Edward Peppiatt: Christian Salvesen

He is both head of legal and company secretary for a business of 13,000 employees and has taken more work in-house. No wonder Christian Salvesen’s Edward Peppiatt is integral to the company’s growth ambitions. By David Middleton

When your business is global transport and logistics, you’d expect the in-house legal function to run smoothly. At Christian Salvesen, that is exactly what group legal director and company secretary Edward Peppiatt has in place.

With some 13,000 employees across the globe, 200 property sites and a fleet of thousands of vehicles, mitigating risk takes up a lot of time. But that is not the only demand on Peppiatt’s time. As company secretary, he is increasingly finding his time taken up with corporate governance and reporting issues.

“Combining the two roles [of head of legal and company secretary] definitely has some advantages: there’s a fair amount of overlap, as well as some significant cost savings as well,” says Peppiatt. “It ensures your chief legal officer sits with the board and its committees when they meet. And in the increasingly regulated environment in which we live, and the increasing emphasis on good corporate governance, that’s important.”

Peppiatt estimates that the group legal director and company secretary roles are roughly equal in their demands on his time, but the four-lawyer department still keeps most of its work in-house.

As reported by The Lawyer last week (20 November), the company has moved to bring its employment work in-house following a review.

“We were spending more than £100,000 each year on outsourcing our employment law advice, and sometimes a lot more than that, and to be honest bringing it in-house was a fairly easy decision to come to,” he says. “It was a no-brainer really.”

It is a situation that Peppiatt is not ruling out extending to other areas of the business.

“At present we manage quite a bit through outsourcing. If there’s a financial case to make to bring work in-house, then we’ll consider it,” he says. “We have almost enough resource in-house to deliver what we need. The day we have too much is the day I have to cut back. No commercial or IP work gets out unless we’re really in a bind.”

Peppiatt has a tight control on costs and has no fear of using small regional outfits to support the in-house function’s needs. Two-partner Manchester outfit Yates Barnes handles the majority of the company’s property work, which is managed by the group property manager.

“Yates Barnes is good commercially, knows our business and provides very good value for money,” Peppiatt says.

Nottingham firm Rothera Dowson handles work related to the company’s fleet of vehicles and health and safety issues.

The company recently refinanced a chunk of its property portfolio, instructing Lovells for the first time. “It was a significant instruction,” says Peppiatt.

For big-ticket commercial matters, Peppiatt turns to either Dickson Minto, with which the company has a longstanding relationship, or Slaughter and May, while Lovells remains in the picture. Slaughters advised the company on its demerger from Aggreko in 1997.

Of Dickson, Peppiatt says: “They’re our default firm for corporate work and any overspill of commercial where needed. They’re almost like an extension of our department. If we have lots of balls in the air, they can just slip in seamlessly.”

The company continues to use Baker & McKenzie for its international and overspill employment work and Peppiatt is happy with its service. But it is a situation Peppiatt says will inevitably be reviewed by the company’s new employment lawyer Paula Whelan, who started with the company in October.

Looking ahead, as transport logistics experts are wont to do, the property refinancing has given the company room to grow by reducing its debt, and Peppiatt says it has ambitions plans.

“The way we grow will be through three ways: organically, by winning bigger pieces of pan-European business; by joint venture opportunities with colossal companies; and by acquisition where appropriate. The legal department will be at the forefront of all of these methods [and] we may need to review our internal resources,” he says.

The road ahead for Christian Salvesen is largely mapped out. With Peppiatt behind the wheel of the legal function, any potholes along the way should be negotiated skillfully.

Edward Peppiatt
Group legal director and company secretary
Christian Salvesen

Organisation: Christian Salvesen
Sector: Logistics
Turnover: £820m
Annual legal spend: Variable
Employees: 13,000 globally
Legal capability: Four
Group legal director and company secretary: Edward Peppiatt
Reports to: Chief executive Officer Stewart Oades

External firms: Baker & McKenzie, Dickson Minto, Lovells, Slaughter and May
Ed Peppiatt’s CV: Education: 1986-89 – Durham University (Philosophy, Politics and History); 1997-98 – Cranfield School of Management (MBA); 1990-92 – College of Law, Guildford
Work history: 1993-97 – solicitor, Stephenson Harwood; 1997-98 – MBA at Cranfield; 1999 – joined Christian Salvesen as legal counsel; 2001 – appointed group legal director and member of the executive committee; 2002 – appointed company secretary