Asia major

AMP solicits international panel contenders to augment Asian offensive

Australian fund manager AMP’s merger with Axa Asia Pacific in 2011 has created an A$15bn (£9.44bn) financial services company. As the enlarged company looks overseas for growth, general counsel Brian Salter has formed a plan to set up an international panel.

The most interesting aspect of the new panel is its Asia focus. Salter noted that the geographical focus of the expansion is mostly Asia, as its existing business in North America and Europe will continue to grow.

“We’ll initially look for global law firms with strong cross-jurisdictional capability and a solid platform in emerging markets in Asia,” he revealed.

The company has two separate panels for Australia and New Zealand and is looking at adding a third piece to support the evolving investment goals, legal needs and risk profiles. The creation of the international panel will be at the top of Slater’s agenda in the second half of this year.

Given the significant changes in the Australian legal services market, the timing is right.

“Global law firms have arrived in Australia in big waves, and many of our longstanding domestic advisers have become part of international networks. While these firms are defining their new product offerings more clearly, it’s time for us to evaluate our needs overseas and select the most suitable international advisers,” he said.

Firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons) and Norton Rose (formerly Deacons Australia) have been on AMP’s Australian panel for a long time, but they still need to go through a comprehensive assessment process if they want to be on the new panel.

“Some of our Australia panel firms have added an international component, but that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be on the new international panel. They need to demonstrate their ability to support our businesses and expansion internationally like many other strong contenders,” Salter emphasised.

It seems that a simple tie-up with strong domestic Australian firms will not give an obvious competitive edge to global players. It is their existing international networks and competencies in Asia that will carry more weight.