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Platinum Partners

Enterprise GC - Syon Park- 13-14 March 2017

The second Enterprise GC conference built on the success of the first, and further expanded the dialogue between leading general counsel in the UK and beyond.

The first day kicked off with a stimulating keynote from Hamish Taylor, former CEO of Eurostar and Sainsbury’s Bank. During his illustrious business career, Hamish has been called the ‘Master Thief’ for his skill in borrowing ideas from one industry to use in another − for example, during his tenure at BA he adopted queuing techniques developed by Disney, thus changing the way we check in forever.

He encouraged our audience members to think more creatively about how they approach their roles, and to look outside of legal for inspiration, to past innovations in business. As a CEO, he often interacted with those at the front line of the customer experience − not just the boardroom − to really understand the key business challenges, and his message to our GCs was to do the same.

For the Monday afternoon keynote, Alison Gaskins, chief of staff to the general counsel at Barclays, took us through the thinking and processes behind the recent revamp of the bank’s legal department. In conversation with GC magazine editor-in-chief Catherine McGregor, she covered the introduction of time recording, matter management software, and reorganising the legal panel. Alison's conversation provided a counterpoint to the day’s motivational keynotes by taking pioneering concepts and strategic ideas and showing how these can be put into concrete practice in the real world.

Our final keynote on Monday was a real blockbuster, led by Herminia Ibarra, professor at INSEAD and one of the Thinkers50 top ten business thinkers in the world. Professor Ibarra explained how general counsel can start moving into leadership while still being fully engaged in their day jobs, including practical steps to achieve this.

Many delegates praised the ‘inspirational’ talk to us later on, describing it as a game changer in terms of how to approach leadership. We often imagine that leaders are just born that way − and maybe some are! But one of Ibarra’s key messages was to embrace discomfort by doing something new and stretching oneself, and many of our senior GC audience reported that they felt motivated to move out of their comfortable groove and to re-evaluate their leadership role. An opened mindset like this might mean thinking beyond a legal and a risk remit, and into the broader application of those functions across the organisation.

Day two kicked off with Cal Leeming, a hacker-turned-security-expert. Cal gave a talk on the dangers of our increasingly networked world, which is providing more and more avenues for hackers to enter systems. Most memorably, he demonstrated how easy it can be to access some of these devices. He then engaged in a lively question and answer session with the audience members, covering all aspects of their concerns on cybersecurity. This was an accessible and practical session that got delegates to reassess how they think about cyber attacks.

Our final keynote of the conference was from Bjarne Tellmann, GC of Pearson and author of Building an Outstanding Legal Team: Battle-Tested Strategies from a General Counsel. During a ‘fireside chat’ with Catherine McGregor, the conversation ranged from the macro pressure on the role of the general counsel to effective use of technological advances. Bjarne highlighted the importance of your business environment, demonstrating how to effect change by ‘hacking’ your culture. This led on to change management, and an emphasis on the need to see change as a constant process, not a single event.

Our keynotes were interspersed with a selection of roundtable discussions, covering issues such as process efficiency; use of technology and the application of AI; crisis response; interactions with the board, regulators and government; cybersecurity; and talent management. As with last year year, our agenda was driven by the delegates. They chose the topics for discussion and, as the format was discursive, they also directed the focus of conversation.

For more photos of the event, see below

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