Who’s Who Legal spoke to Rich English, in-house legal at Barclays. Based in Singapore, English began work at the bank in January 2012. Prior to this role, he spent nine years working on finance transactions at a magic circle law firm spending time in their London, Dubai and Singapore offices. English provides an insight into his role at Barclays, shares his recent experiences of moving to an in-house role and discusses the importance of finding the right counsel to help guide the bank through their transactions.
Name: Rich English
Position: In-house legal
Company: Barclays Bank PLC
The global economic crisis has had a lasting impact on the financial sector; the crisis exposed many of the weaknesses of the banking system and the inadequacies in the regulatory framework as well as causing a damaging effect on public perception. In response to the perceived failings of the banking sector, regulation and oversight of the industry has been increased with heightened requirements for capital and liquidity. Furthermore, public outcry over bankers’ perceived excesses has been a force for change as governments and regulators responded by capping bankers’ bonuses and introducing deferred bonus plans.
No stranger to controversy, Barclays’ summer has been charted with scandal, high-profile resignations and record-breaking fines. The Libor scandal saw the bank fined £290 million for attempted manipulation of the Libor and Euribor rates and the resignation of the bank’s chief executive, chairman and chief operating officer – as well as a Parliamentary inquiry into the scandal. On top of this, the bank had to set aside extra money to cover claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI).
Barclays’ new chairman Sir David Walker and new chief executive Anthony Jenkins are working to revive the bank’s image. In a speech at the annual conference of the British Bankers Association, Sir David announced he was determined to regain the trust of the public and policymakers. In line with the changing financial services industry, the future for Barclays promises to bring more transparent and ethical banking.
WWL: Tell us about your role.
RE: My primary responsibilities are supporting our investment bank and also our private bank on cross-border lending transactional work and related credit work, such as secondary debt trading and restructurings. The role typically involves assisting with structuring transactions, drafting term sheets and mandate documents, instructing and liaising with appropriate external counsels for transactions, reviewing and advising on the finance documents produced and providing general legal support for transactions. In addition to the transactional role, I am also responsible for maintaining a suite of our in-house legal templates.
WWL: Describe a typical day.
RE: Work on a daily basis can vary a lot. In-house lawyers typically have a much larger number of transactions on the go than private practice lawyers; given that in-house transactional work is more advisory in nature with less drafting work required. I typically have between 20 and 30 “live” transactions at any one time so it is difficult to predict which of these will be moving at full throttle on any given day. The hope is that not all of them try and close at the same time. In terms of hours, I am usually in the office at 8:45am and try and leave by 7pm when possible.
WWL: What size is the legal department?
RE: In Asia we have approximately 80 lawyers; the majority of whom are based in Singapore and Hong Kong. The additional lawyers are spread across India, Japan and South Korea.
WWL: Which regions do you regularly work in?
RE: As well as Singapore, we regularly work on transactions where we have teams around the region such as Australia, India and Hong Kong. We also work closely with our colleagues in the UK and the US.
WWL: How does your role as in-house counsel differ from your previous role as a private practitioner? In your experience, what are pros and cons of each role?
RE: In-house lawyers tend to be involved from a much earlier stage of the transaction; therefore, they are more involved with the planning and structuring of deals. From a legal perspective, this is often the most interesting stage of a transaction. One definite highlight of the role is that I do not receive urgent requests asking me to draft a credit agreement through the night anymore. As a con, I found that moving from an office into a large open-plan environment took some getting used to.
WWL: Do you tend to use the same law firms? If so, why?
RE: As is common with most banks, Barclays has a legal panel which is usually reviewed every couple of years. Therefore in Asia we usually work with our selected firms on the panel. In relation to banking transactions, we often use the law firms with the largest cross-border banking practices in Asia such as Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance and Linklaters.
WWL: What are the key qualities you look for in external counsel?
RE: Among some of the key qualities are experience (some firms have far more experience in certain Asian jurisdictions than others, so we would usually want to benefit from this experience as this is often invaluable for flagging potential issues at the outset and getting the transaction completed), knowledge of finance documents (familiarity with all usual finance documentation is imperative in order to be able to draft and negotiate the documents effectively), responsiveness (the relevant partner/senior associate needs to be available and responding promptly to queries – in Asia this can be a particular problem if the relevant lawyer spends a lot of time travelling and is not often in the office) and seamless service (another point that sounds simple, but it is very obvious to a client when international offices are not talking to each other and communicating effectively).