Australia’s AMP unveils plans to set up Asia-focused international panel

Australian financial services group AMP’s general counsel Brian Salter has formed a plan to set up an international panel, which will consist of mainly global law firms with a strong Asia presence.

The announcement comes following the 2011 merger between AMP and Axa Asia Pacific, which has created a A$15bn (£9.4bn) financial services group.

The company has two separate panels for Australia and New Zealand and is looking at adding a third piece to better support the company’s strategy of driving growth in overseas markets, with a focus on Asia.

Apart from its merger with Axa Asia Pacific, the company has recently signed an alliance with Japan’s Misubishi UFJ Financial Group to gain wider access to Japan’s fund management market. It currently has offices in Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing and London and representative offices in India and a number of other locations.

“The geographical focus of our expansion is largely in Asia, while its existing business in North America and Europe will continue to grow,” said Salter. “It’s necessary to establish a separate international panel that can help better service the company’s investment goals, legal needs and risk profiles internationally.

“As a starting point, we’ll initially look for global law firms with strong cross-jurisdictional capability and a solid platform in the emerging markets in Asia, where we have a lot of plans to grow,” Salter confirmed.

The creation of the international panel will be Salter’s main focus in the second half of this year. He is currently contemplating a structured assessment process for the new panel. The initial number of firms on the list is likely to be five or six.

Given the significant changes in the Australian legal services market, Salter considers the timing to be right. “Global law firms have arrived in Australia in big waves, and many of our long-standing domestic advisers have become part of an international network. While these firms are defining their new product offering more clearly, it’s time for us to evaluate our needs overseas and select the most suitable international advisers to support these needs,” he said.

Firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Norton Rose (formerly Deacons Australia) and Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons) have been on AMP’s Australian panel for some 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. However, the long-established relationships always help,” Salter emphasised.