5 July 2010 | By Andrew Pugh
For most in-house lawyers, a high level of involvement with a thriving start-up would be enough. MetLife’s Stephanie Fuller, however, also manages to squeeze in some Ironman training.
For most lawyers a day in the office is gruelling enough. But Stephanie Fuller - MetLife Group UK’s head of legal and compliance - somehow manages to find the time to train for punishing Ironman triathlons, endurance races that involve a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride, followed by a marathon.
Later this month Fuller will take part in her fourth Ironman event. “There’s never enough time for training,” she explains. “I try to get up early and do some training before work. If I can go out again at the end of the day, then that’s a bonus. I see a personal trainer once a week and at the weekend I do longer sessions to get the miles in.”
Fuller clearly enjoys a challenge. She joined MetLife from Railpen Investments when it launched in the UK in 2007, attracted by the prospect of joining a start-up company that would allow her closer involvement in the business. Her role is evenly split between legal and compliance work, which she says are “integral parts of the business”.
“It was a start-up with a remit beyond legal and compliance work, and we were involved in all decisions - down to what colour paint we used,” she says. “There was interaction with our US colleagues throughout and I got to see a huge organisation at work, doing its part to drive things forward.”
Fuller adds: “The lure of a start-up was just too good to turn down - I would certainly recommend it. You really take a huge part in business and it’s a much wider remit than just being a lawyer.”
MetLife is the largest life insurer
in the US and Mexico, and in recent years has stepped up its global presence, particularly in Europe and Asia Pacific.
In March the company sealed its $15.5bn (£10.4bn) takeover of Alico, AIG’s foreign life insurance business, giving the company a foothold in 47 countries - from Peru to Bangladesh.
The UK team has been closely involved in the deal, with each member of the team given responsibility for one country. The work included managing outside counsel and undertaking intensive due diligence and contract issues.
As well as offering insurance products, MetLife UK also undertakes pensions risk transfer solutions for trustees and employers, and Fuller often finds herself up against the clock when working on multi-million-pound, same-day transactions.
She explains: “Obviously things will be drafted in advance but the documents aren’t processed until the morning of the transaction. There can sometimes be issues with things such as faxes breaking down as it can be quite a high-pressure involvement, and the deadlines are quite tight.”
The legal team managed to produce savings of more than $1.5m in the past year. This was largely driven by setting up a legal panel in a bid to streamline the number of firms it works with.
“We set up a legal panel in early 2008 following a tender process,” says Fuller. “Part of it was down to the need to fix rates with external lawyers, which led to big savings.
“We’re obviously always looking to keep costs down and try to do as much in-house as possible. We’ll outsource some large matters or things relating to FSA issues.”
The company now works with just three firms: Baker & McKenzie, CMS Cameron McKenna and Eversheds.
Fuller adds: “As well as pensions and insurance expertise, we want firms on the panel to have a presence in the major European centres. We also want to work with firms that are prepared to get to know us, and decided to keep the panel quite small so that all the firms would get something out of it. We’ve now got to a stage where our panel knows a lot about our business.”
Name: Stephanie Fuller
Company: MetLife Assurance
Title: Head of legal and compliance, MetLife Group
Industry: Insurance (bulk purchase of annuity)
Business written to date (premium value): £1bn
Total number of employees:37
Total legal capacity:Four
1991-92: LLB, College of Law
1993: Admitted as solicitor
1986-89: Legal executive, Rakinsons
1992-96: Assistant solicitor, DLA
1996-2001: Senior legal adviser, Lincoln Financial Group
2001-03: Senior associate, City Law Partnership
2003-06: Head of legal, Railpen Investments
2007-present: Head of legal and compliance, MetLife Assurance