Insurance giant Genworth Financial will be reviewing its European panel firms after merging the legal departments of its payment protection and mortgage insurance businesses.
James Rember, formerly general counsel at payment protection, has taken over as general counsel of the merged teams for Europe. He will be looking to cut the number of firms the company uses in the 17 jurisdictions it operates in.
“I think now that we’ve brought our internal legal teams together we can go back to our law firms with a bit more bargaining power,” said Rember. “We’ll be looking at whether it makes sense to use more than one firm in a country.”
The review could pit some of Europe’s biggest firms against each other in head-to-head battles to be Genworth’s only adviser in a jurisdiction. For example, Genworth uses both Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Norton Rose in Italy and both Slaughter and May and SJ Berwin in the UK.
But Rember indicated that he would not use one firm for all European coverage, saying: “I don’t see us using one firm across Europe – I don’t believe that works. The quality you get in a London office isn’t necessarily replicated across Europe.”
Genworth has around 20 lawyers situated across Europe in places such as Paris, Milan, Madrid and Stockholm.
Rember said he was looking to hire three more lawyers for vacancies in Turkey, Frankfurt and London to support a business push into new territories.
“We’re expanding into Turkey. Our model is to have some lawyers in London to support internal pushes into new countries. Once that’s up and running we’ll look to hire a local lawyer,” he said.
Rember is the company’s new European legal chief, moving up from his previous role as legal and compliance director for Genworth’s payment protection business unit.
His career includes stints at Allen & Overy and Australian firm Clayton Utz. He joined Genworth in 2001 from General Electric, where he was senior legal counsel.