EY UK Financial Services Law managing partner Chris Price, speaks to The Lawyer ahead of his session at the In-house Financial Services Virtual Conference about the legal team’s position within the three lines of defence and how the pandemic is causing GC’s to think carefully about re-defining that role.

Have you witnessed any noticeable trends in the financial services market during this period?

I think there has been a welcome move towards customer centricity and the customer experience rather and (gradually) away from just product.  A greater (almost painful) requirement for transparency on both sides of the financial relationship. The flip side is an unfortunate trend in the increase in cost of doing business (through compliance and capital requirements). Financial Services has not been on the same glide path for lowering the cost of doing business as almost every other industry.

Chris Price
Chris Price

How can in-house lawyers best equip themselves for future change?

I would focus on culture and attitude more than individual skills.  I would encourage them to become genuinely interested in how other businesses and functions have driven change, particularly examples that show that no profession or role is a special case (the Avarind revolution in ophthalmic surgery is not a bad place to start).

We often hear the question ‘how do you demonstrate the value of the legal team?’; has the pandemic answered this question?

I think it has made the question more important as any quality contribution into business insight or more dynamic risk management is hugely important at the moment. What may have been considered abstract questions – how do we improve supply chain resilience, how do we show flexibility to customers etc are now business critical ones and ones that a high performing legal function is perfectly placed to help the business answer. That said the pandemic has also raised additional questions and one in particular; what role does and should legal play in managing business risk? The legal function’s position within the three lines of defence has always been ill-defined. The pandemic has made organisations and GC’s think carefully about re-defining that role.

What has been your biggest learning from these past few months?

Invest in the best Wifi you can afford.

If you could give advice to a junior lawyer working through this period, what would it be?

Question everything.  Too many things get done how they get done from habit, tradition and a perceived safety of doing it one more time the same way.  If the organisation you work for doesn’t like you questioning processes, approaches, technical positions etc then you are working in the wrong place and that organisation will struggle at some point.  But do it positively, with a desire to improve not embarrass.

Chris Price is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services virtual event taking place between 30 June – 2nd July. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to register for any of the 10+ sessions available, please visit the event website.