into its current form. He was previously an adjunct professor of Civil Aviation at the University of China, is the current vice president of China Law Society’s Aviation Law Research Centre and has had a key role in drafting Chinese aviation legislation. Nie’s resume is one with few equals in the field, but some particular career highlights are worth emphasising. For example, he led Air China’s investigative body in their analysis of the 2002 crash of Air China Flight 129 in Busan in 2002, which resulted in 129 fatalities and required an incredibly thorough eight-month investigation, at the end of which a comprehensive compensation scheme was agreed upon for those affected by the disaster. Nie also had a major role to play in Air China’s response to an antitrust case brought by the United States Department of Justice in regards to freight pricing arrangements. Along with these high-profile cases, Nie tackles employment law matters, such as employee work scheduling, and deals with a wide range of arbitration and dispute cases. The range and complexity of the challenges that Nie has successfully faced, along with the huge contributions he has made to the practice of aviation law in China, mark him out as one of the leading aviation legal experts in China and globally.
China Grand Enterprises is a former state-owned enterprise whose business interests now cover healthcare, real estate, financial services and trade. It is also the parent company of three publicly traded companies: drug maker China Grand Pharmaceutical, pharmaceutical wholesaler Huadong Medicine, and port operator Jiangsu Lianyungang Port. Shi Yingchun has served the company as legal president for over seven years and is credited with establishing the legal management model to cover China Grand Enterprises’ major projects as well as its business administration affairs, stock equity management, intellectual property management and security operations management. He has also been commended for his efforts in enhancing and standardising the contract management and review systems and for his expertise in the NASDAQ listing and de-listing process. Another of Shi’s major contributions was during the work associated with the acquisition of large international companies and domestic enterprises, including companies across Europe, Latin America and the US. Not only has Shi played an important role in M&A deals, but he has also saved China Grand Enterprises substantial potential losses by resolving challenging litigation and disputes involving the company and its subsidiaries. Before his current role, Shi had spells as a partner in Beijing ShiChen Law Firm, legal manager at Century 21 China Headquarters, and the vice director and partner in Shandong JuePing Law Firm. Over the course of 20 years, effectively applying legal theory with business management has been a key feature of his legal work.
In his nearly 30 years working in the Sinochem legal team, Lemin Yu has witnessed the transformation of China’s economy from the front row. Indeed, as one of the pioneers who helped the company gain an understanding of international legal regimes, Yu has played his own part in the story. Shortly after joining Sinochem – now a major player in the distribution of petrochemicals and the exploration and production of oil – Yu was seconded to phosphate producer US Agri-Chemicals Corporation. The company became a division of Sinochem in 1989, marking one of the first major Chinese outbound investments. Yu’s time at US Agri-Chemicals Corporation and his subsequent involvement in the acquisition gave him invaluable experience on how to approach international legal and business processes. When Sinochem’s legal affairs were devolved to a new department operating independently from the executive office in 1995, Yu was handed the position of deputy general manager. He has since played a major role in building the legal team and educating it in international deal structures and documentation. Renowned for his expertise in corporate and commercial law, Yu has overseen the acquisition of billions of dollars in assets, helping Sinochem to become an internationally-facing company that owns hundreds of global subsidiaries and controls a number of listed entities. He was appointed to his current position as general counsel in 2013.
Zhao Yugao’s career with FAW Group stretches back to 1987, when he first became part of the legal affairs department, attached to the economic planning division. He was promoted to deputy sector chief in 1992. Zhao’s career at FAW has had a steady upward trajectory since then, becoming director of the finance department’s legal team in 1994, deputy director of the overall legal affairs office in 2002 and general counsel and director of the overall legal office in 2007. Zhao’s time at FAW Group has seen major changes to the company, including achieving the status of being the second largest automobile manufacturer in China by 2008, on the back of high profile joint ventures with overseas majors such as Toyota and General Motors. This trend has continued, and Zhao has been involved in finalising a 10 year growth plan with long term joint venture partner Audi. This will see the companies work together to produce, among other products, five new models of Audi’s “E-Tron” series of electric and hybrid cars, helping to meet growing demand within China.
With an annual revenue of approximately $39bn, Dalian Wanda Group is the world’s biggest private property developer and the world’s largest cinema chain operator. Wang Yunan joined the multinational Chinese conglomerate in 2004 and after successful periods in various senior roles was appointed to his current position of group vice president and general manager of its legal affairs center. In this role he leads a team of 35 legal professionals separated into a group legal affairs department, commercial real estate legal affairs department, cultural group legal affairs department and financial group legal compliance department. Wang’s efforts in leading his team to review and standardise the company’s business contracts were highly commended internally but were almost overshadowed by his successful involvement in a number of major commercial negotiations for the company. One such example was Dalian Wanda’s agreement with IHG in Beijing to invest a total of RMB 15bn in order to build three international hospitals in Shanghai, Chengdu and Qingdao. Making distinguished international deals has been a hallmark of Wang’s tenure at Dalian Wanda Group: for example he concluded the acquisition of Fairfax House in Sydney in a multi-billion dollar deal in January 2015. That same month he completed a deal which saw the company acquire a 20% stake in Atlético Madrid, the Spanish football club, as part of the company’s plan to diversify its assets portfolio. 2015 was in fact a particularly prolific year for Wang who later oversaw Dalian Wanda’s $650m takeover of World Triathlon Corporation and 100% acquisition of HG Holdco, Australia’s second largest cinema chain. The following year, the company acquired Legendary Entertainment for $3.5bn, in one of the five biggest Chinese investments into the US in 2016.
Sandy Yung, group general counsel of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), has spent two decades of his distinguished legal career with Hong Kong headquartered real estate giant Sun Hung Kai Properties. His rise within the group has been meteoric. He was made an executive director in 2009, placing him among the most important individuals at the company. In addition to his legal responsibilities, Yung takes care of company secretarial duties and has a large role to play in business strategy, risk management and compliance efforts, highlighting his broad skillset. This, and the vast technical and organisational legal knowledge that he has amassed through 20 years at one of the world’s premier real estate companies, means Yung must be counted as among the top corporate counsel in Hong Kong. He is also distinguished by his triple legal qualification: after qualifying in Hong Kong in 1987, Yung was admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 1991, and as an advocate and solicitor in Singapore in 1995.
State-owned Sinotrans is the largest freight logistics company in China, with around 66,000 employees and revenue approaching $12bn. Its operations include rail, road, air and shipping transport, providing the full range of logistics services. Given the broad portfolio of operations and supply chains to oversee, it is unsurprising that Sinotrans’ general counsel Yang Yuntao is a versatile business leader with a wealth of experience. Educated to Ph.D. level in International Business Law, Yang has held a number of positions since 1988, including a role as vice general manager of the port department and general manager of the legal department of China National Foreign Trade Transportation (Group) Corporation, before transferring to Sinotrans where he has risen up the ranks to his current position. Sinotrans undertook an extensive restructure of its subsidiaries in 2015, which required oversight and due diligence work to be undertaken by Yang’s legal department. The move was a success, and saw the company return to profit. More recently, the company was taken over by China Merchants Holding, resulting in a renewed focus on logistics rather than its broader portfolio. Yang has been heavily involved in the reorganisation of the company during a transitional time.
After 11 successful years at CNOOC, Leslie Zhang Weihua joined United Energy Group (UEG), the fourth largest oil and gas company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in September 2016. As vice president and general counsel Zhang is primarily responsible for business development, legal team management and listed company compliance management for UEG. With UEG actively seeking M&A opportunities on a global basis, Zhang’s enviable M&A experience from CNOOC – where he led its $15.1bn acquisition of Nexen, the largest overseas M&A deal ever made by a Chinese company – will play a pivotal role in the company’s planned expansion. To facilitate this growth he is already taking steps to establish a legal team that can help the group to operate globally. To continuously improve the breadth of experience held by team members, Zhang has incorporated a rotation program, knowledge management system and has included his in-house counsel in M&A deals from the very start of the transaction. The changes that Zhang has implemented in a short space of time have significantly increased the work efficiency of the legal team, allowed them to deliver better value to the management by improving their commercial sensitivity, and strengthened the working relationships among the in-house team in different jurisdictions. This operational efficiency has already brought a 15% reduction in legal expenses. He has also already established a close working relationship with UEG’s CEO. As Zhang says ‘to maintain a close relationship with chairman/CEO is very helpful to think from a management perspective, which enables the general counsel or the in-house team to deliver better legal opinions. Understanding the ideas and thoughts of the chairman/CEO and other senior management can assist in-house counsel to think “beyond legal”. Only in that way, should the in-house team provide value-added services to the client’.
Since joining the Chinese arm of Qualcomm, a US multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company that is the world’s largest mobile chip maker, Bin Zhao has become known in the industry for the expert handling of the company’s legal and intellectual property matters. Faced with tough antitrust regulations, like other large foreign technology companies, Zhao has been instrumental in establishing a thorough and comprehensive compliance programme capable of meeting China’s strict laws on anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-trust. As an in-house lawyer strongly involved in the company’s overall management, Zhao has been part of Qualcomm’s most recent successes. Among his significant achievements are his modification of internal controls for document management at company offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and the establishment of a multi-million dollar R&D centre in Shanghai in 2010. More recently, in November 2016, he played a significant role in the company’s agreement with Tencent for a strategic relationship that includes a joint innovation centre designed to drive advances in mobile gaming and entertainment. According to numerous sources he is extensively involved in the company’s administration, compliance operations, risk management, trade services and corporate social responsibility. He looks set to play a key role in an upcoming patent infringement claim that the company has brought against Meizu, with the aim of recovering over CNY 520m in compensation.
French multinational energy management company Schneider Electric has had operations in China since 1987 and has invested over RMB 3bn in that period. Allen Zhou joined the company in 2009 as vice president and general counsel for the Greater China region. In the role, Zhou has recruited approximately 30 professionals into his team who he encouraged to become subject matter experts. He has also led the team through a number of successful M&A, real estate and intellectual property activities. In addition to setting up the company’s internal policies and procedures for risk management and control, Zhou and his team have gained particular recognition for their role in integrating a number of high profile M&A transactions including the global acquisition of Invensys worth over $5bn in 2013. Guided by Zhou, the team has recovered hundreds of millions of yuan in investment through the restructuring of joint ventures and successfully handling hundreds of counterfeiting and trademark infringement cases. For Zhou, solid legal and financial knowledge, outstanding business acumen and management skills are key traits of successful general counsel. Prior to his role at Schneider Electric, Zhou was a partner at Paul Hastings for one year after spells as general counsel at GE Capital China and Xinhua Finance. Outside of the office, he has spoken at number of legal conferences, been recognised with industry awards and has a strong presence in the in-house legal community.
With a varied career that has seen him take on a number of interesting roles, Alex Chen has been general counsel of Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Corporation (SIPC) since June 2016. Beginning his career working for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce while still undertaking his Bachelor’s degree in Law, Chen eventually jooines Sinopec as a legal assistant in January 2005. By March 2007 he was made a senior legal advisor, and continued his meteoric rise at the company by being made legal department manager for SIPC’s Middle Eastern office in 2008, a role which he undertook for almost seven years. He was then made general counsel for the Middle East and North Africa region, becoming a senior economist by the end of this period. This is indicative of Chen’s versatile nature and ability to master a range of disciplines, also highlighted by his triple Master’s degrees in EU Law, International Law and Project Finance, M&A and Regulations, gained at institutions in France, China and the United States. Chen speaks fondly of the first deal he completed with Sinopec, remembering that he ‘learned the complexity of oil deals, interaction between oil and politics, and the high-stakes involved’ in these transactions. He has also taken on responsibility for the development of individuals within the legal team, explaining that he ‘created and implemented a “SWAN” program, which is [used] to train young lawyers at Sinopec in “Socializing, Writing, Analyzing and Negotiation”, four core skills I believe essential for any oil and gas lawyer’. When dealing with chronically low oil prices, Chen prizes a pragmatic approach across the company. ‘You need to invest in a more careful way’, he explains, ’have more attention to the transaction structure, and negotiate harder to get better deals’. One area, however, is often immune to budget cuts within Chen’s legal team: ‘We also need to keep a closer eye on the legal budget, with a probable exception of legal training, which is worthy of investment at almost any time’.
Happy New Year to you all! First of all we want to congratulate you on behalf of Zhong Lun Law Firm on your inclusion in the first ever GC Powerlist China and Hong Kong 2017, and extend to you our heartfelt new year’s greetings. As co-host of this publication, we feel honoured and deeply grateful for the opportunities we have had to work with top-notch businesses such as yours.
Facing rapidly growing complexity in legal work, general counsels across the globe have accumulated widespread recognition for their innovative approaches, management savvy and trendsetting abilities. You and your peers are not only the reliable providers of timely and seamless in-house legal services, but also the driving force in the construction of internal supervision and risk management mechanism, the business transformation, the safeguarding of the businesses and the improvement of the competitive strengths of the companies. It’s not farfetched to say that your work has given us a better business climate and your success paves the way for our success.
The competition is getting fiercer, while your dedication and spirit of enterprise makes you the forerunners in the industry, we believe that your companies take pride in your amazing achievements and that you will grasp every opportunity this era presents, shoulder even more social responsibilities and make even greater contributions to China’s legal reform.
As headline sponsor, Zhong Lun was one of the first batch of partnership law firms approved to be established by the Ministry of Justice, and one of the largest full-service law firms in China. The firm practices in 21 areas, including capital markets/securities, real estate, private equity and venture capital, corporate/foreign direct investment, mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, dispute resolution and intellectual property. Committed to providing comprehensive and integrated legal support for our clients’ business activities, our firm, headquartered in Beijing, has offices in 15 cities around the world, with nine mainland offices (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Qingdao and Hangzhou) and six overseas outfits (Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco).
Since 2013, Zhong Lun has won more than 300 awards with its business strength, excellent market performance and outstanding client services. For five consecutive years (2012-2016), it has been the Chinese law firm with the highest number of practice areas ranked by Chambers, including the highest number of practice areas with Band 1 rankings, and the PRC law firm with the highest number of recommended lawyers. In 2015, it was named Corporate & Finance China PRC Law Firm of the Year by Chambers. In 2016, it won The Lawyer’s Asia Law Firm of the Year award. In 2015, the firm was crowned PRC Law Firm of the Year by International Financial Law Review. For two years running (2015- 2016), Zhong Lun was named by Asian Legal Business (ALB) as one of the Top 10 Law Firms in China and it was named by ALB as China Employer of Choice in 2013-2014 and 2016. For three consecutive years (2013-2015), Zhong Lun was also ranked the Best Overall PRC Law Firm by China Business Law Journal. In September 2016 it won ten awards at the China Law & Practice Awards, including China Firm of the Year and Pro Bono Initiatives of the Year, making it one of the most decorated law firms among all participating firms. Last year, Zhong Lun was ranked first among the Top 20 Chinese Law Firms and named Legal Pioneer for Internationalisation by Phoenix Global Affairs Unit. Besides this, Zhong Lun has won more than 70 awards for various deals. Our major deals include the Shanghai Disney Resort project, JD’s acquisition of Tencent’s e-commerce business, Focus Media’s privatisation, Vanke and Blackstone’s joint venture, the establishment of China Railway Development Fund and its first phase of fundraising, Hewlett-Packard and Unisplendour’s US$2.5bn collaboration, WuXi AppTec’s privatisation, Ping An Insurance Group’s acquisition of Autohome shares from Telstra Corp, Bank of China (Hong Kong)’s Panda bond issuance, acquisition of OmniVision Technologies by a Chinese private equity consortium, the Thar II development project in Pakistan, to name a few.
We wish you all a more prosperous and fruitful 2017!
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