Brewin Dolphin’s head of legal Alissa Foale talks to The Lawyer about her function’s biggest challenges and how she thinks financial services will transform in the coming years ahead of her session at this year’s In-house Financial Services conference.
How do you think the financial services industry will transform within the next five to ten years?
This is a pretty broad and interesting topic, however speaking in general terms, about the wealth management sector, we are seeing:
• a trend towards automation and technology that uses predictive and data analytics to help us better manage risk;
• increased focus on enhanced customer experience for wealth management products;
• an increase in platform driven, commoditised investment solutions and distribution models; and
• more complex regulation and a resulting increase in business costs.
In response to emerging technological developments we need to continually assess our services and examine how innovation can be deployed for the benefit of our business and client base. Keeping up with disruptive innovation around products and delivery of services provides new and interesting challenges for us in-house lawyers, particularly where “non-traditional” players are challenging and disrupting the status quo. Further, the increased regulation (and complexity) in the sector means that there is more demand for legal services, and a need to effectively manage and triage that demand.
The issue of diversity and inclusion is very topical in our sector and there is a hope that this will be an area of fundamental change over the next five to ten years, particularly as firms start to realise the commercial benefits of a diverse and inclusive organisation.
What are the key tenets of successful change management?
Strong leadership, knowledge of who your key stakeholders are and a clear understanding of their vision or the outcomes they want to achieve. Identify what the challenges to success are, know where opportunities lie, and set KPIs/objectives or targets early on, so your team are clear about what they can contribute to the change programme.
When engaging with your business to deliver change, approach the programme not just with your “lawyer’s hat” on but as a stakeholder aiming to contribute to the programme’s success and the company’s strategic objectives. In-house lawyers can really add value to change delivery as they tend to possess strong problem solving skills, commercial awareness, pragmatism and sound judgment.
What are the biggest challenges facing your function?
As most GCs can relate, there is always a challenge to do “more for less”. We need to be able to demonstrate our value to the business as well show that we have a handle on our budget.
It is important that we constantly test ourselves to show that we are delivering value for money, either internally by creating efficiency or by challenging our external law firms, consultants and alternative legal service providers to demonstrate value.
Another main challenge is the changing perception of the role of the in-house legal adviser. I don’t think we can sit back and simply say we are here solely to deliver legal advice, we need to be looped in with the business to ensure we understand their challenges; horizon scan and anticipate issues and provide mitigants before the issues crystallise. My team have recently undertaken an initiative to create a strategy to manage and respond to the challenges and opportunities we have identified in our business. By undertaking a programme of stakeholder analysis, external resource review, a demand management analysis, we are managing these challenges now as well as planning for the future.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done instead?
I’ve always had a passion for travel, so definitely something in that field. Exploring exotic destinations and being paid to do it, is a dream!
Alissa Foale is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services conference on 9 April. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to inquire about attending, please contact Kenan Balli on +44(0) 20 7970 4017.