The new millennium has uncovered a raft of new challenges for the world’s investment banks.
While Citigroup attempts to cement its position as a leading bank with the takeover of Schroders’ investment arm (The Lawyer, 24 January), the Dutch parent company of ABN Amro Equities Holdings'(UK), ABN Amro, has announced 150 branch closures and 2,500 job cuts.
Although ABN Amro remains the largest bank in The Netherlands, the sector is in a state of flux due to factors including the increase in internet banking and the consolidation of the bank’s competitors.
But in the UK, the bank has recognised the need to change in line with the current climate.
With its recent move to new offices at Bishopsgate in London, the legal department is on the verge of merging its five divisions into one legal group to better manage the operational side of the business.
Jenny Stevenson, head of legal and company secretary at ABN Amro Equities Holdings – which is just one of the five divisions within the UK arm of the bank – says that the move has been prompted by the expansion of the legal department.
She says: “ABN Amro has expanded a great deal through acquisition. For example, it acquired Hoare Govett which I worked for. When it was taken over I was the only in-house lawyer with the company secretary.
“Since then we have grown a lot and various businesses have actually taken on their own legal departments.”
The other divisions include the equity derivatives area, which houses nine staff including lawyers, paralegals and secretaries, and the fixed income division, which also has a legal group of nine. The global derivatives policy area has four legal staff and the commercial banking unit has three.
Although the head of each legal department reports to the head office in The Netherlands, Stevenson says they still have a large degree of independence.
Stevenson says the equities holding department gives some work to Linklaters, which she has had a relationship with since her days at Hoare Govett.
The department also outsources work to the other City big hitters but Stevenson says she is not adverse to using smaller firms.
“I’ve used Gouldens for something recently and we have also looked at Lovells for a particular project,” she says.
But she adds that the department is keen to keep as much work in-house as possible. “We have been doing a lot more in-house compared to when it was just me covering everything,” she says.
On the department’s external legal advisers, she says: “We use them in specialist areas including pensions, property and litigation and we sometimes use them for cross-border issues.”
For European work, Stevenson says she chooses firms in a number of ways, including through the head office in The Netherlands, which has a list of preferred suppliers.
Stevenson will occasionally embark on a beauty parade for a particular project, but she says: “It is a necessary evil – commercially these days you simply have to do it.
“If you are thinking of using lawyers for those situations where you are expecting to have large amounts of work or a large project then I think that you have to examine the different options.”
And she adds: “I also think the relationships I have with outside lawyers does not depend too much on the firm but in finding the right person within the firm.”
Head of legal and company secretary
Amn Amro Equities Holdings (UK)
|Organisation||ABN Amro Equities Holdings (UK)|
|Amsterdam exchanges ranking||6|
|Employees||3000 in the UK, 105,000 worldwide|
|Legal function||Four lawyers plus paralegals|
|Head of legal||Jenny Stevenson, head of legal and company secretary|
|Reporting to||Frits Bausch, executive vice-president of legal affairs|
|Main location for lawyers||London|
|Main law firms||Linklaters & Alliance, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Slaughter and May, Gouldens|