Australia financial services company AMP has unveiled an inaugural international legal panel, with Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie among those being awarded the mandate.
Clifford Chance and Norton Rose complete the five-stong panel. The assessment and selection process, started in the second half of 2012, was let by AMP group’s general counsel Brian Salter.
It is understood that following a preliminary research, seven international firms were invited to compete for the spots on the new panel, but only five have made it through.
“Having a structured process for instructing international counsel enables us to better manage legal risks. Quality control and risk management is the primarily goal of establishing an international panel,” said Salter. “Reduction on legal fees is another benefit.”
There are two categories in the international panel. Allen & Overy, Ashurst and Clifford Chance will be entrusted to advise on major M&A transactions and other strategically important matters. Bakers and Norton Rose will be mainly working on usual business transactions, corporate and regulatory issues. The latter two are also on AMP’s Australia panel.
As AMP has adopted a strategy of driving growth in overseas markets, with a focus on Asia, the group has increasingly used international firms.
According to Salter, 35 international law firms were engaged by AMP globally in 2012 alone. Most recently, the firm sought legal advice from CMS’s London office in its £150m acquisition of a stake in Newcastle International Airport from Copenhagen Airports (31 October 2012). In this transaction, Bakers’ London office acted for Copenhagen Airports.
With the launch of the international panel, Salter is looking to reduce the number of international firms instructed to panel firms only over a period of two years. AMP has an Australian panel and a separate panel for New Zealand. The group exclusively uses the panel firms in each of the two jurisdictions. All three panels will be reviewed every two years.
“We will primarily use firms on our international panel as lead counsel for cross-border matters unless there are powerful reasons,” said Salter. “We’ve experienced an increasing level of trans-national capital flow. Whether it is about a new product launch or entering into a new market, these panel firms have the expertise in specialised areas. Some of them have been building up extensive global networks and become market leaders in many jurisdictions.”
Another reason behind the establishment of the new panel is the significant changes in Australia’s legal industry over the past a few years. “We’ve been working with a lot of firms for a long time. But in the past two years, several relationship partners have moved to different firms and a good number of international mergers have taken place. It’s the right time for us to reassess their ability and establish a separate international panel,” Salter added.
AMP group has about 120 in-house legal staff and an estimated annual legal spend of £16.9m.
To find out more about AMP’s in-house legal department, read The Lawyer’s exclusive interview with Brian Salter (13 August 2012).