ING, the largest financial services group in the Netherlands, is setting up its first global banking panel in an attempt to cut costs.
The panel will be for the investment and wholesale banking divisions of ING's £38bn organisation. The financial giant, which last week cut 1,000 jobs, will give a handful of international firms the bulk of its global banking work. In return firms will be expected to offer discounts on aborted deals, fixed fees and flexible rates. According to ING's London-based head of equity and corporate governance Adrian Marsh, ING has not been as aware as it could be about who it is instructing and is missing out on demanding added value from law firms. "We're giving out a lot of work and should be aware of what law firms can give us. Panel firms will be asked to do deals for fixed fees, and, if working alongside us on an equity issue, will be expected to be flexible on things like discounts," Marsh said. Sources close to ING told The Lawyer that individual bankers and corporate financiers have near total autonomy over the lawyers they use. When the panel is complete they will only be able to instruct firms on the list. "It's difficult for an organisation like ours to say, 'Thou shalt only use three law firms', but we would aim to give a big proportion of our work to a few major firms," said Marsh. ING currently uses Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters across the board; Latham & Watkins and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy for securitisation; and Dutch firms DeBrauw Blackstone Westbroek and Stibbe in the Benelux region. Marsh said there was "no guarantee" that any of these firms would gain panel places. The panel itself is expected to be set up within the next three or four months, with invitations to tender going out in around two months. Marsh stressed that applications will be by invitation only. It is becoming increasingly the norm for banks and other organisations to demand significant fee reductions from law firms in return for a panel place. In January, for example, Credit Suisse First Boston's investment banking division successfully negotiated discounts from firms that had won a place on its panel of external lawyers approved for global work (The Lawyer, 21 January).