Crawford & Co head of legal: Principle character
28 April 2014 | By Katy Dowell
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Taking the lead on compliance matters to stay one step ahead of the regulator ‘scalp-hunters’ is a priority for Chris Pinney at loss adjuster Crawford
The wettest winter on record is expected to cost the insurance market in excess of £1bn in claims. Loss adjustor Crawford & Company is at the centre of the ongoing mop up, advising insurers and their customers on claims triggered by the floods.
Sitting on the board for the Emea region of this global company is general counsel Chris Pinney, who is taking a central role in developing the legal function at Crawford, having joined from Jones Day in 2010.
Like many of his general counsel peers, the move in-house from private practice gave Pinney the opportunity to develop his career as a business leader, a significant move beyond his corporate lawyer roots.
“It appeals to me because I’m focused on being a business leader – I’m a member of the 10-person team that runs the Emea region,” he says, adding that “everything has a legal angle”.
Pinney says that where once he would focus purely on M&A transactions, the move in-house means he now deals with a range of legal matters daily – from corporate issues to employment disputes and wider litigation, although this is more frequent in the US.
As the position was newly created when he joined in 2010, Pinney is keen to show he can contribute as a business leader.
Get stuck in
Pinney sits at the heart of a company trying to get to grips with a tough regulatory regime while technology is fast changing the way it works. He wants to lead by example and is determined to show the benefits a general counsel can bring to the management table.
“You’ve got to show you’re willing to get stuck in,” he says, arguing that taking the lead in terms of legal matters could be considered an effective USP for Crawford. He reasons that, by tackling compliance matters in-house, Crawford can and should lead by example.
The City of London has seen Financial Conduct Authority investigations rocket since the crash of 2008. The regulator has sought to crack down on bad behaviour in the markets with a raft of legislation aimed at tackling rogue individuals.
Leading in-house lawyers have seen demand for compliance advice soar and Pinney is no exception. He says the most pressing legal challenge facing the company and the City more broadly is “scalp-hunting”.
“The amount of compliance work is increasing – the regulator wants to hold people personally responsible and put them in jail,” he asserts. “That’s why having a good general counsel is important.”
It is also important to tackle such challenges upfront, install training and policy procedures for employees to follow and “lead from the top”, Pinney says. It is an attitude his senior colleagues support – after all, a single rogue trader could spell disaster.
Pinney is also acutely aware that the company holds on file data that could affect thousands or even millions of customers. The risk of being targeted by hackers needs to be carefully managed. Since he joined, the company has appointed a data privacy manager to monitor the risk across the Emea region and the US. While the likelihood of an attack may be low, the consequences would be huge.
You might think a company that employs 8,700 people worldwide would be home to a sizeable legal team. The reality is that the adjustor keeps things tight-knit.
Pinney is head of legal and chief administrative officer for the Emea region, and until last year was also responsible for the HR function. He reports to global general counsel Allen Nelson in the US.
The company has its fair share of lawyers dealing with clients facing matters on a day-to-day basis – “everything from slips and trips to big health and safety matters” – but Pinney relies on what he calls a “virtual team” of four lawyers who are client-facing but will help make internal legal decisions. They are based in South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy and the Nordic region.
“We are lean and efficient,” he reflects, adding that the US is home to a bigger in-house legal team, dealing with a society that is more litigious.
DLA network opportunity
In the US the company regularly instructs Pinney’s former firm Jones Day, while in the UK its principal external adviser is DLA Piper.
Given the global nature of Crawford, which has a network that spans 70 countries, Pinney says it is important to be able to rely on a firm with a global reach.
He says DLA offers “value-adding” services including a general counsel networking event where he can meet his peers.
While it may be a strong relationship Pinney is keen to keep it under review and says general counsel have a duty to take an interest in the firms they instruct regularly.
“It’s up to in-house counsel to make them change,” he says, referring to the corporate legal market. “They have a highly motivated, educated workforce and it’s up to in-house counsel to drive change and question things such as the hourly rate.”
Crawford & Company
Position: Head of legal and chief administrative officer for Emea
Reporting to: Executive vice-president, general counsel, corporate secretary and chief administrative officer Allen Nelson
Legal team: Five (Emea)
Main law firms: DLA Piper, Jones Day