Interview with: Anton de Bruyn, Head of KPMG Legal Services in South Africa

KPMG in South Africa | View firm profile

Anton de Bruyn explains the benefits of offering integrated legal solutions to clients in a multi-disciplinary context

What do you see as the main points that differentiate SF Lawyers from your competitors?

There is little doubt that the legal services market of the future will look quite different from the traditional law firm model of the past.  We are witnessing a surge in regulatory reform and technological breakthroughs around the world coupled with the vigorous enforcement of laws by different regulators across various industries.  Add to the mix the prevailing economic and political uncertainty which permeates world markets and it is not surprising that clients need something different from their legal advisers.  We live in a world where businesses are constantly judged by the world around them not only in respect of their compliance with laws and regulations but also in respect of whether their conduct is ethically sound.  Any perceived unethical or unlawful behavior is swiftly highlighted through social media and the press, which creates an immediate reputational risk for those who are implicated.

I see the ideal legal adviser of the future as someone who not only has a good grasp of the law but also possesses business acumen and the ability to work seamlessly alongside other disciplines to bring solutions to clients.  It is precisely at this juncture where KPMG Legal Services differentiates itself from other legal service providers.  The KPMG Legal Services business unit has been operating from within a multi-disciplinary environment for more than 25 years.  First and foremost, we are an integrated business unit within KPMG Tax & Legal, which enables us to team up with tax practitioners to bring business focused tax and legal solutions to clients of the firm.  At the same time, we work alongside various specialist business units in KPMG Advisory which enables us to add tech advisory, actuarial, accounting, deal advisory, corporate finance, forensics and corporate governance skills to our legal offerings.

The KPMG Legal Services business unit is proud to be a member of the KPMG Global Legal Services network of firms which is currently enjoying significant growth in both global revenues and the addition of new member firms and lawyers to the network.  This membership enables us to access and contribute to global legal innovation and in particular the efficient combination of technology tools and legal offerings to bring unique solutions to our clients.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Our main growth areas going forward will be dictated by the changing needs of our clients.  We are particularly strong in the areas of legal due diligence and legal transaction services, Competition Commission merger filing submissions, financial regulatory services, competition law regulatory services and personal information and data privacy services.  We have subject matter experts in all of these technical areas which puts us in a strong growth position for the next 12 months and beyond.

We expect M&A activity to increase over the medium term which will drive our legal due diligence offerings, legal drafting services required for transaction agreements and the preparation of Competition Commission merger filings.  Group restructures and rationalizations will continue to be pursued by clients who need to cut costs in a challenging economic climate or simply strive to improve overall group efficiency.  Over the years, we have acted as legal transaction advisers in a large number of M&A transactions as well as group restructures and rationalizations.  In many of these transactions, our clients enjoyed the benefits of having their transaction lawyers as well as their corporate finance, management consulting, financial advisory and tax experts working together as one KPMG team to get the deal over the line.  We have an experienced competition law team which provides advice on the notifiability of transactions and offers a complete service in the preparation and submission of merger filings to the Competition Commission.  This team has successfully handled numerous intermediate merger filings at the Competition Commission and large merger filings at the Competition Tribunal.

We also expect South African regulators to continue to actively enforce regulatory compliance and prosecute those who fail to comply.  Keep an eye out for strong enforcement steps by the Competition Commission, the BEE Commission, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the National Credit Regulator and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission.  Going forward, we are also anticipating a major regulatory impact from the Information Regulator in the area of personal information protection and data breaches.  Our subject matter experts working together with colleagues in IT Advisory and Management Consulting are well placed to help clients find solutions to regulatory challenges they may face in all of these areas.

The Competition Commission has proven itself to be a very effective regulator in the prosecution of cartels.  The next 12 months will be no exception and South African companies must brace themselves for more dawn raids and cartel investigations.  Our competition law team has provided competition law support to clients which were dawn raided by the Competition Commission and which were respondents in cartel investigations.  Having regard to the expected implementation of the Competition Amendment Act, we anticipate more abuse of dominance investigations and market inquiries by the Competition Commission.  In response, we anticipate clients to intensify their efforts to beef up their competition law compliance programmes and train their management and staff on the do’s and don’ts of competition law compliance.  Our competition law team has significant experience in supporting clients in respect of all aspects of their competition law compliance needs.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Our strength lies in our integrated model and our multi-disciplinary approach.  We have taken a number of steps to strengthen and formalize our virtual teams across different disciplines within KPMG South Africa in order to maximize the value we are able to offer our clients.  Our legal recruitment has focused on attracting the type of lawyers who are well suited for this type of business model.

We have also embedded ourselves within the KPMG Global Legal Services network by aligning our strategic objectives to those of the network and participating in international conferences and global topic group discussions and communications.  This has enabled us to participate in more international client assignments and leverage off international best practice in servicing our local clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We believe that technology lies at the heart of the way legal services will be offered in years to come.

The introduction of technology solutions is a key strategic imperative for KPMG Global Legal Services and KPMG Legal Services in South Africa.  We have seen the launch of a number of tax technology solutions by KPMG Tax & Legal over the past few years, many of which have become very popular with clients.

We are particularly proud of our Competition Law eLearning tool which enables our clients to roll out online competition law training to their management and staff.  The fact that trainees can receive the training and complete the final evaluation on a distance learning basis, makes this a particularly efficient tool and a key element of an effective competition law compliance programme.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

The KPMG Legal Services business unit will continue to offer legal services which are essential to corporate South Africa.

In the years to come, we expect increased M&A and private equity activity.  The trend for companies to improve their corporate governance and regulatory compliance will continue to be a main feature of the South African corporate landscape.  We see this as a natural progression given the strong current and anticipated regulatory enforcement by South African regulators.

For us this means that we will continue to invest in skills and technology to serve our clients in these areas and continue to position ourselves as a differentiated legal service provider.  We believe that our integrated model and multi-disciplinary approach are ideal for the delivery of the type of business solutions which our clients will require in the years to come.