Alex Zhouzhang Chen
| Sinopec International Exploration and Production (SIPC), China
With a varied career that has seen him take on a number of interesting roles, Alex Chen has been general counsel of Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Corporation (SIPC) since June 2016. Beginning his career working for the Chinese Ministry of Commerce while still undertaking his Bachelor’s degree in Law, Chen eventually jooines Sinopec as a legal assistant in January 2005. By March 2007 he was made a senior legal advisor, and continued his meteoric rise at the company by being made legal department manager for SIPC’s Middle Eastern office in 2008, a role which he undertook for almost seven years. He was then made general counsel for the Middle East and North Africa region, becoming a senior economist by the end of this period. This is indicative of Chen’s versatile nature and ability to master a range of disciplines, also highlighted by his triple Master’s degrees in EU Law, International Law and Project Finance, M&A and Regulations, gained at institutions in France, China and the United States. Chen speaks fondly of the first deal he completed with Sinopec, remembering that he ‘learned the complexity of oil deals, interaction between oil and politics, and the high-stakes involved’ in these transactions. He has also taken on responsibility for the development of individuals within the legal team, explaining that he ‘created and implemented a “SWAN” program, which is [used] to train young lawyers at Sinopec in “Socializing, Writing, Analyzing and Negotiation”, four core skills I believe essential for any oil and gas lawyer’. When dealing with chronically low oil prices, Chen prizes a pragmatic approach across the company. ‘You need to invest in a more careful way’, he explains, ’have more attention to the transaction structure, and negotiate harder to get better deals’. One area, however, is often immune to budget cuts within Chen’s legal team: ‘We also need to keep a closer eye on the legal budget, with a probable exception of legal training, which is worthy of investment at almost any time’.