WINNER: Virgin Money
The relatively small in-house legal team at Virgin Money (VM), consisting of 17 lawyers, has been juggling a number of projects in addition to its usual activities since summer 2012. First, it announced two mortgage-backed securitisations (advised by Clifford Chance). The first, in July, was oversubscribed at £950m and the second in November raised £1bn. In the same month, VM announced its acquisition of a £465m mortgage portfolio from UK Asset Resolution (UKAR). The team managed the negotiation of contracts and weekly senior management briefings, advising the business on how best to enable the seamless transfer of customers to VM. UKAR used the proceeds to further repay its UK Government loan.
In January 2013, VM announced it was to acquire a £1bn credit card portfolio from MBNA, part of Bank of America. This was a vital deal for VM, as it launches a credit card business and creates new jobs in the North East. Simultaneously, the team continued to focus on the harmonisation of employment contracts, following its acquisition of Northern Rock in January 2013.
These projects took place alongside a massive integration and rebranding project, effecting the name change and refurbishment of Northern Rock's 75-branch network, its website and other customer project documentation. In addition, a £38m acquisition of the site of the Newcastle HQ of VM was conducted without external lawyers, the team developed an online price comparison site for retirement products, and it continued to support VM's social enterprise initiatives. “This relatively small team have played an integral part in the rapid development of this franchise,” commented one of this category's judges.
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WorldPay, a leading global provider of payment services, processes more than eight billion transactions a year worth moer than £300bn. The company became independent when it was sold by RBS in 2010. New owners Bain Capital and Advent International came in with big plans, including building a new legal and compliance function to help transform the business. New general counsel Mark Chambers took the helm, leading on a number of new projects. In addition to launching innovative tools to help display secure payment pages on mobile and tablet devices, WorldPay rolled-out thousands of contactless payment terminals for major high street brands including Marks & Spencer, Boots and Wetherspoons. It also made tracks into China, offering merchants unrivalled access to the China UnionPay card scheme. All this took place alongside the wider revamp of WorldPay's legal and compliance team of over 25 permanent employees. “This is a new team and it has achieved a lot in a short space of time,” said a judge.
3RD: Canada Life
Over the past year, Canada Life's 10-lawyer legal department has focused on maximising the amount of work it handles itself. The team has been allocated an unprecedented amount of responsibility and high-profile work. It was involved in the launch of Canada Life UK's investment arm, for example, ensuring the new asset management business was brought into the UK retail investment funds market successfully and on time. Three of the funds that have been launched involve cross-border intra-group relationships with asset managers based in Canada, Ireland and the US. This project was set against the backdrop of the constantly changing regulatory environment affecting the financial services sector. Judges said: “The Canada Life legal team seem well positioned within the business and have been involved in some interesting, complex work during 2012.”
- Barclays M&A Legal
- Capital One (Europe)
- Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank
- Standard Life