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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: Southeast Asia, 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 Southeast Asia, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: Southeast Asia 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: Southeast Asia, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Southeast Asia 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: Southeast Asia
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Head of legal and compliance Asia
Idrus bin Ismail
Chief legal and compliance officer and company secretary
Izhar bin Ismail
Senior general manager (legal services)
Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia
Muzafar bin Munzir
Senior group general counsel
UMW Holdings, Malaysia
Farah Suhanah Binti
Group legal counsel
IOI Corporation, Malaysia
Fina Norhizah binti Haji Baharu Zaman
Senior general manager of legal and corporate secretarial affairs
Gita Tiffany Boer
Chief corporate secretary and group general counsel
PT Astra International, Indonesia
PT Hutchison 3 Indonesia
Associate general counsel and director of corporate, external and legal affairs – Asia Pacific and Japan
Senior vice president and head of legal
Dole Asia, Philippines
Senior regional counsel – Asia Pacific operations
British American Tobacco, Singapore
General counsel, head of government affairs and data protection offficer
Head of legal
Expedia Asia, Singapore
General counsel, Southeast Asia
Director and legal advisor
Managing director, head of legal for Southeast Asia
Morgan Stanley, Singapore
Lee Chin Tok
Group general counsel
CIMB group, Malaysia
Chief commercial officer and general counsel
Minor International, Thailand
Suit Mae Choo
Group general counsel
Sime Darby, Malaysia
RMA Group, Thailand
Joel Angelo Cruz
General counsel, corporate secretary and chief compliance officer
Legal vice president
Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, Philippines
Peter De Neef
Business developer and chief legal officer
Senior executive vice president – head of compliance and legal management group
Krungthai Bank, Thailand
Indosat Ooredoo, Indonesia
Djamel El Akra
Legal and compliance manager
General counsel and chief compliance officer
Dymon Asia Capital, Singapore
Maria Teresa Fabiola
Senior legal manager
Kalbe International and PT Bintang Toedjoe, Indonesia
Loo Hwee Fang
Group general counsel and company secretary
Yoma Strategic Holdings, Singapore
Chee Fei Meng
Regional head group legal wholesale banking and group asset management and investments
CIMB Group, Malaysia
Senior vice president and general counsel, international
Director of legal and regulatory
edotco Group, Myanmar
Chief legal counsel Asia
Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Singapore
Corporate legal head
Digi Telecommunications, Malaysia
General counsel, Indonesia
General counsel, corporate secretary, compliance officer and corporate governance group head
Ayala Corporation, Philippines
Swire Pacific Offshore, Singapore
General manager, legal
Toyota Motor Asia Pacific, Singapore
Bunge asia, Singapore
General counsel and director, legal, government relations and communications
Chevron International, Singapore
Vice president, legal and compliance department
Senior executive vice president and head of the general counsel group
Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand
Head of legal and assistant general manager, Asia Pacific (excluding China)
Raiffeisen Bank International, Singapore
Group head, legal and general counsel
SapuraKencana Petroleum, Malaysia
Legal director, South Asia and Korea
General counsel, Southeast Asia
Cluster Legal Director (Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos)
Head of legal
Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), Singapore
General counsel wealth management – Asia Pacific
General counsel, Asia Pacific
Sumitomo Electric Industries, Thailand
General counsel and company secretary
Executive vice president office of corporate legal
Senior legal counsel
Country legal lead
General counsel – Asia
Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, Singapore
Elma Christine Leogardo
Vice president – legal department and head, corporate advisory services
Filinvest Land Incorporated, Philippines
General counsel, Asia Pacific
GE Power Services, Malaysia
Regional legal director
Heineken Asia Pacific, Singapore
Head of legal – Asia Pacific
Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Singapore
General counsel, group company secretary and executive vice president, corporate communications and corporate social responsibility
Singapore Press Holdings
Anna Michelle Llovido
Corperate counsel and legal manager
Emperador Distillers, Philippines
Xae Hoyy Loh
Group legal counsel
Gold Coin Group, Malaysia
Vice president and associate general counsel, Asia Pacific
Mead Johnson Nutrition, Singapore
Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), Singapore
Senior vice president, head of legal
SM Investments Corporation, Philippines
Group head of legal
Vice president legal and government relations
Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines
René Mario Scherr
General counsel, South Asia, East Asia and Oceania
Tetra Pak, Thailand
General counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary
MAXpower Group, Indonesia
Regional general counsel, Asia Pacific
General counsel, Asia Pacific
Thuy Minh Lai
Country legal counsel
General manager and head of legal & compliance
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Singapore
Diageo Asia Pacific, Singapore
Viet Nguyen Tien
Vietinbank Aviva Life Insurance, Vietnam
Dag Ove Solsvik
Head of legal, Asia Pacific
DNV GL, Singapore
PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja Palembang, Indonesia
Alix Parlour Grice
Vice president regional counsel, Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific
Executive vice president legal
B.Grimm Power, Vietnam
Vice president and general counsel, Asia Pacific
Amadeus IT Group, Thailand
Director – legal counsel
BNP Paribas, Singapore
Senior legal counsel and managing director
Group general counsel and head of risk
Vice president and general counsel – Asia
Procter & Gamble, Singapore
CT Corp indonesia
Maria Lourdes Rausa-Chan
Senior vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary, chief governance officer, corporate affairs and legal services head
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Philippines
General counsel, Asia Pacific
Senior director legal and government affairs
Goldman Sachs, Singapore
Head of legal
Su Puay Leng
Head of legal
Maxis Berhad, Malaysia
Group head of legal
Bank Mandiri (Persero), Indonesia
Country legal head
ABN AMRO Bank Singapore
Director for compliance, legal and risk management
Bank Central Asia, Indonesia
Gim Boon Tan
Group general counsel
Axiata Group, Malaysia
Vice president, legal and corporate secretariat
SMRT Corporation, Singapore
Lam Vu Thao
Head of legal, patents and compliance
Chief counsel Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa
Aon Hewitt, Singapore
Chief legal officer
Philippine Gold Processing & Refining Corporation, Philippines
Chief legal officer
Novaland Group, Vietnam
Legal vice president
Lion Super Indo, Indonesia
Chief legal counsel, chief compliance officer and company secretary
Del Monte Pacific, Philippines
Associate general counsel
Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company, Philippines
Kwong Weng Wan
Group general counsel and managing director
Mapletree INVESTMENTS, Singapore
Head of legal, Singapore and Southeast Asia
Brunei National Petroleum Company
General legal counsel
Advanced Info Services (AIS), Thailand
Associate general counsel, Asia Pacific
Legal director and general counsel
General Motors Indonesia, Indonesia
Richard Ancrum is head of legal and compliance for Asia at international reinsurance company PartnerRe. He relocated to Singapore in 2016 to further develop his focus on the region, becoming the company’s most senior Asia-based lawyer. He is known for both his ‘attention to detail and out of the box thinking’, and has experience working in London, Australia and Singapore. Ancrum says this international experience has ‘been invaluable in terms of developing an understanding of different legal regimes’ and he has made several changes to the legal department at PartnerRe to meet the challenge of operating globally in a highly regulated market. Moving from being a ‘reactive non-Asian based function to one that is physically present and involved with the day-to-day Asian business operations’, Ancrum has overseen the workings of the legal team to better reflect its business model. He enjoys a close relationship and direct access to PartnerRe’s CEO for Asia, and is aware that such changes have to be made with the business in mind. Ancrum describes the changes he has implemented as ‘strengthening the governance and compliance framework around the operating entity and striving to ensure that there is minimal impact to the underlying business operations’. According to Ancrum, defending the company against a backdrop of both a rapidly evolving regulatory framework within Asia and increasingly widespread protectionist measures at a national level requires ‘creative thinking’. Stressing the consultative role of the legal function, he says the legal function ‘cannot be a walk-over rubber stamp function and situations will arise where the in-house lawyer needs to adopt a firm position which may not necessarily be supported by the business’.
With operations dating back to 1946, Telekom Malaysia is the leading telecommunications company in Malaysia and is ranked as one of the top 20 companies in the country. When he assumed his current role in January 2010, Idrus bin Ismail brought over 30 years of experience to Telekom Malaysia. He has worked in-house in both conventional and Islamic financial institutions and has held a number of high-profile positions, including company secretary of the CIMB Group and senior counsel of Islamic Banking and Finance in a major corporate law practice. In addition to his comprehensive legal and managerial skill, Idrus bin Ismail is jointly certified by the Malaysian Anticorruption Commission and the Malaysian Institute of Integrity, underlining his dedication and all-round professionalism.
Izhar bin Ismail has been the senior general manager of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) for the last seven years. He started his career as a litigation lawyer with Messrs Skrine in 1991 and subsequently joined Messrs Zaid Ibrahim & Co in 1995, specialising in construction and engineering law, highway privatisation projects (both domestically and internationally) and statutory drafting. His current role at TNB requires him to be involved in various aspects of the core generation, transmission and distribution businesses of TNB as a utility company with a primary interest in power. He is a contributor to the first edition of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) Conditions of Subcontract for Construction 2011, for which his efforts received special acknowledgement.
When Muzafar bin Munzir joined Malaysia-based global industrials company UMW in 2010 he brought 20 years of experience in private practice as both an advocate and solicitor to the role. In utilising this extensive experience, he has since become an integral part of the company’s leadership and is, in the words of one nominator, ‘among the most respected corporate counsel in the country’. As one of Malaysia’s largest private companies and an important component of the wider Asean industrials market, UMW relies on its legal team to remain commercially strong while delivering on its commitment to act with integrity. By ‘acting at the highest levels of ethical and business guidance’, Muzafar bin Munzir has helped UMW to meet its objectives in this way and continue to be at the forefront of the industrials sector in the region.
Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji boasts over 26 years of legal and commercial expertise across the Malaysian and international legal and regulatory sector, as well as the oil and gas, telecommunications and satellite industries. Currently Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji is in charge of the legal department of IOI Corporation, a diversified group with core businesses in palm oil plantations, palm oil downstream manufacturing, property development and investment. Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji and her team are tasked with supporting the legal affairs of a business, whose operations span over Malaysia, Singapore, China, the Netherlands and the USA. Described as an open and flexible lawyer, she has showcased an ability to deliver solutions that are specific to the evolving needs of her internal customers. Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji was previously employed as general counsel at the Malaysian telecommunications business MEASAT Global for over 10 years. Parallel to that Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji operated her own private practice firm. Between 1996 and 2002, Farah Suhanah Binti Ahmad Sarji worked in private practice at ZICO Law.
Fina Norhizah binti Haji Baharu Zaman serves as senior general manager of the legal corporate secretarial affairs of MISC Berhad, Malaysia’s largest international shipping line. She started her legal career in private practice with the Malaysian attorney general chambers, served as senior federal counsel and as the legal advisor to the ministry of transport. She was admitted as a solicitor of the high court of Malaya in 1986 and was a lecturer in law at the International Islamic University, Malaysia from 1985 to 1988. A specialist in maritime and shipping law, she has previously served as head of logistics and maritime business for Petronas. Fina Norhizah binti Haji Baharu Zaman also serves as a director at UMW Oil & Gas Berhad.
Gita Tiffany Boer is the chief corporate secretary and group general counsel for PT Astra International, one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates. The company’s presence in a number of sectors – from extractives to manufacturing to IT – creates an unusual degree of complexity for its legal team, and nominators were emphatic that Boer has been among Indonesia’s finest in-house strategists. Boer joined the company in 2011 and has become an important part of its risk mitigation and decision-making structure. Before moving in-house, Boer was a partner at Mochtar Karuwin Komar – one of Indonesia’s largest firms – where she specialised in the areas of capital markets, M&A and a wide range of banking and finance work. She has written on securitisation in Indonesia for a global financial publication and has been a member of the Association of Indonesian Legal Consultants.
Frederic Brion has worked on many pioneering projects in Southeast Asia throughout his career in the telecommunications sector. During his decade-long tenure as general counsel at his current employer, Hutchison 3 Indonesia, one of Indonesia’s fastest growing telecommunications services providers, Brion has participated in the first sale and lease back of telecom assets (worth $1.2bn) in Southeast Asia and has worked on the world’s two largest telecoms contracts. Brion shares that the key to his success has been his willingness to work in new locations and his openness to other cultures, ‘What moulded me as the legal professional I am today, is the combination of a vast knowledge of developing countries at a time where most lawyers wanted to work in Washington, D.C., Paris or London, and a deep interest in interacting with people from very varied backgrounds’. Upon joining Hutchinson in Indonesia in March 2007, Brion discovered a nearly non-existent legal department that the entire company tried to avoid interacting with as much as possible. Thus, at the early stages of his career at the company, Brion spent a considerable amount of time hiring, mentoring and training new employees for his team and instigating positive attitudes from members of his team. He fostered a culture of deep sense of practicality, an interest in matters other than traditional legal matters, an understanding of commercial aspects and impacts. ‘10 years later, my team has grown tremendously in terms of knowledge, interests and way of work’, Brion says, ‘The legal department is very much involved in all aspects of the business, and often leads when it comes to commercial negotiations’. During Brion’s time at Hutchinson his team has remained mostly unchanged over the years in a market where employees tend to change job every 18 months or so. ‘A lot of my staff are being approached by bigger companies with higher salaries (up to two or three times their current salary sometimes) and yet, they decide to stay for the reason that in other companies they would not have the possibilities to learn and they would not get the exposure they get in our legal department’, Brion says. Prior to joining Hutchinson, Brion worked briefly at the international telecommunications business Millicom (owner of the Tigo brand).
Singapore-based Jeff Bullwinkel has led Microsoft’s Asia Pacific legal operations for the last four years. Responsible for a team of over 75 legal and corporate affairs professionals, Bullwinkel supports Microsoft’s businesses in over 30 countries across the region. This includes supporting commercial transactions and providing regulatory counsel to business groups on public policy issues such as intellectual property rights, privacy, internet security and safety, competition, and international trade. He is also responsible for providing legal, corporate affairs and community affairs support for Microsoft’s regional sales, marketing and services organisation and develops regional enforcement strategies aimed at addressing internet safety and cybercrime attacks, intellectual property theft, and compliance issues. Bullwinkel joined Microsoft in 2000 and was initially based in Hong Kong, where he managed the company’s public policy activities in the Asia Pacific region. Prior to joining Microsoft, Bullwinkel was a trial attorney at the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice and at the onset of his career served as an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
Telenor Myanamar is one of the most prominent telecoms companies in the important sector growth-market of Myanmar. Øivind Burdal, senior vice president and head of legal for the company is an experienced telecoms in-house counsel with over 16 years of legal experience, who began his time at Telenor in 2004. Prior to his in-house experience, Burdal had a six year tenure in private practice as senior lawyer at Norwegian law firm Thommessen.
Legal director of Dole Asia for the last six years, Joustine Campaña provides regional legal support to operations in Asia, New Zealand, Australia and the Middle East. He started his career at Dole Asia, the largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetables in the world, in 2006 where he began as a legal manager before being promoted to his current position in 2010. Amongst his responsibilities he manages litigation in the region, providing analysis on trends and related matters, including legal costs and reserves and outside counsel performance. His duties include overseeing administrative and disciplinary hearings concerning employee fraud and misconduct and implementation of human resources policies. His remit also includes investigations relating to alleged violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and anti-terrorism laws. Some of his transactional work sees him covering the review, drafting and negotiation of various commercial contracts and equity and debt restructuring of Philippine subsidiaries and the establishment of legal entities in other countries in the region. Campaña takes the time to develop her team and does this by conducting regular lectures and training of employees on worldwide company policies and proper, ethical business practices. Prior to his in-house experience he worked in private practice with a focus on financial institutions and the coordination of the Philippine government’s revenue generating arms.
‘When you move in-house, you are able to get a hands-on and practical understanding of legal issues, something that is rarely experienced in private practice. While previously the profession in Southeast Asia was considered a sales preventative function, now it is very much part of the business’, says Claire Chan, senior legal counsel responsible for Asia Pacific at British American Tobacco. Chan began her in-house career as legal manager at British American Tobacco in Malaysia, where she provided legal oversight in the fields of marketing, supply chain, regulatory and anti-illicit trade. Following two quick promotions within the function, Chan became corporate secretary and head of legal and security. In addition to successfully overseeing all legal and secretarial matters including but not limited to areas such a corporate commercial and corporate governance, competition law and marketing, Chan transformed the division from a very small unit to a highly effective department, where ‘everything works as clockwork’ and with ‘procedures put in place and no disruptions to processes’. In 2015, Chan moved to Singapore and was given a more challenging and regional portfolio to further stretch her capabilities and skills.
Christopher Chan is an entrepreneurial lawyer with 10 years of diversified legal experience with industry expertise in tech, transportation, logistics, media, e-commerce, consumer goods, food and pharmaceuticals. He currently manages the legal, reputational, and operational risk for a logistics fleet of hundreds of vehicles completing thousands of daily deliveries at online supermarket RedMart. He was recently involved in running the M&A process for the sale of RedMart to the Alibaba-backed e-commerce platform Lazada. Chan is described as an extremely competent and proactive lawyer by peers and is praised an individual who thrives under high pressure and is comfortable working with multiple stakeholders, limited resources and in a fast paced environment. In his current position Chan also leads government relations and is responsible for crisis response and media communications plans with public relations, security, and marketing teams. He has also been responsible for building out all in-house functions from scratch to ensure compliance with employment, workplace safety, tax, food, health safety, environmental, and data protection regulations and has helped secure intellectual property assets and domain name portfolio across Southeast Asia. Previously Chan served as the President of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association and its Educational Foundation.
Over the last three years, the quickly evolving and dynamic digital space has been among the most affected by international regulations. The impact of regulation on the sector has, however, been particularly strong in the Asia Pacific region, where a number of countries have adopted protectionist measures to support local businesses and boost their tax revenues. For GCs in the digital industries, the situation has demanded a well-considered response. Darrell Chan, head of legal at Expedia Asia says: ‘We have had to quickly develop public policy capabilities in order to engage with the regulators, and assuage the concerns that the regulators may have. We have successfully convinced governmental authorities to consider or adopt alternative approaches, either through soft law or by allowing self-regulation, rather than using heavy-handed and overreaching legislation’. Chan joined Expedia Asia in 2014. At the time he was the travel booking company’s only lawyer in the region and had to create structures and processes for its regional operations. He has since built up a legal team for both Expedia and AirAsiaGo. Chan is responsible for various aspects of the company including commercial and operational functions, corporate strategy and business development, regulatory and compliance, as well as company secretarial and corporate governance. He also serves on the Expedia Asia management team and acts as the company’s secretary. Prior to joining Expedia, Chan was senior legal counsel at the Southeast Asia division of global chemicals company BASF, where he oversaw a number of high-impact projects including the negotiation of a joint-venture with a state-owned Chinese oil and gas company to build a world-scale chemical plant in China. However, his roots in digital marketing can be traced back to his time at the Singapore-listed fashion retail and distribution group, F J Benjamin, which he joined in 2005. After an 18 month spell managing one of the brands in F J Benjamin’s portfolio Chan moved into the legal and corporate affairs group as the company’s corporate counsel. He was promoted to the role of group general counsel in 2010 and became head of digital marketing in 2011, where he was responsible for the group’s digital marketing and e-commerce strategy.
Coming from an environment where the perception was very much that ‘lawyers belong in a law firm’, and from a family of lawyers all in private practice, moving in-house was a big step for Anushka Chandra when she joined Bosch Singapore in 2011. Two years later her decision was vindicated when she became its general counsel for Southeast Asia. Chandra found that although the time she had spent in private practice provided her with a strong legal foundation and level of meticulousness, the level of detail and caution she had been used to in private practice was unsuited to a commercial role, and she has become adept at understanding the needs of the business before tailoring advice to suit the situation. Bosch Singapore’s legal department was established in 2010, and within a short space of time, Chandra had shown that it could operate as something other than a cost centre for the business. ‘We made changes to ensure that the legal department would be seen as a business partner and a value-add to support risk management. These changes and enhanced levels of interaction with the business units have changed how the legal department is perceived. The various business units now proactively approach our department for support and look to us to bounce off ideas. They also see the value of our contribution. That’s been a significant change’.
A leading regional financial institution and the fourth largest commercial bank in Thailand, Kasikornbank is a dynamic and demanding place to work as a lawyer. Director and legal advisor Abhijai Chandrasen was appointed in April 2000, and has assumed several positions as a member of human resources and remuneration committees. Chandrasen has accrued knowledge in the financial field and has taken part in a number of qualifications and training programs to refine his knowledge and experience. Other previous positions held by Chandrasen have included his role as director for TPI Polene Power Company and his position as legal adviser for The Chaipattana Foundation. He also spent a spell as director for Siam Motors Company.
A highly skilled financial lawyer, Sok-Theng Cheng boasts over 20 years of international legal experience advising on corporate finance transactions and financial services legal, regulatory and risk management issues. After qualifying as a solicitor in London in 1997, Cheng joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London office, until she joined Morgan Stanley in 2006. Shortly after joining Morgan Stanley, Cheng moved to Southeast Asia, where she became responsible for setting up the bank’s legal coverage function. Cheng tackled the challenge of adapting to the legal and regulatory landscape in the new jurisdiction and quickly made an impression on her peers with her ability to ‘understand the regulatory issues well’ and ‘leverage off her legal background’. In addition, Cheng has been praised by her colleagues for her provision of high quality service and her expertise in derivatives netting issues.
Gerald Chew joined Delfi (then known as Petra Foods), one of the leading players in Southeast Asia’s chocolate confectionery market, in January 2005. A lawyer praised for his professionalism and insightfulness, Chew established the legal and corporate affairs department almost ‘from scratch’, forming its board committees and governance processes while setting up ‘a number of financial facilities, such as $500m, medium term note programme (MTN)’. Over the years Chew has advised on key acquisitions completed by Delphi around the world, including manufacturing plants in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, France and Philippines. In addition, Chew helped to manage the sale of Delfi’s cocoa ingredient division to Barry Callebaut for $860m, making the latter the world’s largest producer of cocoa ingredients. Under the auspices of overseeing Delfi’s international portfolio of trademarks and intellectual property rights, Chew has had to either initiate or defend legal action in India, Malaysia, Manila (Philippines), Melbourne (Australia), Sydney and Singapore. ‘We are fortunate in that legal processes in the various countries have turned out in Delfi’s favour, to ensure that Delfi continues to enjoy market access for its diverse chocolate confectionery mix in important markets’, Chew says. ‘The highlight for me was having chosen the right external counsel to work with in realising this strategy’. Chew is one of a small number of in-house lawyers in Southeast Asia, who have been in the profession from 1990. His previous positions include in-house legal roles with FantasticOne, Wuthelam Holdings, MTV Asia and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. Chew says: ‘My feeling is that every counsel, no matter what the scope or extent of his or her role, can effectively contribute to his or her organisation by contributing to its corporate culture. Counsel I feel, cannot forget that they manage others as they manage themselves by the thoughts they hold in their mind, and if they nurture thoughts and ideas of integrity, strategy and fair-play, these are things that are likely to “rub off” on others as well’.
As group general counsel of Malaysian universal bank CIMB, Lee Chin Tok covers legal affairs relating to the business and support divisions, as well as at group level, across 17 jurisdictions. He joined the bank’s capital markets department in 1996 and was later appointed as the co-head of debt capital markets in the corporate banking, treasury and market divisions before rising to general counsel in 2014. He has a direct reporting line to CIMB’s group CEO and works closely with him and other senior management members. Among other things, Chin Tok is a member of the group management committee, the group Islamic banking committee, the group customer experience council, the group operational risk committee, the group crisis management committee, the committee on procurement and the disciplinary committee. Chin Tok has used this exposure to senior decision makers to place greater emphasis on training the group’s lawyers to better understand the business while simultaneously training business colleagues to better understand the potential legal issues arising from their activities. He is known as a highly skilled manager capable of moulding a geographically diverse legal team into a coherent unit, something which is particularly useful at CIMB, which currently employs around 90 lawyers globally, with in-country legal teams based in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and a small staff based in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London.
Widely praised for his skills in mergers and acquisitions and contract negotiations, Stephen Chojnacki currently manages the legal team of Minor International, one of the largest hospitality and leisure companies in the Asia Pacific region. Bangkok-based Chojnacki is in charge of providing legal advice across the business on M&A, contract negotiation, dispute resolution and regulatory affairs. In addition, Chojnacki is heavily involved in the company’s joint ventures and other commercial partnerships. He deals with all compliance-related issues and sits on the boards of numerous group companies. Well integrated in the commercial affairs of the company, Chojnacki and his team enjoy a good exposure to the business, which enables them to have their say on important strategic issues. Before moving in-house, Chojnacki spent nine years in private practice, working in New York, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Suit Mae Choo has over 25 years of experience as a corporate commercial lawyer, starting her career in private practice in Malaysia before joining the Sime Darby Berhad Group conglomerate in August 2006 as the group head legal, mergers and acquisitions. Subsequent to the consolidation of legal units within group strategy and business development and group corporate services she was selected as head, group legal in August 2010. In July 2011 Suit Mae Choo was then promoted to group general counsel as a result of the centralisation of the legal function. Prior to her in-house roles, Suit Mae Choo held a number of positions in private practice in Malaysia and then moved to Hong Kong where she had an eight year stint with Reed Smith Richards Butler, Denton Wilde Sapte and Victor Chu & Co. Her private practice experience in Malaysia comprised of working at Zul Rafique & Partners, where she was one of the founding partners, and then as a partner for Skrine, one of the leading law firms in Malaysia. Her past experience in private practice steered her to focus on capital markets, structured finance, asset securitisation, cross-border joint ventures, corporate finance and corporate debt restructuring. Suit Mae Choo has been key in a number of large-scale domestic and international transactions and has represented a number of multinational companies and financial institutions.
Formerly the managing director of DFDL, Brennan Coleman brought a high-level of leadership experience upon his appointment as RMA Group’s first general counsel. Recognised in the region for being a leading individual with substantial commercial acumen, Coleman has been rewarded for a number of impressive achievements. He was awarded leading lawyer of 2014 from Asialaw Profiles, for leading his team through the refinancing of project loans, a working capital facility for a copper and gold mining company based in Laos. In 2013 he was named as the leading lawyer for the banking sector from IFLR 1000, being especially commended for his meticulous approach to due diligence investigations, local law advice and the transaction documentation review. Coleman was previously president of the Australia New Zealand Business Association in Laos, aiming to represent antipodean interests in the region.
Joel Angelo Cruz has been vice president and general counsel at Petron Corporation since 2013. He joined the company in 2010 and initially served as corporate secretary and compliance officer of all Petron subsidiaries. He served as an assistant vice president of Petron Corporation from April 2010 until March 2013 and has taken on various roles, including assistant corporate secretary of Manila North Harbour Port. Cruz is a member of the integrated bar of the Philippines and serves as Trustee of Petron Foundation.
Jannet Cruz-Regalado concurrently occupies the roles of vice president for legal at Shell Philippines and is Royal Dutch Shell’s managing counsel for global litigation, Asia Pacific. Cruz-Regalado is integral to managing a multifaceted portfolio of litigation and arbitration in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Brunei and the Pacific Islands. She specialises in commercial, civil, criminal, environmental and employment matters, in doing so dealing with a large network of Shell accredited global law firms. Prior to joining Shell, she was the corporate secretary of First Lepanto Corporation and also had a stint as a litigation counsel at Carpio, Villaraza and Cruz law firm. Considered a proactive and dedicated individual, Cruz-Regalado is active in several legal and professional organisations and is a faculty member of both the University of the Philippines and the Lyceum College of Law.
When Reski Damayanti joined Unilever in January 2016 she became the company’s most senior lawyer in Indonesia. As senior corporate and category counsel director she faces a ‘very dynamic external environment, including constantly changing policies [requiring] rapid and accurate legal solutions on a daily basis to sustain [Unilever’s] business ambition’. A firm believer in the need to provide ‘rigorous analysis, firm decisions and the ability to take the lead and influence others’, Reski Damayanti has a proven track record of success across various private practice and in-house roles. Among the many highlights of her career, Reski Damayanti notes her involvement in several important and high-value projects as particular standouts. These include the restructuring of a local pharmaceutical group in her first in-house role at a company in Indonesia, a project that she claims ‘shaped my leadership in [complex] projects’. Further evidence of this talent came when Reski Damayanti successfully closed a multimillion dollar financial restructuring project, which involved the development of strategy and working with US lawyers across the border, proving her versatility, skill and intuitiveness. In her current role Reski Damayanti is trusted with advising senior management with legal issues for Unilever in Indonesia, as well as assisting other companies in the country affiliated to the fast-moving consumer goods group. With a keen eye for the future development of the legal profession, Reski Damayanti is keen to involve tools in her future work that ‘can help counsel use more digital acumen in their work, as this will help legal teams keep up with the transformation in the business landscape’.
Peter De Neef was promoted to the role of business developer and chief legal officer in December 2016. He assumed his first in-house role at ENGIE in Dubai in 2008 after six years in private practice. Soon after joining he had closed an independent power producer (IPP) project in Abu Dhabi. ‘I was completely new to the business’, De Neef recalls. ‘The closing was supposed to be pretty straightforward. However, right then, the 2008 financial crises hit leading to months of very difficult negotiations with contractors in Germany and Korea, the government of Abu Dhabi, Japanese partners and banks’. The entire experience was a defining moment in his career and set him up for further successes. Since that time he has played a central role in structuring Mongolia’s CHP5 project, one of ENGIE’s major investments in the region. De Neef has been acknowledged by peers across the board and has been described by external counsel as having ‘great technical skill and focus on detail, while still maintaining a clear commercial perspective and appreciating the nuances of doing business in emerging economies’. Internally, De Neef has been central to introducing a document management system across Dubai, Bangkok and Jakarta. ‘This is in line with my strong belief in knowledge sharing’, says De Neef, who participates in various knowledge-exchange initiatives worldwide. De Neef moved to Bangkok in 2011 to continue his excellent work.
A top 10 company in Thailand and one of the largest financial institutions in the country, Krungthai Bank engages in the provision of commercial banking services and operates through three key business segments: retail banking, wholesale banking and treasury and investment. Tasked with providing day-to-day legal support to all three functions, Suchart Dejittirut is a well recognised figure in the Thai in-house market. Described as a ‘solutions-oriented professional’ and a ‘sharp and fast thinker’, Dejittirut has showcased strong skills in negotiation and an aptitude for combining his commercial knowledge and understanding with his legal acumen. In addition to his role at Krungthai Bank, Dejittirut has served as a member of the executive finance management program at the Fiscal Policy Research Institute Foundation and member of the advanced certificate course in public economics management at King Prajadhipok’s institute.
A highly skilled in-house counsel with over 14 years of experience both in private practice and in-house, Trisula Dewantara is recognised for possessing a deep understanding of and skills in corporate law, capital markets and m&a transactions and corporate and debt restructurings in the telecommunications sector. Dewantara currently oversees the legal function of Indosat Ooredoo, a leading digital telecommunications company in Indonesia that provides access and connectivity to both retail and corporate customers. Focused on expanding its customer base and improve the quality of technology throughout the digital world in the country Indosat Ooredoo has recorded an increase in data usage of 83.5% in 2016, along with a revenue growth of 10.5% against the same period of 2015. Utilizing his extensive knowledge in the telecommunications sector, Dewantara has been an active participant in Indosat Ooredoo’s drive to promote technology and innovation in Indonesia, which has seen the company named the most innovative company in 2015 on the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards. Dewantara joined Indosat Ooredoo in 2011 as deputy general counsel overseeing corporate matters, progressing over the years to a general counsel position. Prior to that Dewantara worked as a legal manager at PT Astra International.
Alongside his day-today work as legal and compliance manager for Thalias, Djamel El Akra is dedicated to human rights and academia, serving as a lecturer of law and an avid partaker of numerous knowledge group organisations. Currently, El Akra primarily serves as the legal and compliance manager for Thalias, a leading hospitality company established in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In this role he advises the company on all trademark and intellectual property cases, helping them maintain their 20 year reputation in the Cambodian premier luxury hospitality industry. Fluent in four languages, El Akra’s background in international law spans a number of global roles, one of which was based in Italy. For the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law he advised in the context of preparation of the UNIDROIT-FAO legal guide on contract farming. El Akra also had a stint as an executive director for the Chamber de commerce et d’industrie France Cambodge, which required his coordination with the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia. In between his legal roles, El Akra lectures at the Royal University of Law and Economics and Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE), a non-profit organisation established in Cambodia to provide resources to destitute, maltreated and uneducated children.
Jason Eng joined Dymon Asia, a leading Asia-focused alternative investment management firm, as its first in-house counsel in 2011.Throughout his career, Eng believes he has had the privilege to learn from and work with market-leading individuals from private practice and in-house business roles. He has been the legal lead behind major milestones and diversified projects at Dymon Asia, which include helping to establish new and different business lines, setting up new offices and refining the firm’s compliance program to comply with changing regulatory requirements and standards required from institutional investors. These experiences have resulted in Eng constantly striving to be a practical lawyer who adopts a risk-based approach in seeking to achieve business-oriented solutions. To be an effective in-house counsel, Eng believes that it is important to have a ‘positive relationship with senior management, where frank and constructive opinion is exchanged for the betterment of the business ‘.
Supporting the activities of the largest listed drug company in both Indonesia and the Asean region, Kalbe International has been both promising and challenging for Maria Teresa Fabiola and her team of lawyers. As the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector in the country has expanded dramatically in the past decade (reporting growth of more than 90%), the market has become increasingly competitive for large companies, which is further exacerbated by Indonesia’s plan to roll out a universal healthcare system that will potentially make all healthcare freely available by 2019. Maria Teresa Fabiola’s response has been to make strengthening brand protection and market positioning central to her team’s contribution to the company, particularly as it seeks entry to new markets. Working closely with the sales and marketing teams from the pre-inception stage has been particularly useful, as it enables them to understand what makes a good brand from a legal perspective.
Loo Hwee Fang joined Singapore-based investment holding company Yoma Strategic Holdings in 2013. Yoma is one of the few foreign entities working on large-scale projects in Myanmar, and has received awards for its real estate development work in the country. Hwee Fang was praised for her ability to build relationships and act commercially in a notoriously challenging market. Previously included in The Legal 500’s GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific in 2014, nominators commented on her ‘agility’ and ‘innovative’ approach to structuring deals in ‘the foremost frontier market’ of Myanmar. Prior to joining Yoma Strategic Holdings, Fang was a corporate partner at Lee & Lee, where she specialised in corporate finance, capital markets and fund management.
CIMB’s group legal head, Chee Fei Meng, is highly respected and praised by private practice lawyers and industry peers. Recognised as an exceptional leader and a central part of CIMB, Chee Fei Meng has been key to the growth of this relatively young organisation that has nonetheless grown very fast regionally, achieving the status of a universal bank franchise in a short period of time. Chee Fei Meng has added value to the business by building a legal department from the ground up. Peers have highlighted her dedication to building the skillset of her team members to be on par with the best in-house teams within international investment banks and the acclaimed legal teams of larger players in Asean and globally. It is to this end, that under her leadership, and with the empowerment and support of CIMB’s system, the team has been nominated for a number of awards across the region. In 2014 they won banking and financial in-house team of the year and Malaysia in-house team of the year. When Chee Fei Meng joined the team seven years ago, she set about making significant changes to the way CIMB Group’s legal function was run. She conceded that at the time bankers didn’t consider them an integral part of the organisation, something which she continuously works towards changing: ‘We gained in-depth knowledge on every country which is quite an achievement. When I first started legal was solely operational but now they are considered business partners and within a year we got ourselves nominated for a few awards’. Working in such a rapidly-evolving region with countries that are less conservative about risk, Chee Fei Meng has had to adapt to these different levels of sophistication by training the in-house legal team to review documentation meticulously, reducing the level of dependency on external counsels. Chee Fei Meng has also worked towards creating key specialisms within the team, which has helped in adding more value and creating greater collaboration with the banking and operations arms of the business.
James Ford, senior vice president and general counsel, international, leads a department of 115 legal professionals based in 37 locations covering China, Japan, India, Australia and all major cities in Southeast Asia. This includes anti-trust, transactional work, dispute resolution, data privacy and anti-bribery. Being responsible for such a broad range of countries requires a specific skill set, says Ford: ‘Leading across so many jurisdictions requires cultural sensitivity and the ability to deliver locally without compromising the essential relationships and mandates that exist between local operating companies and headquarters in London and Philadelphia’. At GSK the international legal department prioritises its efforts in alignment with the objectives of the three different businesses in the region, covering pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer healthcare products. The legal teams operate with an ‘enterprise hat’ to ensure that legal advice and decision making is independent in approach while taking into account the needs of the overall enterprise. In all cases the client is GSK plc not an individual subsidiary or local business unit. Adding real value to the business, Ford and his leadership team have implemented a model and a culture that supports these principles as well as training the lawyers to be effective ‘business partner guardians’. A good example of this was a 2016 initiative to advise the many markets across Asia on best-practice when entering into competitive tenders for vaccines and pharmaceutical products – very much local solutions incorporating certain minimum GSK wise standards and approaches. This initiative was led by the legal department, drawing in expertise from compliance, medical and commercial where appropriate. GSK’s values of transparency, respect for people, integrity and patient/consumer are considered an essential part of all operations at GSK, including the legal department. Under Ford’s management, GSK’s lawyers are a key part of this ethical compass.
Andrew Gale is one of the few foreign-born corporate counsel based in Myanmar, where he acts as director of legal and regulatory at Asian telecommunications company edotco Group. A subsidiary of Axiata Group, edotco Group has gone on a remarkable journey in recent years. It was established in 2012 as the first integrated telecommunications infrastructure services company in Asia and its portfolio has since grown to include over 16,000 towers across the region. Gale joined edotco Group in December 2015 following its acquisition of Digicel Myanmar Tower Company (MTC), where he had worked since 2014. In spite of the challenges of acting as a legal advisor in a country that has only recently been opened to foreign capital, Gale has helped edotco Group grow from a start-up to one of Myanmar’s leading telecommunications providers and largest private companies by overseeing site acquisitions, complex lease agreements and financings. An Australian and New Zealand qualified lawyer, Gale is known for his commercial astuteness and is an expert in emerging markets legal and regulatory affairs. He has around 13 years’ experience in leading law firms and telecommunications companies.
Derek Goh joined Singapore-listed property and development company GuocoLand as general counsel in August 2014, leading a team of 13 lawyers across Singapore, China and Malaysia. Since joining the company he has been involved in a number of initiatives to transform the legal function. These include setting up a compliance function, standardising contract templates in each of the countries the company has a presence in, and developing an “eLegal” portal to digitally store contract templates, precedents and scanned copies of signed contracts. A litigation lawyer by training, Goh made the transition to an in-house role after several years in private practice. He assumed the position as general counsel and company secretary for Singapore-based Hai Sun Hup Group. When the company was demerged into two listed entities – Stamford Land Corporation and Singapore Shipping Corporation – Goh demonstrated his professional fluidity by continuing to serve as general counsel and company secretary for both companies. He later joined General Electric as senior counsel for Asia Pacific before moving to GuocoLand, an investment holding company with a diversified portfolio. Following his long and distinguished career in-house, Goh has the following advice for aspiring lawyers: ‘Understand the business and establish a good rapport with colleagues - two factors which are critical in order for an in-house counsel or GC to be successful’.
DJ Goh is chief legal counsel for Asia, Middle East and Africa at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). In his current role, Goh is responsible for legal, contracting, company secretarial and compliance support for all business lines in the information technology services and solutions company, with approximately $600m of revenue across 15 countries, 27 cities and 40 offices in the region. He has extensive international legal experience in corporate, commercial, risk management, governance, compliance, finance and dispute management matters and has worked with a number of large multinational companies and international law firms in the Asia Pacific region. Goh enjoys passing on the many professional lessons he has accumulated team and says he finds it ‘very satisfying to coach my team members and provide opportunities to develop their careers. I ensure that my team members are engaged and understand their roles and responsibilities by a fair performance appraisal and reward system. I am also very good at attracting, hiring and retaining high quality legal counsel for my employer’. Goh has been central to all the key changes the legal service delivery model has overcome at CSC. He has achieved this by implementing best practices, process efficiencies, faster response times, additional language capabilities, new legal expertise, consistent contract templates, various playbooks, guides, policies and protocols, and codified knowledge management – ‘all of which helped to achieve optimal utilisation of legal resources and substantially improved the quality and satisfaction levels in legal services’.
Jenny Gozali has a wide range of expertise in the retail sector, having worked at leading brands in Indonesia for many years. She is currently corporate head of legal at Wings Group Indonesia, a major corporation that has been exporting consumer products around the world for the last 60 years. Gozali has a strong reputation in Indonesia for her comprehensive understanding of all aspects of Indonesian laws and regulations and is known for her ability to give practical legal advice to senior management that enables the company to achieve its business objectives swiftly. Having been employed at the company for just over a year, Gozali has already managed to reenergise the legal function, adding much needed clarity to legal policies and procedures. Prior to joining Wings, Gozali worked briefly at Borneo Group and before that served for five years as the head of legal at Lion Super Indo. During her tenure at the retailer, Gozali established the legal department of the company and managed its three key functions. Gozali spent the first decade of her career working in legal roles at various organisations in Indonesia, including Soebagjo Jatim Djarot, Mega International, Frans Hendra Winarta & Partners, Mustika Citra Rasa.
Described by one nominator as a ‘truly professional lawyer’ with ‘outstanding social skills’, Ola Hanson has received widespread praise for his ability to combine exceptional managerial skills with outstanding technical advice to the business. In his current role as general counsel and head of legal and compliance at Malaysia-based Digi Telecommunications, Hanson leads a team of 16 and has recently driven them to restructure the legal function by introducing a greater focus on prioritising high-impact matters. The development and increasing importance of internet services in the telecommunications sector has further expanded the scope for legal services. This has, however, placed greater emphasis on the need for legal teams to broaden their expertise beyond traditional infrastructure work into digital services and a more dynamic way of working. Hanson says he and the team have responded to this challenge and have ‘clearly defined the legal function in the overall organisation and managed to make our department a valuable and appreciated contributor to the business. Legal and compliance is today a natural go-to department for all complex legal issues. The counsel are today acting with proactivity, are forward leaning and are highly motivated, and gain much respect in the organisation’. An increased focus on privacy issues has called for specific strategies on communicating legal implications and their relevant to the business. ‘The most important way of dealing with these new challenges’, says Hanson, ‘is to try to think ahead, what could come and what legal implications will it have. That has been quite successful so far for my department’. A Swedish-national, Hanson first moved in-house in 2001, joining a start-up broadband business that was subsequently sold to Telenor Group in 2005 before merging with various Telenor-controlled entities in Sweden. In 2007 he was appointed GC and head of legal and regulatory for the newly formed Telenor group of companies in the country. In 2014 he was asked to take on the role as GC and head of legal and compliance in Digi Telecommunications, a company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange and part of Telenor Group.
Gilang Hermawan joined Siemens in 2009 and currently leads the legal team that is responsible for all legal and regulatory issues of Siemens in Indonesia. In 2014 he transitioned to covering Indonesia and Malaysia and then back to solely covering Indonesia in October 2016. Some of his specialisms include corporate law, international law, joint ventures and intellectual property. Prior to his time at Siemens, Gilang Hermawan spent three years as an associate for Baker McKenzie as a key member of the banking and finance practice group for the international office in Jakarta. In 2012 Gilang Hermawan was awarded an advocate license from the Indonesian Advocate Association.
Solomon Hermosura is currently managing director of Ayala Corporation and a member of its management committee and the Ayala Group managing committee. Hermosura assumed his role in 2006 and has since been recognised for his excellent talent and subsequently continuously promoted. Amongst his many roles he is also the general counsel, corporate secretary and compliance officer of Ayala Corporation. As the CEO of Ayala Group legal he also serves as corporate secretary for some of the other companies in the Ayala Group, including Globe Telecom, Philwater Holdings and Integrated Micro-Electronics. Hermosura graduated with a bachelor of laws degree from San Beda College in 1986 and placed third in the 1986 bar examination.
Kenneth Ho was appointed general counsel for Swire Pacific Offshore in 2008. ‘The learning curve has been extremely steep but the past nine years with Swire have been the most rewarding of my professional life’. Since joining the group, Ho has built a compact and high-performing legal team which supports all of the group’s business units across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. ‘We set ourselves the objective of building and maintaining a department culture based on efficiency and practicality, so that our internal clients know they can depend on the legal team to deliver on time, every time’, Ho says. ‘Over the years, the legal function has evolved from a backroom support role to an integral function that is closely involved in the business at multiple levels, ranging from strategic decision-making, policy-setting and high-capex project analysis, to everyday tasks such as contract review and dispute management.’ Prior to joining Swire Pacific Offshore, Ho was in private practice with JTJB, a boutique marine litigation firm based in Singapore.
Chan Hoe leads the legal team of six at Toyota Motor Asia Pacific, the regional headquarters in Asia for the marketing and sales functions of the automobile manufacturer. This office holds the regional legal function and operates as the Asia Legal Hub with a regional coverage of 10 countries in Asean, along with Pakistan and India. To cope with this geographic diversity Hoe has appointed a network of law firms in each country of interest and has successfully implemented a personnel exchange program to increase communication and to act as a ‘foreign desk’ in the Singapore office. After six years in private practice, spent at Rodyk & Davidsons (now renamed Dentons Rodyk) and Rajah & Tann Asia, Hoe moved to consumer electronics company Razer. ‘It was a great place to cut my teeth on the in-house experience’, says Hoe. ‘[Razer] was a very small company at that point – about 30 people – and [the role] made me very quickly learn the entire gamut of legal issues a small company could, and sometimes did, face’. In 2008 he joined Toyota Motor Asia Pacific as a mid-level manager. Going from a small company to one of the largest companies in the world has given him a very broad-based and essential understanding of the legal problem a business can face. He became general manager of the legal department in 2014.
Peter Hopp is general counsel, head of legal and government affairs group and a member of the executive committee for Bunge Asia, part of a leading global agribusiness operating in over 40 countries. Hopp is a skilled lawyer with over 20 years’ experience in M&A, food and commodities and compliance and has been working towards integrating effective legal advice into Bunge’s global growth strategy. Hopp was appointed general counsel in 2013 and has since developed the legal function to become a ‘front-office and customer facing professional group’. He has been integral to building a team across all key Asian jurisdictions, appointing and promoting leading lawyers while acknowledging commercial command and adding true value to the business. His efforts have resulted in unprecedented efficiencies in communication between legal, commercial and technical functions. Hopp strongly believes in developing legal talent amongst his team and applies this sentiment by regularly setting commercial training and cross-jurisdictional assignments.
In the wake of increasingly strict quotas on migrant labour, retailers in Singapore have had to change their approach to finding and recruiting staff. For McDonald’s regional general counsel, Faz Hussen, helping human resources to find new ways of incentivising and retaining employees is just one example of how the GC role has changed. Faz, who has also given seminars on boardroom strategies, emphasises that his role goes far beyond legal and compliance. ‘[As GC] you need to be someone who helps grow the business as opposed to just advising’, says Faz. ‘Certain ideologies are ingrained but you keep working at bringing your own ideas because in the end it’s the only way you can add value to the role. It’s important to pitch the other side to the business management team’. This is not to say that more traditional issues to do with legal and compliance are not important, however. When Faz became general counsel and director of government relations and communications for McDonald’s Singapore in 2015, one of his first contributions was to restructure compliance and due diligence processes to ensure they were up to the exacting standards of the McDonald’s group. More recently he helped McDonald’s to sell its franchise rights for restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia to Saudi Arabia-based Reza Group, helping to deliver McDonald’s regional strategy of moving away from direct ownership in Asia.
Vanita Jegathesan is Chevron’s disputes and investigations lead for the downstream business in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. A litigator by training, she was in private practice working for one of the most prestigious law firms in Singapore, before she completed her New York bar. After working in the US briefly, she returned to private practice in Singapore before joining Chevron. Jegathesan now handles all disputes and investigations and is also the human resources lead for the oil and gas company. ‘Disputes in the region are extremely diverse as the markets, politics and legal systems are not homogenous’, says Jegathesan. ‘This makes my role both challenging and interesting. Part of my role is adapting US litigation processes to fit the context in this region, where possible’. One of the changes that she has worked towards is building a closer relationship with senior business leaders. This has enabled her to better articulate risks and spot issues that may become litigious. ‘The business is always looking for solutions and understands that it does not operate in a risk-free environment. My role is to articulate the risks and recommend a litigation strategy that results in the best outcome for the business’. Since taking on the role, Jegathesan has tried to introduce formalised processes to promote consistency in the way disputes and investigations are managed across her regions, with an emphasis on visibility for the business leaders.
Over the three years of his employment with DKSH, Jaturong Jerdsakulboon has utilised his strong leadership skills to build trust with his stakeholders, thus making his team a key function in business planning. Jerdsakulboon’s commitment has resulted in a noticeable increase in the capabilities of his team and growth in coverage necessary to cater for the growing need to support countries where the company does not have dedicated legal coverage, including Taiwan, Cambodia, Laos, Australia and others. On the compliance front, Jerdsakulboon has brought a new and innovative management strategy to the Thai market, thus increasing the awareness of compliance rules within the organisation dramatically. DKSH advises on market expansion strategies for its clients, and is therefore constantly plagued with issues related to the market environment and consumer behaviour in Thailand, whereby compliance trends in the market cran create difficulties for the business moving forward. ‘In order to deal with such challenges, my team really needs to understand the business from both a legal and operational standpoint’, Jerdsakulboon says. ‘We need to be able to analyse problems that have multiple dimensions and without said understanding, the legal team would be unable to provide practical legal advice to the business’. Prior to joining DKSH, Jerdsakulboon held senior legal positions at Big C (Thailand’s second-largest hypermarket operator) and Diageo in Bangkok.
With over 30 years of experience in banking and financial law, Wallaya Kaewrungruang has a deep understanding of commercial bank operations that provides true value to the legal function of Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), Thailand’s first ever bank which has a history dating back to 1904. Prior to joining SCB, Kaewrungruang worked as a legal executive for several firms in the banking and financial industry, including Bank of Asia, Sukhumvit Asset Management, and most recently as senior executive vice president, managing director, compliance and legal management group for Krung Thai Bank. Kaewrungruang holds LL.B and LL.M degrees in from Thai University Chulalongkorn, she also holds an LL.M in international banking law from Boston University. She is a barrister-at-law at the Institute of legal education, Thai Bar Association.
Monisha Kamdar joined Raiffeisen Bank as head of legal-Asia Pacific in 2010. At the time, Kamdar was the bank’s first lawyer in Asia and was responsible as sole regional general counsel for establishing and building the legal function. To increase the complexity of this task, she was hired at a time when the bank was looking to expand its product range and supplement its standard trade finance business by offering more complex mezzanine and structured finance products. Kamdar is a voting member of the bank’s problem loan committee, which reviews corporate non-performing loan transactions and makes decisions with an aim to achieving the highest net present value for the bank. Joining of this body, Kamdar says, required her to undergo an intense period of education: ‘I had a very short period of time where I had to understand the inner workings of the organisation, how and what each department functions and does and then to device processes that worked while at the same time helping the business units with the business which was streaming in very fast’. Kamdar has since become a trusted voice within the bank and has led on a number of enforcements and recovery during a tumultuous financial period. She has gone on to present the committee with new options for recovery, including the use of litigation funding as a way of alleviating the financial burdens of an expensive litigation. Before moving in-house she was a senior associate at the Singapore offices of Latham & Watkins, a position she held from 2002 to 2010, and a lawyer at the Indian firm Crawford Bayley & Co.
Thavakumar Kandiahpillai is general counsel at SapuraKencana, one of Southeast Asia’s largest oilfield services companies and a top 20 company in Malaysia. Having been in charge of the legal department at the group since 2012, Thavakumar Kandiahpillai has led a group wide compliance initiative with special emphasis on behavioural patterns and heuristics that piloted at SapuraKencana’s Singapore drilling subsidiaries. Previously, Kandiahpillai spent six years working as the general counsel of Shell Malaysia, where he led a team of over 20 lawyers providing full legal support to a company that is Malaysia’s largest payer of foreign tax. Over his tenure at Shell his team became a global hub for mergers and acquisitions, technology projects, compliance and dispute resolution in the Asia Pacific region. Prior to becoming general counsel at Shell, Kandiahpillai spent some time in legal managerial positions at the company and before that worked for nine years in private practice at the law firms Mohamed Ismail & Co, and Zain & Co.
Sase Karthigesu leads a team of six and provides legal advice to senior management in regards to human resources, marketing, internal sales and operations across a wide variety of contractual matters that computer company DELL encounters. Karthigesu boasts over 20 years’ experience in the Asia Pacific region in the consumer goods and ICT industries. Recognised in the region for her business acumen and hands-on approach she has continuously collaborated and developed practical business solutions while managing legal risk and exposure using her multifaceted skill-set.
Sadhana Kaul has operated in Singapore for the last three years, where she handles all corporate, commercial and compliance matters across the Southeast Asia region. Leading a team that is spread out in different subsidiaries in the region, Kaul is faced with many regulatory nuances between developing countries and new territories. It is to this end that Kaul and her team work closely with business teams to counsel them about potential areas of risk when going into new jurisdictions. Working in an industry where technological change is a driver of growth has been advantageous to Kaul when it comes to introducing new ways of working within the legal team. ‘Use of technology has increased the use of self-services tools and client-facing tools so that you can provide more efficient service; self-service tools where I cover a vast geography with skeletal legal support to be able to effectively cover the region and provide timely advice’. Kaul encourages legal counsel to embrace change in an ever-evolving legal region. ‘My advice [to general counsel] would be to be open to change and adapting to changes within the business, changes in how you provide legal services to changes in the organisation, because change in the business world is constant’. Before joining 3M Singapore, Kaul led the planning, development and execution of strategic legal and compliance initiatives for 3M India for eight years. She boasts a wide range of experience which extends to eight years in private practice dual membership of the bar in India and the US.
Joanna Koh joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2009 as legal counsel for Singapore covering the pharmaceutical business. Since then, she has assumed roles of increasing responsibility and has taken on projects as part of her stretched assignment. In May 2016 she was promoted to her current position which covers all aspects of GSK’s business in pharmaceuticals including vaccines, consumer healthcare and manufacturing in Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Prior to this role she spent 10 years in private practice focusing on disputes and intellectual property, with the last eight years in one of the largest law firms in Singapore. While in private practice she was involved in a number of cases that spanned the whole spectrum of the civil litigation process – from early discovery all the way to the court of appeals, assessment of damages and taxation of costs. Koh sees that these experiences in the early part of her career honed her skills in case management, client management and perseverance. ‘Importantly, they helped to shape my thinking as a young lawyer to find solutions to help the clients achieve their commercial objective in a cost efficient way’. In her current role she interacts with senior executives of the company on a variety of corporate and governance and risk management issues. Providing guidance at this level has taught Koh to communicate concisely and avoid unnecessary legalese. ‘My interaction with them has allowed me to observe how decisions are made at a senior leadership level. I have a better appreciation of how legal can function as a better partner to the business; yet maintain our role as guardian of legal risks’. One of her latest professional highlights was her role as the legal lead for the Asia Pacific region in a recent M&A deal for GSK, where she had to engage with multiple stakeholders across different jurisdictions to ensure alignment and meeting of project timelines and objectives. The deal focused on three distinct business units of the company, which saw her working with stakeholders within and outside the legal function. She admits this added to the breadth of issues that she had to handle. ‘I also had to work on the legal aspects of integrating the businesses after deal completion which tested my ability to be adaptable to a different organisational culture and structure’. Koh discusses the impact of the increasing push to use digital media for the company’s promotional and marketing activities; and has had to stay abreast of the constant changes to the guidelines, law and regulations in this area. She says: ‘The laws and legal regimes in certain countries may not have kept pace with the fast changing developments in the digital space. Sound legal advice and judgment is often required to balance legal risks; and guide the business through grey areas of what can; or cannot be done’.
Michelle Koh has been praised for her skills in contract negotiation and ability to plan and influence business strategy. In her role of general counsel at CapitaLand, a leader in Singapore’s real estate market that was formed as a result of a merger between DBS Land and Pidemco, Koh manages the centralised legal and secretariat functions and is responsible for all corporate governance and compliance policies. Koh began her career at Pidemco prior to its merger with DBS Land, before studying for her law degree via distance learning. After qualifying and working in private practice, Koh returned to what was now CapitaLand as a junior officer, where she worked her way up to her current role of general counsel.
With more than 50,000 employees and $15bn in revenue, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) is one of the leading industrial groups in Southeast Asia. Since Rose Kong joined the group in 2011, a culture change has been implemented to the legal team by means of alterations made to the vision, mission, values and behavioural statements expected of the function and its members. Kong has contributed to the function by rolling out a vigorous performance management program, resulting in a transformation of the department’s role from an administrative function to that of a business advisor. These changes, made as part of a program, have been focused on the implementation of a shared legal model, the implementation of process improvements, the increased use of technology, robust talent management and the development of engagement rules with external counsel. To tackle growing levels of regulation in the Asia Pacific region, Kong set up a compliance function within the legal department and developed a regulatory framework to understand the regulatory issues faced by the group and then successfully educating the business on those risks. Kong also established a small environmental legal team within the legal department that aims to understand the complex and growing legal issues around sustainability and peatland management. She says that the non-legal aspects in her role are just as important as the legal ones. ‘You have to lead many constituents within and without the organisation – from the board to your legal team to business team and teams outside the organisation – and more importantly a multi-generational constituency. You have to spend time with these constituents to understand them personally and their business objectives. You have to always anticipate issues and consider the surrounding legal and regulatory environment and identify and preserve opportunities to deliver the best results for the business’.
Christoph Kurth began his legal career in private practice in Switzerland and the US in the area of litigation and arbitration, including class action litigation, working through large disputes in a number of areas, including banking. He joined the Swiss offices of UBS in 2006 where eventually he was put in charge of the Global Wealth Management's business litigation and investigations portfolio. During and in the aftermath of the global financial crisis he managed large scale criminal and regulatory investigations involving courts, governments and regulators across the North America, Europe, Asia and Switzerland, setting up the first fully equipped in-house eDiscovery team in the industry. Kurth also helped the senior leadership to transform UBS from a bank that had the image of a harbour for tax cheats to the most successful and highly regarded wealth manager it today is. He moved to UBS's Singapore office in 2011 and in 2014 he became general counsel for the Wealth Management business for the entire Asia Pacific region. As a distinguished financial lawyer and leader in a successful global business Kurth's area of expertise touches on all areas of laws and regulations relevant for his industry. His multi-jurisdictional experiences at the forefront of industry and regulatory developments have given him a deep understanding of global and local regulatory change agendas and trends. In his capacity as head of litigation he advised on high stakes litigation and complex regulatory investigations across the US, Europe and Asia. 'I transformed the mindset of team members from being an expert in laws and regulation, which they still are, to being a catalyst of change and an enabler of sustainable business’, says Kurth. ‘That also means that my people do think more strategically, helping the firm to navigate rapid change and increased complexity with foresight, identifying opportunities for competitive advantages. We are not asking “why” but “how” with the business realising that the legal function is not merely a cost center but an important partner in any success story’.
Thailand-based Mitsuaki Kusunoki has enjoyed a hugely successful career working as an intellectual property (IP) lawyer across the Asia Pacific region. She is currently the Asia Pacific general counsel at Sumitomo Electric Industries, a Japanese manufacturer of electric wire and optical wire cables. Sumitomo Electric Industries develops a unique heating technology that converts heat to energy and Kusunoki is directly responsible for protecting a technology that could significantly contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions globally. Additionally, Kusunoki provides legal support to over 60 companies across the entire region. Prior to moving to Thailand, Kusunoki was based at Sumitomo’s Singapore office, serving as a general counsel for Southeast Asia, India and Australia. She has also performed legal functions across China and Japan. Before joining Sumitomo, Kusunoki worked as an IP lawyer in Japan for over 15 years in various organisations, including Da Vinci, Technology Licensing Organization of the University of Tokyo, Procter & Gamble and Chugai Pharmaceutical.
Over the course of Veronica Lai’s tenure as general counsel at StarHub, the legal function of the company has grown from three legal professionals into a team of 12 lawyers and one paralegal, with significant additions made to the team’s expertise in IP, M&A and capital markets. To allow lawyers to grow in different areas of expertise, network more widely both within and outside the group, and to keep things ‘always fresh and alive’ for her colleagues Lai implemented a rotation system where lawyers swap their portfolios once every three years. ‘This has helped in no small part to retain good talents’, says Lai. ‘It also diversifys skillsets and enables good resiliency whenever any lawyer goes off on leave. The StarHub Legal team has a low attrition rate, and we have consistently been rated highly every year by our CEO and internal customers for providing value adding, profession and prompt legal advisory and support’. Lai’s involvement in StarHub’s IPO, a highly significant listing in the region that involved concurrent placements in the USA and Japan, has been a highlight of her career. As part of the transaction, Lai had to manage negotiations with 10 sets of lawyers, while taking into account the different interests of individual shareholders of the telco. The highly successful listing won both the Best Domestic Equity Deal Award and the best deal award for Singapore in 2014 at the Asian Legal Business Awards. ‘My first day on the job as GC was in fact the kick off meeting for the StarHub IPO. Hence, this deal holds a very special significance for me’, Lai says. Another major highlight in Lai’s career has been the purchase and construction of the state of the art venture MeidaHub. This involved the purchase of vacant land from the government with special conditions, the planning and construction of the facility itself, and involved the migration of 200 live PayTV channels to the new Media Headend. ‘The legal work was complex at each stage of the way. The original construction had to be terminated as the Government made a decision to designate the facility as “critical support infrastructure”. This meant that the whole facility had to adhere to extensive security and hardening process and requirements, taking into account possible terrorist attacks. Agreements had to be re-negotiated or wholly terminated, to accommodate this new regulatory requirement. Extra care had to be expended, to craft in suitable indemnities and warranties’, Lai elaborates. ‘There was zero margin for error in the construction timelines and technical migration, given that StarHub currently serves more than half a million households with live 24/7 PayTV services. Apart from the technical contracts with the construction company, architects, engineers, TV platform vendors, content providers, we also structured the holding of the facility as a standalone private limited company. We were thus able to successfully divest 70% of the shares to completely finance the entire project, whilst negotiating and retaining the right to stay on premises for the next 60 years, future-proofing StarHub’. Prior to joining StarHub, Lai spent six years at law firm Rajah & Tann under the tutelage of VK Rajah, the attorney general of Singapore and Kenneth Tan.
As the only Thai company listed on the Fortune Global 500 index, Thai state-owned oil and gas company PTT carries high expectations concerning the conduct of its operations and performance of its staff. Supot Laosuarpha is entrusted with the important role of ensuring the company remains on the correct side of the law while exploiting the commercial opportunities available to it. He is trained in several relevant programs including the Direction Certification Program, Thai Institute of Directors Association (IOD), Senior Judicial Administration Executives Program, Office of the Administrative Court and the Senior Judicial Administration Executives Program, Training and Development Institute Office of the Attorney General. Laosuarpha also acts as the chairman of PTT Green Energy Co.
DuPont’s general counsel for Southeast Asia, Serene Lau also functions as a global deputy general counsel of DuPont Titanium Technologies (DTT), and is a key leader in the country management team for Singapore. To achieve excellence within such a multidimensional role, it is important for Lau to build trust and credibility and become a valued adviser, not just in the field of legal work, but also by helping to manage business risks holistically. ‘It is important to take responsibility and accountability on matters, but know also who to hold accountable and responsible for the execution and progress of the matters, and also arm and enable them to be able to take on that accountability and responsibility’, Lau shares. Since joining DuPont, Lau has implemented training and education to ensure clarity. ‘This has helped streamline legal engagement, and resulted in very efficient legal spend in all Asean countries that DuPont operates in’, Lau says. As DuPont runs a number of major projects globally on the M&A front, Lau’s establishment of the expected rules of engagement with each external advisor has also been of paramount importance. Prior to joining DuPont five years ago, Lau has impressed with her achievement to set up business operations of various companies across Asia Pacific in the most efficient manner, utilising a pragmatic and compliant balance of laws and regulations as well as political and geographical risks. Prior roles in Lau’s career include in-house legal counsel positions at Syngenta, Dell and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and a private practice role at Rajah & Tann.
Described as a lawyer who ‘always tries to bring more value than her clients would expect‘, Han Le has had a stellar legal career of two decades. Currently the legal lead for Vietnam at one of best known biopharmaceutical companies across the globe, Pfizer, Le has impressed with her leadership qualities and business flair. Over the last three years of her career at Pfizer, Le has established herself as an expert in corporate and intellectual property law, capable of working on complex, multidimensional cases and drafting international contracts. Throughout her career, Le has assisted on a variety of corporate matters from the initial creation of contracts, licensing, tax law, employment and legal matters through all stages of their development. Prior to moving in-house in 2014, Le worked at the international law firms Rouse and Hogan Lovells (then Lovells).
The major multinational manufacturing and electronics conglomerate, Siemens, has a significant presence in Vietnam that dates back to 1979, when the company supplied two industrial turbines and electrical equipment to the Bai Bang Paper Company. Today Siemens is an undisputable market leader in supplying combined cycle power plants in the country and holds a leading position in the supply of both medical imaging systems and busway power distribution systems. This success has largely been due to a number of important contracts and agreements signed by the company in recent years, including the signing of an Operating Plant Service Agreement (OPSA) extension contract for the Phu My 2-1 Extension power plant, worth €18m, and the delivery of 16 MRI systems, worth €10m. Led by Tuan Le, the Siemens legal team in Vietnam has been a driving force behind these success stories, providing both operating legal support and strategic advice at every step of the negotiating process. A well-distinguished in-house lawyer, Tuan Le boasts a legal career of over 21 years, of which seven years were spent at Siemens. Prior Positions in Le’s career include a brief spell as a chief legal and compliance officer at Manulife Vietnam, a nine year tenure as the general counsel of AIA Vietnam and approximately four years’ experience in private practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance.
John Lee assumed his current position as managing director of Macquarie Group’s infrastructure and real assets funds for Asia in 2008. A year after he joined he was deeply involved in establishing the Macquarie SBI infrastructure fund, a $1bn fund launched with State Bank of India (SBI) to assist infrastructure projects. This was Lee’s first experience of establishing a fund in-house, throwing him in at the deep end of structuring wholesale funds and balancing the relationship between investors and managers. Regulations surrounding the marketing and distribution of wholesale funds have tightened in recent years, but Lee has offset the challenge by devising internal systems to ensure that compliance across different regimes does not slow business. Prior to joining Macquarie, Lee worked in the projects and banking department of Freehills (now Herbert Smith Freehills) in Sydney from 2005 and at Linklaters in Hong Kong from 1996. This earlier role was Lee’s first significant introduction to the Asian market and gave him a good taste of the cultural dynamics that one must appreciate to become a skilled adviser. He advises other lawyers who may be interested in working in-house in the region to understand and accept what they don’t know. ‘You need to be flexible in providing internal legal advice [in the region] but knowing the boundaries to how flexible you can be is just as important. Knowing which areas of law you know and which you really don’t know is an important quality’.
As head of corporate advisory services, Elma Christine Leogardo leads the legal function at Filinvest Land Incorporated, one of the leading real estate developers in the Philippines and a subsidiary of Filinvest Development Corporation, which has more than 40 years’ experience in real estate development. In his role Leogardo mainly advises on matters surrounding dispute resolution, intellectual property and corporate governance. Her ability to deal with these matters successfully is in many ways due to her extensive background in litigation practice in law firms; Leogardo stood as a senior partner at CVCLAW Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco for 26 years. Leogardo is a member of a number of organisations including holding the role of president for the Institute for Maritime & Ocean Affairs.
Henry Leong joined GE in 2005 as Asean regional counsel for corporate. He has since served as regional legal counsel for GE’s water and process technologies business covering Asia Pacific (including China and India), and general counsel for the power and water business across Asia Pacific. When GE completed its acquisition of Alstom in 2015, Henry Leong was asked to take over as general counsel for GE’s power services business in the region. ‘In my years supporting the Asia Pacific region’, says Henry Leong, ‘I have watched the organisation grow in size and people. My strategy has always been to regionalise as much as possible and that means to hire people and to build a team that is capable to handle, advise and take accountability for all decisions on issues affecting the region. I believe this has led to quicker decision making, ability to work more closely with the local stakeholders and to ensure better outcomes’. More recently, Henry Leong has turned his attention to the developments in the power generation business and the challenges the sector is facing. ‘The portfolio of products that our business offers has expanded greatly and we are now moving to the digital arena. The legal team has to be agile, continue to understand the new business and product dynamics, tailor our contracts accordingly, and be adept in responding to the new changes in the regulatory, compliance and risk profile’.
Geraldine Lim started her tenure at Heineken in 2013 following its acquisition of Asia Pacific Breweries, where she had been employed as general counsel. Lim was closely involved in the de-listing and integration process and now leads a team of three lawyers at Heineken in Singapore. Her role covers the whole Asia Pacific region and gives her functional oversight for country-specific counsel reporting into their respective businesses. Lim say that the raft of new laws and regulations appearing across the Asia Pacific region can only be managed by ’staying close to the ground and increasing enforcement of competition law, bribery and corruption laws by embedding compliance programs in behaviour and not just a compliance requirement mind-set’. The digital revolution in marketing and the new frontiers in e-commerce presents another challenge to businesses in the region, and Lim encourages her team to learn from peers and exchange knowledge of how new developments may affect their responsibilities.
Berenice Lim, head of legal Asia Pacific at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, started her career as a scientist. After studying biotechnology at Murdoch University she pursued research in molecular oncology at the University of Western Australia. Lim went on to publish a number of scientific papers and embarked on a PhD before taking on a sales and marketing role in the pharmaceutical sector. A turn of events saw Lim pursue law at the National University of Singapore. Upon graduation, Lim practiced as an intellectual property lawyer at Drew & Napier for eight years before moving in-house as senior legal counsel at Allergan. In September 2015 Lim was appointed head of legal at Takeda Pharmaceuticals Asia Pacific where she sits on the regional management committee. At Takeda, Lim has been sought to build closer ties between legal and commercial functions. Says Lim: ‘The goal is to assist business to find solutions to issues and to provide advice that has practical value’. She has also been heavily involved in staff development and has collaborated with the human resources function to help design tailored training programmes for the legal team. A particular focus of these programmes has been to encourage talented junior lawyers to see training in-house as a viable alternative to private practice. More recently she has worked to simplify clarify processes within the legal department to remove legal bottlenecks from business decisions.
Ginney Lim has been with her current employer, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), since 1992. After joining the media organisation as corporate secretary and general counsel, Lim successfully set up the legal department and put in place a framework, processes and internal controls to ensure proper legal governance. At the time SPH’s business was only in newspapers and magazines, but since then, the company has diversified into different business segments, including properties, online business, events and exhibitions. ‘As growth and expansion are important to SPH, a major part of my duties involved M&A work’, Lim explains. ‘As a result of the diversification by the group, I had to hire legal counsel with the requisite expertise in various different business segments to support the operations’. As a sign of her deep entrenchment in the organisation, Lim’s professional remit stretches far beyond that of a typical GC. Apart from legal work and acting as company secretary to the SPH Board, Lim is also tasked with overseeing risk management, compliance, sustainability, corporate communications and corporate and social responsibility for the group, and has recently functioned as a director of some of the subsidiaries within the group. ‘I enjoy that my current job is not only confined to doing just legal work’, Lim says. ‘I am involved in senior management steering committees, where high-level discussions are debated and proposals put forth to the board of directors thereafter. I also find the challenge of representing my company as a nominee director on some boards a huge challenge and highly satisfying’. During her career at SPH Lim has seen the company grow in terms of its business operations and has witnessed a growing trust of the company senior management in the legal department. ‘Our department is now seen as an integral part of the business and its strategic decisions, with legal implications only being made after consultation with us’.
Anna Michelle Llovido wears several hats as both corporate secretary for Megaworld Corporation and corporate counsel legal manager for Emperador Distillers. Assuming the latter position for Emperador Distillers in 2012, Llovido has been tasked with handling intellectual property, administrative and tax cases and rendering advice on matters of Philippine law. Part of this work necessitates ensuring compliance with national and local laws and assisting the company in obtaining government approvals and permits or licenses. Leading the legal function for one of the world’s leading brandy maker and the largest seller of brandy in the Philippines, Llovido has been central to all of its fundamental deals over the past couple of years. In 2015 it acquired Whyte & Mackay Group from United Spirits Limited, which is partly controlled by Diageo – for £430m, following a competitive auction process. This acquisition is one of the largest outbound acquisitions by a Philippine company in recent years.
Janette Loh joined Canon Singapore – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canon Inc. – in 2009. Canon Singapore operates as the regional headquarters for the group’s sales and marketing operations in South and Southeast Asia, covering 22 countries. In her time with the company, Loh has grown the Singapore-based legal function from a team of two to a team of 10 members spanning legal and corporate secretarial, intellectual property and product regulatory functions. The team also works closely with a wider group of around 15 counsel based in the various jurisdictions within Canon Singapore’s commercial territory. Loh sees the expansion of the legal function as a recognition of the value lawyers bring, commenting that it ‘represented a success in convincing management to appreciate the importance of a robust legal and compliance infrastructure, even during challenging economic times’. Loh stresses the importance of a legal team being able to perform both frontline and gatekeeper duties and says her team is ‘constantly encouraged to deliver customer delight in the performance of their work In line with our company’s sales slogan of “Delighting You Always”’. In a business where ‘the only constant is change’, Loh sees it as her task to ensure ‘we remain relevant and agile and are able to adapt our working style to manage different local conditions’.
Xae Hoyy Loh joined Malaysia-based animal feed business Gold Coin Group as group legal counsel in 2015. He was responsible for building the in-house team from scratch and consolidating all legal work from the local offices to a centralised legal department in Malaysia. This process involved streamlining of reporting structure, policies and also management of external counsel. He began his career in-house with Accenture Malaysia as a commercial and contract management lawyer specialising on commercial, services, outsourcing and IT projects before moving to Malaysian law firm Chooi & Company. It was here that he cultivated his skillset in corporate and commercial law with a particular focus on joint ventures, franchise, insurance, information technology, regulatory compliance across various industries and commercial and corporate advisory. The decision to move back in-house reflects Loh’s belief that lawyers can make a strong contribution to an organisation. ‘Working in-house sometimes requires you to be the voice of reason amongst a team of people who may not be fully abreast with the law’, says Loh. ‘You may find yourself caught in challenging decision-making processes but always remember to always be honest and true to yourself and the business’.
Buchan Love was appointed vice president and associate general counsel at Mead Johnson Nutrition in 2013. He manages a team of six lawyers and oversees all legal matters for the Asia Pacific region, covering diverse markets throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia) along with India and the distributor markets of Sri Lanka and Pakistan. New Zealand-qualified Love worked at Hesketh Henry in New Zealand and Peachey & Co and Rowe & Maw (now Mayer Brown) in the UK before moving to Dej-Udom & Associates in Thailand in 1999. Love says the eight years he spent with the firm were an invaluable learning experience. ‘The majority of our clientele were multinationals and for much of the time I spent with the firm I was the only non-Thai practitioner. That gave me a wide exposure to a range of corporate clients and many different industries and business models. It really helped me to become a broad generalist, which is very useful training for working in-house’. In 2006, Love decided he wanted to get closer to business and made the move to the Bangkok office of Mead Johnson Nutrition, at that time part of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), covering both pharmaceuticals and nutrition businesses, where his appreciation of the cultural dynamics of the region were put to good effect. ‘There is no such place as “Asia”’, says Love. ‘The cultural and legal diversity between jurisdictions is so great that you really have to treat each country in its own terms. Going in-house can be a challenge as a result, and as a New Zealander I was aware that I would have to work hard to build relationships and gain the respect of business people in a variety of locations. To become a respected advisor requires a lot of work, but it is worth it in the long-run because so many legal issues are of fundamental importance to doing business in this region. My point of pride is the transition from being technical advisor to trusted counsellor. It was a fascinating experience for me and I firmly believe that an in-house lawyer will only succeed in this region if they are always prepared to learn’. A further point of pride for Love was his close involvement in the separation of BMS and Mead Johnson Nutrition in preparation for the listing of Mead Johnson Nutrition on the New York Stock Exchange, a process which completed in 2010 after just 18 months of work (similarly complex separations typically take many years to complete). Love received recognition from the company’s president for his work on the separation and considers it one of the most intense and professionally rewarding chapters of his career. He has since played key roles in several foundations of Mead Johnson’s business structure. For instance Love transitioned Mead Johnson’s approach to compliance from an approvals-based approach to a risk-assessment approach, and was the legal lead for the implementation of the company’s Asia operating business model and regional headquarters in Singapore. For a businesses operating in the highly-regulated infant formula market, getting these processes right was an important matter, and as counsel, Buchan had a big role to play. ‘Our consumers are babies and the leadership of this business demands that we are operating to the highest standards. As a lawyer it is my job to give all stakeholders comfort that we are operating to the best possible standards, and to do that I need to get right down into the weeds so I can understand the commercial drivers of the company’.
Theresa Low’s appointment as general counsel and company secretary of the Sentosa Development Corporation Group of Companies came after both corporate and private practice roles, spanning from listed company Dairy Farm International Holdings’ South Asia office to Burger King’s Asia Pacific office, where she was actively involved in the company’s entry into new markets across the Asia Pacific region. She is currently in the position of heading the legal team at SDC which develops and manages Sentosa, a statutory board in Singapore. Being a strong advocate of education, she is the driving force behind the advancement of legal training and setting up the PDPA compliance regime as her organisation’s data protection officer. She has also held roles as the compliance officer and crisis management officer and also managed the Have It Your Way Foundation activities in Asia. In all her roles, she has been tasked with a vast array of complex strategic issues in different areas of law where she has demonstrated not just sound legal knowledge but also business savvy and practicality. She has been described as a very dynamic individual who is passionate about her role and rises to the challenge of doing more with less. ‘We are a bit like doctors’, she says. ‘We try to fix our clients’ problems when they consult with us and try to help them along with an immunity jab for prevention. In-house lawyers need to work in parallel with the businesses to pre-empt issues, think ahead and not just fix the issues post-event’.
Marianne Malate-Guerrero has been senior vice president and head of legal at SM Investments Corporation (SMIC) for the last 10 years. She started her legal profession in private practice in 1989 at Castillo Laman Tan & Pantaleon where she specialised in corporate litigation for nine years. Malate-Guerrero was then hired by Solidbank Corporation as vice president, legal officer in1998 and worked alongside personnel from Citibank to organise the legal team. She was subsequently hired in 2000 by United Overseas Bank Philippines where she headed the legal department for five years. In 2006 she assumed her current position at SMIC, the parent company of the SM Group and the largest conglomerate in the Philippines. Its core businesses are retail, property and banking and the company is currently the market leader in all three core businesses. The listed company’s reach covers department stores, malls, hotels, commercial buildings and tourism which is why Malate-Guerrero has had to remain increasingly agile and abreast of emerging regulations in various industries. ‘My role is to make sure procedures are in place in respect of the legal risk. When I joined in 2006, SMIC had just finished its listing so I had to implement certain changes internally on providing legal services as we needed to monitor risk centrally from a group perspective. Unlike other companies we’re more collaborative as we have division heads that provide services and I’m there to coordinate and make sure that internal clients are both satisfied and compliant’. Malate-Guerrero sees this exposure to different kinds of practice as central to helping her understand better and perform more holistically as an in-house counsel. Her experience helped her notice an area that needed growth and change within SMIC. When she joined SMIC, Malate-Guerrero established a system to clearly delineate roles and areas of responsibility among various divisions in the legal department. The systems were also intended to improve the responsiveness of the legal team and ensure a more thorough handling of legal risk.
Nathaniel Mangunsong is senior vice president and group head of legal and compliance for GO-JEK, a mobile technology company which seeks to introduce social change through technology. The company was founded in 2010 and has launched a popular mobile application which has had a big impact on various aspects of life in Indonesia, from transport and logistics to lifestyle services. Mangunsong has been integral to the planning and launch of the application, facilitating the signing of documents and managing the legal processes relating to financing. Having built the company’s legal function up from scratch while paying attention to regulatory and commercial issues, he had a sizable task. GO-JEK has experienced tremendous growth since its inception and the mobile application is now the number one online service booking app in Indonesia, with 13 million downloads as of March 2016. In assisting with various business transactions Mangunsong emphasises the importance of compromise and making space for lee-way in a regulatory fashion. Mangunsong admits that operating in such a highly regulated region has been a challenge for the renowned company and has consequently become a priority for his team: ‘The most difficult determining factors are regulatory. It has to be managed in a way that the whole team focuses on regulation. We have to see how we can walk in line with that and think of solutions to approach it in a positive way. For me and the business’. He also highlights the need to communicate concisely and efficiently to articulate critical business messages to management. This has led to an improved sense of cohesion between business and legal, Mangunsong says: ‘We are super passionate as well which is key to keeping upbeat’.
As vice president legal and government relations of Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Manuel is responsible for setting up, maintaining and providing legal advisory services to the whole Philippine operations of international food and beverage company PepsiCo. In this capacity, he leads the creation of collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with government entities, legislative and regulatory bodies and other key external stakeholders. Reporting directly to the company president, Manuel develops and defines the legal standards and policy framework of the organisation to ensure that a culture of compliance, integrity and legal ethics is maintained in the company. Manuel exhibits a strong multi-disciplinary experience in developing and executing strategies for creating sustainable corporate image and managing critical external relations. He is well known for his track record in advocating policies and influencing outcomes among diverse stakeholders to create favorable business climate and image for the organisation, especially in such a highly-regulated industry. With his excellent academic background, coupled with his professional successes, he has defined relevant policy frameworks and established operating mechanisms for his company. In his years in government service, he was instrumental in shaping the policies and procedures before the intellectual property office. Manuel is regarded by his peers in the local legal community as a strong force in the corporate world, perhaps largely attributable to his substantial exposure in international business trends, which he skillfully applies in a domestic setting. Amongst his numerous areas of specialism he can boast multi-jurisdictional cross-geographic legal expertise, organisational leadership and developing and coaching talent.
Highlighted as being an ‘outstanding lawyer’, René Mario Scherr leads a team of five market lawyers and one paralegal to advise a large geographical region covering the markets of Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and several other large countries in Asia. Commended by peers for his exceptional interpersonal skills and ability to settle difficult high-stakes negotiations, Scherr has been described as an ‘outstanding communicator and advocate’ who ‘takes a thoughtful and strategic approach to problems’. Scherr has established a company-wide reputation as a trusted business lawyer, utilising skills developed over the duration of his six years at a top-tier international US law firm and 15 years in-house with multinational companies. At Tetra Pak, a multinational food packaging and processing company, Scherr runs a global function where he is responsible for legal dealings with European and American multinational customers. Prior to his time at Tetra Pak, Scherr served as senior counsel for internal and external global semiconductor manufacturing at Texas Instruments Incorporated for eight years. It was during this tenure that he successfully directed and served as lead witness in a landmark $55m bankruptcy and arbitration award enforcement matters in Bangkok courts over a two-year period. Scherr was also central to spearheading the electronics industry effort to halt anti-consumer legislation by lobbying trade associations and politicians at the state and federal level.
MAXpower Group is a Southeast Asian energy holding company with operations in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Middle East and an installed capacity of over 1,000MW of power generation. Based in Jakarta, Guy Markham has been the general counsel, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary of MAXpower Group since 2012. An outstanding lawyer with a proven ability to negotiate and execute complex corporate transactions, over his time at MAXpower Markham has an impressive track record of working on some of the region’s most prominent M&A deals and corporate and project finance transactions – including an oversight and management with respect to several rounds of corporate group financing of syndicated loans in excess of $200m. His achievements also extend to the compliance space, where he designed and implemented a comprehensive compliance program. Previously Markham served as a general counsel at Ramba Energy and Pearl Energy in Singapore and before that worked as a regional corporate counsel at Weatherford across the company’s Dubai and Singapore offices. Prior to that Markham was employed as a regional contract specialist at Baker Hughes’ Jakarta office.
Patrick McGlinchey assumed the role of regional general counsel Asia Pacific at LafargeHolcim in February 2014. With overall responsibility for all legal and governance matters in Asia Pacific, McGlinchey leads a team of around 24 staff. He says his focus is on providing ‘functional excellence’ in approaching the myriad tasks related to the legalities of the world’s largest building materials company. Amongst several career highlights, McGlinchey points to three in particular: the restructuring of Cable + Wireless USA, a matter which demonstrated his internal advocacy skills and technical excellence to ensure the group’s reputation was safeguarded; taking on a commercial role during his time at InterContinental Hotels group to ‘become a better and more effective lawyer driving value within the organisation’; and settling what was the largest class action in Australia during a spell at Aristocrat Leisure, helping the company to ‘successfully navigate its way through complex international disputes and improve its governance’. McGlinchey also notes his involvement in the complex and high-profile global merger between Lafarge and Holcim in July 2015 as a more recent milestone in his career. According to McGlinchey, this ‘required careful planning and involvement from the legal team with detailed advice on competition law, contracts, branding and minority shareholder protection’, further evincing his talents at all stages of a transaction.
Singapore-based Rivkah Mellor-Bessant has primary responsibility for the Asia Pacific legal function at FTSE-listed management house Schroders, where she leads a team of more than 15 derivatives lawyers and legal professionals across China, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Australia. She is also responsible for legal matters related to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Previously head of division of the legal department in Schroder’s London head office, Mellor-Bessant boasts a range of international experience and over 15 years of global experience practicing in Australia, Europe and Asia, specialising in financial services and commercial law. Considered a specialist in complex cross-border global legal matters she is responsible for the identification and management of legal risks arising in the Asia Pacific region in the context of global approach and policy. Described as an experienced manager of teams and lawyers she resources teams focused on supporting revenue growth, which provides timely, commercially focused legal advice across the APAC region in their local jurisdiction and with cross-border capabilities. Furthermore, Mellor-Bessant is a regulatory committee member and regular contributor to the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) regulatory committee.
Thuy Minh Lai is the chief administration officer and country legal counsel for the Vietnamese entity of Citibank, which became the first US bank to open in the country in 1994. Described as having a ‘high degree of flexibility and solution-driven approach to legal’, Lai leads legal support spanning all the group’s country activities across its retail, corporate and investment banking and global transaction services divisions. Known in the in-house community for her ‘broad experience’ across a range of industries and areas, Lai has encountered ‘extensive exposure to international and multi-jurisdictional issues in Europe, Asia and the USA’ in a career that has seen her spend over seven years as a senior lawyer at Freehills in Vietnam and over a decade at Citibank.
Anjali Mohan joined Sumitomo Bank in October 1996 as its first in-house counsel. Following Sumitomo Bank’s merger with Sakura Bank to form Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), Anjali became the head of the combined legal department, before taking a regional role in 2008, when the department became responsible for supervising offices of the bank in the Asia Pacific region. Anjali is known for revolutionising the legal department at SMBC. This was achieved by ensuring real understanding of the business requirements, rather than merely giving legal advice in a ‘vacuum’. Anjali explains: ‘Besides reviewing contracts, there must be an understanding of the regulatory universe in which we operate and this should be reflected in agreements we draft or review. This has enabled the department to be seen as a true adviser to the business and helps to distinguish our role from that of external counsel’. In addition, Anjali is known for making her unit adaptable to the growing pace of change in the financial services industry in Southeast Asia by dedicating resources to keep track of the changes and working with internal stakeholders to understand how the new requirements could be implemented. Prior to moving in-house, Anjali spent four years at the Singapore based law firm Lee & Lee.
Annabel Moore’s route to the position of general counsel at Diageo Asia Pacific was an unconventional one. In 1995 she had joined a small team of in-house lawyers working at the London headquarters of international drinks company Guinness. Her arrival coincided with an increased volume of work coming from the company’s Asia Pacific businesses, which at the time had no on-the-ground legal support. Moore saw that there was an opportunity to help grow the business in the region, and in 1997 she moved to Singapore as the first lawyer of Diageo, which was formed that year as a result of the merger between Grand Metropolitan and Guinness. For the first time in her career, Moore had to work without the support of colleagues, something which she says was a valuable professional development experience. ‘I learned that I had to have an opinion and I needed to make my voice heard; I didn’t have the time or the luxury of seeking a second opinion from other lawyers. However, it also taught me to trust my instincts and that years of legal training and experience meant that it was unlikely that I would make any huge errors’. She has since grown the regional legal function to a team of more than 30 lawyers and has become an important member of the company’s senior management. In 2002, Moore was appointed to the legal leadership team, a body which comprises the general counsel of Diageo plc, the general counsel of the various regions of Diageo – North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific – and the heads of the intellectual property, corporate security and company secretarial functions. In 2007, she was appointed to the Asia Pacific executive team and was made primary counsel to the president of the region.
Viet Nguyen Tien is a Vietnamese legal professional with extensive experience in the country’s insurance sector. Currently serving as general counsel at Vietinbank Aviva Life Insurance, a joint venture between one of Vietnam’s largest banks, Vietinbank, and the largest insurance services provider in the UK, Aviva, Tien is credited for his ability to understand the needs of the business and to partner effortlessly with stakeholders of different levels to achieve optimal business results. Tien is also praised for his efforts to shape his organisation’s business strategies, in particular with regards to transforming cultures and building up the company legal structure, frameworks, policies and procedures. Over his four-and-a-half year tenure at Vietinbank Aviva Life Insurance, Tien has impressed with his ability to solve complex labour and trade litigation and his efforts to put in place policies and procedures that ensure that the company is complying with all regulatory requirements. Prior to joining his current employer, Tien accumulated more than 10 years of experience working in the insurance market at Baoviet Life Corporation and Prudential Life.
Norwegian-headquartered international certification body and classification society DNV GL has recently undertaken a significant global restructure process that required an understanding of local laws across several countries. In his role as regional head of DNV GL’s group legal function in Asia Pacific, Dag Ove Solsvik helped the company achieve its desired legal and commercial outcomes in the face of rapid changes to the industries and markets it covers in the region. Utilising his deep knowledge and skills with regards to corporate law, intellectual property, tax, employment and industrial and property issues, Solsvik was, in the words of a nominating lawyer, ‘able to provide the excellent leadership and guidance to his staff (and external counsel) needed in order to facilitate the project and achieve the required outcomes from the board’. The transaction spanned many jurisdictions and required DNV GL’s legal team to deal with local subsidiaries in many countries while having to ‘drill down in several aspects of the law’. Solsvik was praised for his provision of ‘clear and specific instructions to his team and external lawyers’, in addition to his delegation skills and communication skills with the board, ‘[balancing] the communication at both ends very well whilst also remaining integral to the project to ensure the success of the global restructure’. Following DNV’s acquisition of GL in 2013 and the subsequent merger of those companies and their group structure, Solsvik has completed key work in streamlining the legal structure and implementing the global merger in the local countries on a legal entity level. The team had to face challenges across several countries (Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam in particular) and managed to complete all work in just 6 months. This was largely down to good planning and deep understanding of the challenges in the various countries displayed by Solsvik and his team. Solsvik qualified in Norway and has previously served as a deputy judge in his home country. He joined DNV Group in 2011, working at its Oslo headquarters as corporate counsel before moving to Shanghai in 2013 as head of Asia group legal. He moved to Singapore in 2016.
Handra Pandu became legal manager of PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja Palembang in 2015 and is recognised for his work to modernise and improve the legal department by introducing new and clearer standards. He was initially employed as a corporate lawyer at PT Pupuk Indonesia (Persero), a large Indonesian fertiliser manufacturer, before it restructured to spin-off the ammonia producer and distributor PT Pupuk Sriwidjaja Palembang. Handra Pandu was closely involved in the spin-off and restructuring process and received praise from nominators for his contribution to the matter. He has also played a significant role in a number of strategically important deals, including the financing for the PUSRI-2B project, a large-scale fertiliser and ammonia plant. He is also recognised for helping to establish subsidiaries in new business areas, including pesticide production and shipping.
Alix Grice has held a wide variety of in-house and private practice roles in the Asia Pacific region over 25 years, working at Microsoft, General Motors, Herbert Smith Freehills, Baker McKenzie and, most recently, BT. Grice was made head of legal for Southeast Asia in 2013, and then vice president regional counsel for Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific in January 2016. She is recognised as a standout counsel in the areas of corporate technology and intellectual property law, as well as for her extensive commercial experience in the Asia Pacific region. In her regional counsel roles at both BT and Microsoft she has managed large teams covering a wide geographic scope and received praise from nominators for her managerial work. Among the many highlights of her career, Grice is personally most proud of a corporate and social responsibility project she was engaged in while at Herbert Smith Freehills. Working alongside the National Museum of Australia, Grice helped to protect the intellectual property rights of Indigenous art, an initiative that was recognised with the prestigious Australian Business and the Arts Foundation Toyota Community Award. In her current role, Grice has worked to break down “silos”, decrease the isolation of a geographically distributed team, review and re-engineer legacy structures and leveraged a variety of alternative service providers to supplement the resources of the in-house team.
A fairly new business, Thailand-based energy company, B. Grimm Power was set up in as a pioneer in the country’s emerging private power generation industry. Currently, B.Grimm Power operates 13 power plants and 15 solar farms with a combined power generating capacity of 1,626.MW. Peradach Patanachan was recruited as the company’s first senior vice president legal, and has since been heavily involved in all processes of the company and its philosophy of providing high quality energy and services by applying world-class standards and procedures and growing in a sustainable way, domestically and internationally. Patanachan became executive vice president in 2007 and has since led the legal team through a number of large-scale transactions. He has contributed to the ethos of the company by creating a team with good ethics, governance and professionalism. Patanachan spent eight years as a solicitor at Clifford Chance, Thailand. Prior to this he was legal counsel for KPMG Thailand. Between 1993-1994 he was a legal advisor for Members of the House of Representative and Members of the National Legislative Assembly.
Jackson Pek runs the Thailand legal department of Amadeus IT Group, the world’s leading transaction processor for the global travel and tourism industry. A public company created by Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa and SAS, Amadeus is leader in its field and a component of the Spanish IBEX 35 index. Having been with the company for 11 years, Pek has had an immense contribution to the expansion of Amadeus across Thailand and Southeast Asia, impressing with his willingness and ability to give input on the commercial direction of the company and drive business strategy. Prior to joining Amadeus, Pek worked at law firms Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and White & Case across the US and Asia, and more recently served as senior attorney at IBM, overseeing legal support in Southeast and South Asia. In addition to his work with Amadeus, Jackson has delivered lectures in various educational establishments throughout Asia, most notably National University of Singapore Law School.
Real estate and capital markets lawyer Eugene Phua assumed his current position as legal head of real estate and supply chain financing, and legal co-head of loan capital markets in 2015. This role has proven to be a diverse portfolio within the bank serving the most significant clients in Southeast Asia. Prior to his in-house career Phua’s private practice experience included leading and executing complex syndicated loans, structured and acquisition financing across Southeast Asia and Japan. This comprised of four years in Tokyo with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom focusing on real estate financing and a spell at Clifford Chance in Singapore, focusing on general banking. In his current position Phua considers himself a strong proponent of being actively engaged in all stages of a deal from inception to end. He is a key leader in the structuring stage, negotiations and execution and resolving legal issues with external counsel. ‘I lead by example and this has helped transform the legal team from mere gatekeepers of specific issues (which is not uncommon in a number of financial institutions) to broad-based legal experts who are constantly aware of all deal issues and who can be counted on by the business at any time for a sound solution’. A testament of his professional competence was shown when he hit the ground running at BNP Paribas by immediately overhauling the supply chain financing documentation platform and processes, based on his experience in creating a similar platform for a local bank while in private practice. ‘First impressions count, so it was a make-or-break situation for me at BNP Paribas’.
Irish-qualified lawyer Peter Plunkett joined the Dublin offices of Aircastle as senior legal counsel and managing director in 2006, and moved to Singapore in 2012 to develop the company’s Asia Pacific office. Plunkett began his legal career at Arthur Cox in Dublin, where he says he gained ‘almost unlimited exposure to top-drawer legal professionals in a highly driven environment [that] taught me how to do things’. In 1992 he joined GPA Group, then the pre-eminent aircraft leasing company in the world, and worked in a variety of aircraft financing legal roles. GPA’s decision to float on the stock market just as the aviation sector was undergoing a downturn in 1992 led to a failed initial public offering and created what Plunkett describes as a ‘highly pressurised’ environment at the company. However, Plunkett says, this experience was ‘central in honing my problem-solving skills, both in a transaction execution context and in my wider role. My time at GPA taught me how to get things done’. While already experienced in the aircraft leasing space, Plunkett says his time at Aircastle was critical to his development: ‘It allowed me to take more responsibility and ownership of matters under my watch, including management of a team in Dublin and latterly, Singapore’. Aircastle has helped shape Plunkett’s approach to working in-house, and he in turn has helped shape the organisation’s legal function ‘so that it is central to the business and technical decision-making process in the company as well as [a legal division]. This is of critical importance in an asset finance environment, where all functions have to be pro-actively involved with the optimisation of the asset values and the related transactions’.
Flavio Porro has 17 years’ worth of experience as a corporate lawyer operating in the oil and gas, renewable and power sectors. In particular, Porro is known for his impeccable reputation of overseeing challenging M&A projects, dispute resolution cases, compliance work and international bids. Over the past two years, Porro has worked as the group general counsel and head of risk at Malaysian fabricated process equipment provider for the oil, gas and minerals processing industries. A business focused professional with a tendency to constantly investigate the commercial side of the business, its management and financial aspects, Porro has driven the legal function of his employer by generating quick solutions to problems and conducting negotiations for transactions that often require high degree of diplomacy. In addition to his role, Porro serves as a board director in Italy and Australia, which requires a high level of international awareness, which Porro developed in his previous career. Prior to moving to Malaysia two years ago, Porro worked in Europe, where he practiced English and French law at various oil and gas businesses, namely ENI, Saipem and ERG, supporting onshore and offshore projects all over the world.
Michael Qiu has over 20 years’ worth of experience at Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s foremost fast-moving consumer goods companies. He served as general counsel for China for eight years before moving to Singapore as general counsel for Asia in 2009. Last year he took on responsibility for global brand protection while continuing to have legal oversight of the Asia Pacific and Greater China regions. Though Chinese, Qiu trained as a lawyer in the US and worked as an associate at Baker McKenzie in Chicago and Hawaii-based Lyons, Brandt Cook & Hiramatsu before joining Procter & Gamble in 1995. He is also a trustee of the Lingnan Foundation, a non-profit organisation which seeks to strengthen Chinese-American cross-cultural awareness through education.
A well-respected member of CT Corp’s management team, Zainal Rahman is considered a trusted voice amongst peers in the industry. Zainal Rahman started his professional career as a lease officer in November 1988 in Bank Ekspor Impor Indonesia and Sumitomo Bank of Japan. Since then he has developed an excellent grasp of international law and has proven to be a dedicated and highly competent individual who has continually moved up in the ranks due to his skill and dedication. Zainal Rahman’s skillset is also evidenced by his move to the law firm of Soebagjo, Roosdiono, Jatim & Djarot in 1990 as an attorney and his eventual promotion to an active partner in February 1997. Zainal Rahman currently sits on the board of various group companies, such as Mega Capital, Para Multi Finance and Asuransi Jiwa Mega Life.
Maria Lourdes Rausa-Chan has been senior vice president, corporate secretary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) since 1998. A commercially savvy lawyer, she is considered a trusted voice in the industry and has served as a member of the boards of satellite communications company ACeS Philippines, financial services companies Filcredit Finance and Capital Development Corporation, and First Pacific Realty Partners Corporation and Metro Pacific Land Holdings. Before joining PLDT she was group vice president for legal affairs of Metro Pacific Corporation and the corporate secretary of some of its subsidiaries. Amongst her other roles she also served as director of Smart Communications Philippine Holdings.
Described as an ‘outstanding’ general counsel with a ‘sharp’ and ‘analytical’ mind, Roland Samosir heads Dyson’s Asia Pacific legal team. Upon joining the company in 2013, he oversaw an impressive expansion of the legal team, transforming the department from a unit of two employees working in Singapore and Malaysia to an international unit comprised of multiple employees scattered across Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Japan. Apart from enabling the provision of more efficient legal support, this expansion ensured a closer integration with the rest of the business. Samosir’s time at Dyson has also been marked by his work to support the business in various Asia Pacific countries to comply with competition and bribery laws through rigorous audits and training. Samosir previously held senior legal roles at General Electric, where he was responsible for providing legal advice across the entire Asia Pacific region and played a highly influential role in enabling the business to engage with government authorities in Indonesia on competition law, to establish a presence in Myanmar and achieve a significant first business transaction in Vietnam. Before that, Samosir was the general counsel at Alcatel-Lucent for the Japan and North Asia regions. Prior to Alcatel-Lucent, Samosir was with Lucent Technologies in which he made immense contribution to the business in various multi-million telecommunications network projects and by leading in politically sensitive discussions with key partners.
Singapore-based lawyer Hemant Sharma has over 17 years’ experience operating as an in-house counsel and company secretary. Having been a crucial part of legal teams for the likes of Airtel, HCL Perot, GE, Autodesk and Avon, his vast experience has offered opportunities of operating in different landscapes, regional markets, varied challenges and more importantly tremendous professional growth and agility. For about last four years Hemant has been with Yahoo, currently in the position of senior director legal and government affairs, managing legal and corporate affairs while supporting India and Southeast Asia markets. His areas of expertise encompass corporate and commercial laws, transactions, M&A, compliance, litigation, corporate restructuring, government affairs, public policy, IP and technology laws and people management. Hemant takes great pride in developing his team and believes that some of the most significant changes he has made to the legal department involve empowering his team to operate with independence and confidence. In such a diverse region, Hemant is not afraid of his team at times committing mistakes as long as these are treated as learning opportunities. ‘Advice I always give to my team members is that our education and training as lawyers give us a unique advantage to look at a problem or a situation from many angles, and therefore most of the time it may not be black or white for us in the corporate and geopolitical world. The solution lies somewhere out there! Make sure you work towards finding that solution but within the framework of the law of the land, as you would always be the flag bearer of and answerable to the legal system of the countries and societies you operate within’. Considered a trusted business partner and not just another support function, Hemant goes above and beyond to deliver practical legal advice to the business to simplify the process and make the business user friendly. This trust is evidenced by the fact that very early in his career, he got a seat at the table with the Board of Directors, CEOs and CXOs, negotiating complex multimillion dollar, multi-jurisdictional transactions, managing regulatory and labour law affairs in complex global markets, supporting end-to-end M&A deals, managing sensitive joint venture transactions, and most importantly providing solutions to complex legal and business problems. Hemant concedes this was challenging but equally rewarding: ‘It was like being thrown deep into the sea, not only learning to swim myself, but to quickly learn to extend my hand to others’. This is how his journey as a lawyer started and took him all over the world, working with some great companies and people, who are largely responsible for Hemant's accomplishments and a gratifying career.
Hong Kong-based Matthew Slater has extensive experience advising on deals across Asia and is known as one of the region’s most capable in-house corporate lawyers. He was appointed managing director at Goldman Sachs in 2012 after joining the bank in 2010, moving in-house after a successful career in private practice at several high-profile international law firms. Slater accrued his broad and in-depth experience by previously working as investment banking counsel at Merrill Lynch, in addition to stints at Clifford Chance and Latham & Watkins. Such proficiency is crucial in allowing Slater to assist the Singapore arm of Goldman Sachs consolidate and expand its operations in the region.
An ‘exceptionally gifted’ international lawyer with substantial commercial, transactional and regulatory expertise, Maprang Sombatthai has in excess of 10 years of experience of running the legal affairs of multinational companies and overseeing cross-border M&A projects. Currently, Sombatthai serves as Thailand’s head of legal at Line, a Japanese smartphone app which allows its users to enjoy free calls and messaging with other Line users. In this role, Sombatthai provides counsel and support on a wide assortment of issues, both operational and strategic in nature. Over the past two years, she has been given credit for successfully managing important litigation and disputes on behalf of the company. Prior to assuming her current role, Sombatthai worked in the insurance industry, managing all legal and compliance matters of an insurance company and broking company, Thai Cardif Life Assurance. In her time there she worked on a number of important transactions, including a significant sale of shares to Thai Life. At the start of her career, Sombatthai spent nearly six years working for law firms The Legists and DLA Piper.
Su Puay Leng was promoted in 2015 to the role of head of legal of Maxis, Malaysia’s leading telecommunications service provider. Prior to her promotion she led major transactions for the Group, handling corporate and operational matters including leading the Maxis Berhad pre-IPO Group corporate restructuring exercise in 2009, negotiating the first ever sharing of active telecommunications infrastructure with other service providers in South East Asia in 2011 and co-authoring the General Consumer Code of Practice for the Malaysian communications and multimedia industry. She currently heads the Group’s legal operations including structuring and executing corporate and funding exercises as well as complex commercial deals ensuring legal risks are balanced with commercial viability. 2015 and 2016 were busy years for Puay Leng as Maxis launched two unrated Sukuk Murabahah programmes for RM5bn and RM10bn, respectively and completing an internal reorganisation to consolidate and integrate the businesses and undertakings of Maxis’ wholly owned operating subsidiaries under Maxis Broadband Sdn Bhd. Puay Leng also played a key role in the management team responsible for the business IT transformation programme during this period. Her activities within the legal department have also focused on facilitating the company’s “Always On” marketing campaign, as they increasingly immerse themselves in an ever expanding universe of connected applications. This has been achieved thanks to her efforts in supporting new projects aimed at bringing better internet experience to millions. For example, Maxis recently signed a partnership with Vodafone to bring “internet of things” technologies to businesses operating in Malaysia. This partnership will enable Vodafone to introduce its advanced data network to the country and to digitalise and transform the operations of thousands of enterprises. A proponent that lawyers should evolve into business enablers and partners, Puay Leng started the “Legal as a Business Partner” campaign in 2016 where lawyers are encouraged and expected to understand the commercial and technical interplay to better provide legal solutions for business efficacy without compromise to the Group’s interest instead of a pure compliance approach of highlighting statutory and legal requirements. As part of the campaign, the traditional approach of lawyers handling specific portfolios was replaced with a convergence regime where lawyers are up-skilled to be ‘technology neutral’ and ‘full value chain conversant’ enabling them to handle procurement contracts across technology domains for both radio access networks and IT; they are trained to undertake customer and partner facing contracts alongside vendor contracts to facilitate seamless confident service levels to customers while incentivising business partners to deliver their best innovations for Maxis’ customers. Puay Leng continues to lead her team towards achieving Maxis’ ambitions of being a fully digital company by 2018. Her immediate dream is developing a tool for the Maxis Malaysian sales force to sign contracts digitally and remotely followed by seamless importation into a contracts repository maintained at headquarters. Puay Leng, who holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Cambridge courtesy of a fully funded Maxis scholarship, also sits on the Maxis defalcation and tender committees.
Headquartered in Jakarta, Bank Mandiri is Indonesia’s largest banking institution by assets, loans and deposits. As group head of legal, Eman Suherman is responsible for providing advice regarding all legal matters across a diverse scope of areas ranging from mergers and acquisitions and joint company law to complex derivative transactions. Highly respected for his vast expertise in financial services law, legal matters related to banking and international transactions, Eman Suherman is frequently called upon for advice by various divisions within the bank and is expected to act as trainer on various legal education programmes for employees and business units. Prior to assuming his current role, Eman Suherman was employed as a legal team leader for three and a half years and as a senior legal manager for eight years at the bank. Before that, he spent over two years at Bank Expor Impor Indonesia. He started his legal career in 1997 at Gani Jemat and Partners.
An experienced lawyer of more than 20 years, Tan assumed her current position in 2010. Joining ABN AMRO Bank post-financial crisis, after its acquisition, break-up and nationalisation, Tan regrouped the legal department of the branch and led a steadfast team of senior lawyers to reestablish the department’s knowledge base and relationships with the business. Tan’s strong background in dispute resolution enables her to work with the business to navigate transactions with sound knowledge and understanding of potential risks, and also to support the bank in a challenging regulatory climate. ‘In this evolving environment, with pressures on the bank from all directions, Legal needs to think broadly, and weigh and manage risks, to take the business forward with a steady hand. This is a challenge the team and I are happy to take’. A Cambridge graduate, Tan has been called to the Bar in Singapore and London.
Subur Tan has been with Bank Central Asia for three decades, occupying a range of legal, non-legal and managerial positions at the Jakarta headquartered financial institution. Subur Tan first joined the bank in 1986 and has since held positions as head of credit department at operational head office (1991-1995), head of legal bureau (1995-1999), and deputy head of legal division (1999-2000) before assuming the directorship for compliance, legal and risk management divisions. With over two decades of experience, the in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the Bank and its several business units, Subur Tan continues to provide leadership and support leading to continuous benefits for colleagues and clients alike.
Gim Boon Tan’s first in-house role was with Telecom Malaysia International, where he served as head of legal until Axiata was demerged and spun off into a separate listed company in 2008. It was during the course of this process that Gim Boon Tan developed his reputation as a skilful transactional lawyer, capable of managing a complex deal spanning 10 countries and multiple shareholders. Following his appointment as the group general counsel of the newly reformed company, Gim Boon Tan gained recognition for training a highly skilled team of professionals, many of whom have gone on to work as GCs in leading companies in the region. Gim Boon Tan has also impressed with his achievement to strategically alter the culture of his department, ensuring that lawyers emphasise the commercial aspects of deals. ‘We are no longer just a procedural or rule ticking department that other parts of the company must comply with to get contracts signed, but instead we are perceived as business partners’, Gim Boon Tan says. More recently, Gim Boon Tan has put significant efforts into making his department more adaptable to increasing regulation by promoting new technology. ‘Most regulations have not yet caught up with the digitalisation that is taking place in the external environment from customer behaviour through to non-traditional competitors’, Gim Boon Tan points out. ‘To deal with such an environment internally it is important for the way the department works [and] technological change and anticipated new regulations. Team members within the legal department, and also in the other departments that use legal services, are also educated on the impact of such changes to [their activities]’. Before moving in-house 12 years ago, Gim Boon Tan worked as a private practice lawyer in Malaysia and Australia.
Whilst overseeing all legal affairs matters of the local and international business activities for SMRT Corporation, a major public transport operator in Singapore, Jacquelin Tay implemented a comprehensive suite of processes, policies and tools that have resulted in increased transparency, a shorter decision chain and sustainable pragmatic solutions to enable new business opportunities. ‘These, belying the diversity of the business of the SMRT Group and its evolving nature, continuously demands an able command of legal expertise in both depth and breadth’, Tay reveals. Tay’s role at the company was initially a transformational one requiring execution of effective change management, both within the legal department and externally. This helped to support the on-going reorganisation efforts and expansion of business activities taking place within the wider SMRT Group. These include a new wave of investments and joint ventures as part of its strategic growth, adapting to new regulations and regulatory models (such as the Bus Contracting Model), the furtherance of new R&D efforts aimed at improving transport reliability via the implementation of the SMRT-NTU-NRF Corporate Lab. Most recently Tay oversaw the successful transition into the ‘New Rail Financing Framework’ as well as the privatisation action by Temasek. Tay is also known for promoting technology within the legal profession. For example, she has recently pushed for the utilisation of e-signatures, and has thus contributed dramatically to the increase of productivity within group. Tay is hopeful that businesses will start perceiving legal departments as strategic partners, rather than merely as support functions, adding: ‘Lawyers by virtue of their training, analyse more and are therefore well-positioned to see both sides of any matter. Further, lawyers typically comprehend sufficiently of the industry/technology yet are able to critique through a third party lens, giving them objectivity and strategic distance to provide advice’.
Vietnam-based Lam Vu Thao is the head of legal, patents and compliance for the Vietnamese entity of multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer. His responsibilities include oversight of legal issues for the company across all of its business divisions, from pharmaceuticals to consumer health, animal health and crop science issues. Thao has acquired a reputation of excellence during a career with close to two decades of experience as both a private practice lawyer and an in-house counsel. He was previously included in both The Legal 500’s GC Powerlist: Asia Pacific. Thao joined Bayer in October 2013 boasting a track record of in-house legal roles and high profile companies including Intel, Diageo and PwC.
Diana The, chief counsel for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, is responsible for leading the provision of legal services to the business activities of the professional services firm in 12 countries across the Asia Pacific region from her base in Singapore, together with her team of five lawyers based in Sydney and Shanghai. An important component of The’s overall role is to provide strategic advice on legal and regulatory matters in the increasingly important investment advisory, wealth management and financial services-related consulting activities in this region. In addition to her legal role, The is involved in the Aon Hewitt Asia Pacific regional leadership team and has a seat on the Aon Hewitt global law leadership. The came to Aon Hewitt from Eastspring Investments – a subsidiary of Prudential plc – where she was regional head of legal in addition to her private practice experience that spans over 10 years in various roles, including commercial litigation, corporate finance, general corporate and funds management. ‘My strategy for the legal team is to ensure that we become an indispensable part of the organisation. Using our professional legal qualifications, as well as our years of experience as practising lawyers in our previous lives, we partner with the business to help guide them through the numerous legal issues financial services firms face today’.
Norman Tiongson is the chief legal officer of Philippine Gold Processing & Refining Corporation (PGPRC), the developer and owner of the process plant on the island of Masbate in the Philippines and a seller of gold. compliance with Philippine laws including the environmental obligations of PGPRC. Having specialist knowledge in minerals and mining law, Tiongson has been at the forefront of all significant large transactions and negotiations covering this remit for the company. As an integral part of the company with eight years’ experience in the region, Tiongson has continued to add value and train the in-house team to accompany the company’s growing scale.
The multi-lingual and diligent general counsel Tom Thomas is the current general counsel of Agoda, a part of The Priceline Group and a world leading online travel and related services provider. Based in Bangkok, Thomas is responsible for all legal and related issues including compliance and risk, allowing the businesses to flourish commercially. Indeed, Thomas created Agoda’s global legal function from scratch in an attempt to deal with the myriad legal issues that arise from the online travel sector. He acts as compliance and ethics officer and oversees the awareness of the company code of conduct and related policies in Agoda’s offices in different jurisdictions. Initiatives including a compliance program and live trainings across the whole company and shares close links with his colleagues in other arms of the business; working closely with the HR function, reporting to the other members of the management team.
Before assuming his current position at property investment specialist Novaland in September 2016, Son Tran had worked for 15 years in the fast moving consumer goods industry where he handled unique large-scale transactions within real estate, intellectual property and M&A. He was previously head of legal at Heineken, PepsiCo, and, most recently, Unilever. He has served as the chair of food and beverages committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) and in 2013 received the Unilever Chairman Award. At Unilever he delivered a number of innovative legal agendas including the enforcement of intellectual property rights, creative M&A legal structures and won land mark cases in competitor challenges and non-compete litigation. He initially moved in-house in 1998, joining Heineken as legal counsel and over time progressed and developed its in-house legal department to become one of the most successful legal functions in a very heavily regulated alcohol industry. Some of his highlights during this period at Heineken include successfully handling the first ever competition case in Vietnam. During his tenure at PepsiCo he was deeply involved in the sale of a 51% share of PepsiCo to Japanese investor Suntory.
The first priority for an incoming GC is to become familiar with the business. Since being appointed as vice president legal at Lion Super Indo. in July 2016 Bambang Triwicaksono has used this learning process to ensure his team is familiar with each and every aspect of the company’s operations. ‘I’ve always had the view that as a good lawyer and to provide a good advice, we have to understand the business very well hence I tried to coach my team to have a good understanding of the business so that we could provide a better and practicable support to our company’. Bambang Triwicaksono started his legal career in private practice in 1997 as an associate at Hutabarat, Halim & Rekan (Jakarta) before moving in-house in 1999 to PT Tempo Scan Pacific where he served as director and group general counsel for 17 years. During this time Bambang Triwicaksono was responsible for all legal matters across the group’s various entities and gained important practical insight into how to operate in the Indonesian market. ‘In doing business in Indonesia we have to adapt to such situations whereby some of the regulations might be different from one region to the next’, says Bambang Triwicaksono. This decentralisation can be extremely challenging for lawyers and businesses to navigate, but Bambang Triwicaksono has proved himself particularly adept at the process. Widely recognised as among Indonesia’s finest GCs, Bambang Triwicaksono is praised for his ‘ability to excel at a lot of things at once: from management to hard law to offering commercial advice’.
Mai Tuyen is a highly skilled lawyer with an expertise of 20 years of practicing law in Vietnam, 10 of which were spent in-house. Currently serving as general counsel and corporate secretary at Merzedes-Benz Vietnam, Tuyen is tasked with advising his management team on enterprise-driven legal issues. In particular, Tuyen has been recognised for his work on commercial transactions, competition and anti-trust issues and intellectual property cases. Prior to joining Mercedes-Benz in July 2008, Tuyen worked as a senior legal counsel at one of the leading domestic petroleum corporations in Vietnam, Petro Vietnam Group, where he advised and managed strategic cooperation agreements in the field of petroleum drilling services. Tuyen’s first legal position was at the multinational dairy company FrieslandCampina, where he provided legal support to the management team. Prior to moving in-house Tuyen spent a decade working at the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City, the largest provincial court in Vietnam.
Antonio Ungson serves as the company secretary, chief legal counsel and chief compliance officer at the global food and beverage company Del Monte Pacific. He has also been in charge of the legal department at the Philippine subsidiary of the company since 2007. Ungson’s reputation in Southeast Asia’s in-house markets stems from his involvement on Del Monte Pacific’s acquisition of Del Monte Foods, a US canned fruit, vegetable and broth business, which includes the iconic brands Del Monte, Contadina, S&W and College Inn. The acquisition reunited Del Monte Pacific with US brands.
Vanessa Villafuerte is the associate general counsel of Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company (AG&P), a leading infrastructure solutions provider delivering state-of-the-art products and support services to vessels, projects and plants. AG&P is among the world’s most prominent solutions providers to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. In this capacity, Villafuerte ensures compliance with government agencies, such as the Philippine Economic Zone Authority which exempts export projects from Value-Added Tax and associated duties. Prior to this role she served as the general counsel and deputy administrator for support services for Authority of the Freeport Area Bataan. Villafuerte also had a short spell as the legal counsel for Music Group Macao Commercial Offshore, where she built on her corporate law experience.
After joining Mapletree Investments in 2009, Kwong Weng Wan was asked to build up the legal department at a time when the company was undergoing a dramatic growth phase, expanding from one real estate investment trust (REIT) and two private equity funds to four REITS and five private equity funds. ‘It was an exhilarating journey’, says Wan. ‘I had the privilege to be hands-on for three IPOs for listing on the Singapore Exchange. We had to map out new processes, including on compliance and new markets (Australia, UK and US). You cannot run a business the same way when it grew almost four-fold!’ A lawyer with substantial experience in real estate transactions, Wan impressed with his work on the acquisition of Festival Walk shopping mall based in Kowloon Hong Kong. Prior to joining Mapletree, Wan worked as the Asia group general counsel for Infineon Technologies and prior to that worked in private practice at Baker McKenzie and Wee Swee Teow.
‘Don’t be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone when you feel it is appropriate – whether it is standing up to your business when you think they are going too far or providing practical advice to address non-legal issues impacting your business’, says Jonathan Wise, managing director and head of legal for Singapore and Southeast Asia at Nomura. ‘Doing so will both better protect and add value to your firm while serving to distinguish yourself from other in-house lawyers’. An expert with 20 years of professional experience in developed and emerging markets, Wise has established a reputation for providing advice on a broad range of matters relating to transactions, regulatory issues, dispute resolution and corporate work. Managing a team of 15 employees, across Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok and Mumbai, Wise is a lawyer well known in Southeast Asia for his skills in successfully overseeing legal processes across multiple jurisdictions and advising boards and senior management on complex legal, regulatory and reputational risk issues. Prior to assuming his current role in 2013, Wise served for Nomura as head of investment banking legal for Asia excluding-Japan (based in Hong Kong) and as an executive director and senior legal counsel in asset finance (based in Tokyo). He joined Nomura from Lehman Brothers in Tokyo, where he was senior vice president and senior legal counsel, following the purchase by Nomura of Lehman’s Asian and European operations in 2008. Prior to joining Lehman, he was in private practice with Morrison & Forester and Coudert Brothers beginning his career in New York.
Adrian Wong is legal director for the Brunei National Petroleum Company, known as PetroleumBRUNEI and its various subsidiaries and joint ventures and a member of the executive management committee of the company. Wong was appointed as the company’s first legal director 11 years ago and is recognised for his work establishing processes and guidelines to ensure the legal function contributes to strong corporate governance. Wong has been closely involved with negotiation and conclusion of petroleum mining agreements, including commercial arrangement for the important CA1 and CA2 offshore oil assets. His biggest contribution, however, has been to implement a change of mindset within the legal team, helping to evolve from a strict check on legal requirements to one that considers commercial and practical risks in to inform corporate strategy. Wong says that ‘enforcing the laws and respecting the legal system depends not only on how approachable or credible you are as a lawyer, but requires a human touch that [makes your role] transcend beyond that of a “respected professional”’. Wong has led by example by acting in a non-legal role in various aspects of the business, particularly on leading the exploration and production funding processes for the company’s expansion into international upstream ventures.
Advanced Info Services, known as AIS, is the leading mobile operator in Thailand with a customer base of approximately 35 million users. Monthana Wongswangsiri is the current general legal counsel at AIS, and has a rich pool of experience in the organisation having spent time in several roles after first joining in 2001 as a legal specialist. In addition to this “on the ground” involvement within the business, Wongswangsiri has supplemented such experience via extracurricular learning, earning a diploma of business law from Thammasat University and procuring an MBA degree from the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Wongswangsiri assumed the role of general legal counsel at AIS in 2016.
Damian Yeo currently stands as head of legal and regulatory affairs for Facebook in the Asia Pacific region, which includes the large markets of India and China. As an expert in software licensing and IT law, Yeo has held a number of positions within the field, including legal director for Akamai Technologies, and supporting the multimedia division as the global lead counsel for the Vancouver and San Francisco offices of Nokia. Yeo started his legal career in litigation practice as an advocate and solicitor with the law firms Allen & Gledhill and Thio Su Mien & Partners. Yeo has also previously served as vice-chair of the Singapore European Chamber of Commerce, Information Technology and Telecommunications Working Group, head of foreign relations in the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility and CASETRUST committee member in CASE (the Singapore consumer association). He is also an accredited mediator for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. Yeo has been behind Facebook’s aim of investing in resources and expertise to help its Southeast Asia operations grow and achieve improved business results; this is in line with the recent milestone findings of advertisers that use Facebook to develop small businesses in Southeast Asia.
Accomplished general counsel Andry Yudistira has over 13 years’ experience as legal counsel, with three years working experience as legal consultant and 10 years as in-house counsel. Experienced in merger and acquisitions, foreign direct investment in mining, property and international cross border trade transactions he has become a reputable lawyer with myriad specialisms. As the legal director and general counsel for General Motors, Andry Yudistira provides professional advice to local and overseas affiliates companies in project preparation, general corporate, commercial, foreign investment, labour and regulatory matters. Described by peers as a ‘fine commercial attorney’, Andry Yudistira has shown a strong understanding of commercial issues surrounding any given legal matter. Before joining General Motors Andry Yudistira served as senior legal counsel for Holcim Indonesia for two years. In this role he assisted with marketing, innovation and overall business development leading the provision of high legal services, compliance control and risk management. However, a large part of his in-house experience was through his 10 year tenure at Sojitz Indonesia where he played a key role to the growth of the business. Sojitz was formed through the integration between Nichimen Corporation and Nissho Iwai Corporation in December 2002. Andry Yudistira was central to this integration and his exceptional contribution was recognised leading to his promotion to manager for corporate legal and compliance.
On behalf of Jones Day, we congratulate each of the counsel included in the GC Powerlist Southeast Asia. We have had the pleasure of working alongside many of you, and are truly pleased to see your efforts and skills recognised in this leading forum.
Lawyers in Southeast Asia face many challenges, whether working in-house or in a law firm. While covering multiple jurisdictions and diverse legal systems, counsel must navigate rapidly evolving regulatory regimes and protect against significant political risks, all in a high-pressured and increasingly globalised business environment. With Singapore further developing its role as a financial, trading and innovation centre, and regional economies providing some of the best growth prospects and opportunities in the world, business activity and demands will continue to grow. The role of corporate counsel in steering companies through the challenges to realise opportunities has never been more challenging or important.
At Jones Day, we understand the challenges, unique cultures, and ways of doing business in the different South and Southeast Asian nations. Our Singapore office, which opened in 2001 and comprises more than 35 lawyers, acts as an ideal base for our multilingual team to support our clients across the region. The majority of our partners have been living and working in the region for most of their careers. In recognition of our long-standing commitment to Singapore and deep experience in key practice areas, in 2013 we were one of only a few firms awarded a QFLP licence to practice Singapore law in permitted areas (primarily commercial, corporate and finance).
Importantly, our Singapore office is a fully integrated part of a global law firm serving clients as One Firm Worldwide. Spread across five continents, Jones Day has more than 2,500 lawyers in 44 offices located in major centres of business and finance around the world. Our practices cover the spectrum of transactional, litigation, regulatory, and tax matters facing our clients. When client matters have an interdisciplinary dimension, formidable legal talent across specialties and jurisdictions is available upon command. Jones Day is built on a singular tradition of client service, based on communication and engagement with its clients, and a binding energy, conviction and credibility that comes from shared professional values.
The result? A mutual commitment of, and seamless collaboration by, a true partnership on a client’s behalf, that earned the firm the number one ranking in the BTI Consulting Group’s 2017 “Client Service A-Team” report, based on independent, individual interviews with Fortune 1000 general counsel.
Everyone at Jones Day greatly appreciates our clients recognising the commitment and quality of service we provide to them, and we strongly believe they should also receive recognition for their efforts and successes. Our sponsorship of the GC Powerlist Southeast Asia is testimony of our support.
The partners of Siam Premier are delighted to be involved with the GC Powerlist Southeast Asia. We offer our sincere congratulations to all who have also been recognised in this inaugural Powerlist. Whether you are from a local corporation or an international corporation with a presence in our region, in order to make this regional list each of you will have successfully navigated multiple legal frameworks, cultures and time zones. You will also have been required to develop, implement and monitor robust risk management processes to protect your respective businesses and to participate in the global economy.
We are all witnessing significant change with the rise of China, the exit of Britain from the European Union and the re-examination by the United States of its international role under the Trump presidency. At the same time we are also witnessing much change in our home of Southeast Asia, particularly in the wake of the burgeoning ASEAN Economic Community. In order to survive and prosper from events such as these we must all be flexible and versatile as well as strong and determined. Our firm believes that Southeast Asia is a youthful, growing and increasingly diversified regional economy with strong future prospects. We welcome investment in our region against the background of a changing global landscape.
Legal firms across the globe provide strategic guidance to companies and private clients facing potential and actual legal challenges. We strive to assist our clients by providing options to assist in achieving their goals and by focusing on our performance through continuous improvement, delivered through business excellence and rigorous management. Motivated to provide the best possible access to our services, we have created a strong regional presence in Southeast Asia through our sister firms Lao Premier and Myanmar Premier.
To all those who have been recognised for their achievements, it is indeed a day for celebration and the start of much more to come for Southeast Asia. Even as you are being acknowledged today for your past performance, you are no doubt actively involved in future projects to benefit the region of Southeast Asia. We thank you for your dedication and support to our region and very much look forward to crossing paths again soon.
The partners and team of Asia Counsel Vietnam extend our heartfelt congratulations to all those nominated in the first GC Powerlist Southeast Asia.
Compliance in a rapidly changing legal environment with increasing risks of personal liability, complex transactions management, cross-border engagement in new markets such as Vietnam, dealing with weak, lengthy and often uncertain enforcement procedures are only a few of the areas that are keeping corporate counsel on their feet.
The challenges that general counsel and in-house legal practitioners are facing are likewise those that we, as lawyers, strive to respond to and, together with our clients, we continue to tailor our approach to providing our services accordingly.
While Vietnam has made great strides towards improving its legal system in parallel with its impressive economic development, navigating the legal and practical challenges of this investment destination requires unique experience, a commercial yet careful approach to addressing legal needs and a powerful combination of local and international skills and expertise.
Vietnam’s new Law on Investment and new Law on Enterprises which took effect on 1 July 2015 have further improved conditions for foreign companies to invest in the country, whether through the establishment of subsidiaries or by acquiring shares in domestic companies. Overall, the Vietnamese Government continues to simplify and expedite investment procedures and to remove or reduce “conditional” investment sectors striving for a more and more level-playing field between domestic Vietnamese companies, state-owned enterprises and foreign-invested companies through ongoing legal reform.
Vietnam’s leadership remains committed, and is taking active steps, to move forward with the country’s privatisation of state-owned enterprises and 2017 is likely to see substantial divestments in some of the largest SOEs. The Government has initiated the sales processes for the country’s largest breweries and beer distributors, Saigon Beer Corporation (Sabeco) and Hanoi Beer Corporation (Habeco), which have a joint market share of upwards of 60% of domestic beer consumption in the country. A sale of 49% of the country’s sole operating Dung Quat refinery is in the works, as are divestments of Government-held stakes in mobile operator MobiFone. 2016 already saw Japan’s ANA Holdings invest in Vietnam’s national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, and GIC of Singapore becoming a key shareholder in Vietcombank, Vietnam’s largest state-owned bank by revenues.
2017 looks to be an exciting year for Vietnam and for international companies engaging in this market. We look forward to being there for you.
Joe Nathan P Tenefrancia
Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia
After practicing law together for 26 years, the partners of Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia continue the firm’s legacy of excellence in the fields of Corporate and Special Projects, Intellectual Property, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Mining and Natural Resources/Energy, Infrastructure, Transport and Public Utilities, Taxation, Labour and Employment, Trade, and Telecommunications and ICT.
Consistent with our commitment to our clients and nation building, Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia adheres to the principles of excellence, teamwork, creativity, responsiveness, professionalism, meritocracy and mutual respect. For this, we have been cited and recognised in, among others, AsiaLaw Profiles, World Trademark Review, The Legal 500 Asia Pacific, Chambers & Partners Asia-Pacific, Asia IP, Global Legal Experts and Asian Legal Business Philippine Law Awards.
In this issue of GC Powerlist Southeast Asia 2017, Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia expresses its support to the in-house counsel who have been instrumental in the advancement of the legal profession in the Philippines. These in-house counsel are advising the leading multinational companies and conglomerates and are performing multifaceted roles as compliance officers, corporate governance champions and risk managers. They are constantly shaping not only the
Philippine economy but, most especially, the lives of Filipinos.
Our experience in working with in-house counsel has been productive and mutually beneficial. Together, we develop the best solutions to address legal problems, from simple to very complex and novel legal issues. We face head on any challenges that test our knowledge and understanding of the intricate Philippine legal environment. Thus, most of the sound business decisions of our clients are shaped through collaboration between the external and in-house counsel as we both aim to add value to companies without sacrificing compliance with myriad Philippine laws, rules and regulations.
Alongside in-house counsel, we keep abreast with new laws that cross international borders. As business transactions become complex and transcend geographical boundaries, we continue
to provide innovative and cutting edge solutions
to our clients.
We are therefore deeply honoured to be a part of GC Powerlist Southeast Asia 2017 and look forward to a strong and lasting partnership.
Our warmest congratulations to the in-house counsel and the people behind the success of GC Powerlist Southeast Asia 2017!
3 Verulam Buildings
3 Verulam Buildings is delighted to be involved with The Legal 500's first GC Powerlist for South-East Asia and warmly congratulates the outstanding General Counsel who have been ackowledged.
3VB is one of the foremost sets of barristers' chambers in the UK dealing in commercial law. Recognised by the principal legal directories across a wide variety of the fields that make up modern commercial practice, we have over 70 barristers practising nationally and internationally, appearing in courts and arbitration proceedings worldwide.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.