Awards preview: in-house banking & finance team of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams


ABN Amro

The ABN Amro legal team has had a busy year, advising on deals as diverse as the Morrisons bid for Safeway to the Brazilian Bradesco securitisation. John Collins heads the UK and global legal functions, supervising a team of 150 people in 31 countries. Much of the work is done across more than one office, for example, ABN put together an international network of lawyers across London, Sao Paulo, New York, Milan and Amsterdam to work on the Parmalat insolvency. A lot is done by the in-house lawyers, but last year ABN also implemented law firm panels operating in 47 countries.

Amex

Led by Mark Chambers, the American Express legal team is small but hard working. The 13 lawyers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa do the majority of the work, using few external advisers. They are also experienced, with lawyers last year winning 15 and 25-year service awards. Highlights from the past 12 months include launching co-branded cards for KLM in the Netherlands; negotiating card distribution agreements with HSBC and Germany’s E-Plus; and successfully intervening in the test case brought against Lloyds TSB and Tesco Personal Finance by the Office of Fair Trading.

Citigroup

The five-strong legal function of Citigroup corporate finance – headed by co-directors James Gledhill and Claire Jones – has had to act on a string of massive jobs in the past year and a half: MyTravel, Yukos and Parmalat are just three of the vastly complex restructurings that the bank’s in-house counsel have handled with aplomb. The demands are vast; the legal function spans three major businesses – loans, global capital restructuring and institutional recovery management. Given Citigroup’s own business in lending to top-tier corporates, the downturn meant a series not just of technical legal problems, but also franchise issues for the bank. Its in-house lawyers have garnered accolades both internally and externally for their commercial approach.

F&C Management

The legal department of F&C Management does 95 per cent of the company’s legal work in-house, although the average age of the five-strong team is just 28. The lawyers are spread across the UK and the Netherlands and can communicate in English, Dutch, French and German. Gillian Switalski, director of legal services, joined F&C four years ago and reports to chief operating officer Tony Tomlinson. F&C’s parent company, Eureko, is planning to partially float F&C later this year, and Switalski and her team are handling all the related work – including legal due diligence.

GE Consumer Finance

General counsel Elizabeth Lee leads an international team of 120 lawyers in more than 21 countries. Legal headquarters provide support for business general counsels working in the countries where GE operates. Over the past year the legal team has closed more than eight major global acquisitions, working with external counsel; the most significant being GECF’s acquisition of First National Bank in the UK. In addition, in-house lawyers worked with the marketing and operations team to launch a new consumer finance product – dual cards – in the UK, US and Australia. Several significant litigation matters were also resolved in 2003.

Standard Chartered

In 2003, Standard Chartered achieved record results and the bank’s relatively small legal team played an intrinsic part of this success. The eight-strong team, led by group head of legal David Brimacombe, was involved in a large volume of work, including the disposal of the group’s operation in Greece to Aspis Bank, the sale of Standard Chartered Trust Corporation in Jersey, and the purchase of a 9.8 per cent stake in KorAm Bank in Korea. Additionally, the team reviewed its international panel and its five separate country panels, which resulted in significant savings for the bank and improved relationship management.