Hamilton Capital Holding global head of legal and compliance Ehsan Haque shares his tips on having a long rewarding career, explains what his first few weeks looked like in his new role and where his starting point was for building a legal and compliance team from scratch.

What is a good place to start when you are building a legal and compliance team from scratch?

Ehsan Haque
Ehsan Haque

Where to start? So fundamentally, I have spent the last few weeks in a new global role trying to understand the business, commercial strategy, risk appetite of the Firm, identify specific risks within the business that we need to address and mitigate now, and future risks that we also need to assess, and forward plan for the future. We are building a business within a business and there is a big focus for me on managing regulatory risk, which, along with reputational risk, is key for us to manage across a number of jurisdictions. I am lucky in that am part of the senior executive team all of whom have a collegiate and transparent mindset so it has been a relatively straightforward exercise in gathering the information I need. I have now identified the areas where I think we currently carry the most legal and regulatory risk and have started to map out a business plan for my first three months here. So if we are lacking policies and procedures in, say, data and data privacy, we need to risk map what we have in reality and start to build out our processes; or if we know where we need strategic help in areas like, say, employment then we need to engage counsel to help us. We are also in the process of appointing counsel to help us strategically on a number of fronts and work streams. Apart from the higher-level risk mapping, there is also day to day management of the business as part of the senior exec, dealing with day to day BAU legal work and regulatory work and identifying where we need internal resourcing help. So, in a short space of time a lot of the above is starting to take shape. I also have a great new team – we are working together to assess what we can do on our own in terms of work, and where we sit strategically within the business. My aim is for my team to be front and centre, respected and credible partners to the business giving commercial and pragmatic advice. It’s a challenge, but the things that make it challenging are the things that make it interesting – we are building from the ground up and it is exciting!

You’ve been a permanent employee, a consultant and worked for yourself, what skills has your employment journey aided you with?

It’s a funny one this as I sometimes forget I have had a career in law for twenty odd years, and a career in advertising before that! I do think that as you say, I have worked in a number of different capacities, employee, consultant, portfolio GC and now back to being an employee. I have also worked for a range of institutions, top tier investment banks, Fintech start-ups, and now a global private equity firm with USD 12 bn AUM with substantial interests in TMT, pharma, real estate and Fintech. So, I look at my career as one where I have had lots of different experiences with work, some good, some bad, but all are additive and ones I have learnt from. This is a new role for me, but I will learn a lot and can continue my development as an individual and as a professional. That for me is the driver. I think the key to having a long or rewarding career is to make sure you can adapt, be flexible, be self-aware enough to focus on the things you are good at, whilst working on improving on the things you aren’t so good at. It’s also important to take on new things work wise and to try and seek out opportunities. Never underestimate the power of a network and relationships, both have helped me enormously over the years. I think I am very lucky in that when I left investment banking I was pretty clear in my personal career strategy which was to work in Fintech or businesses with interests in Fintech. I have stuck to that strategy, even when the easier option would have been to go back to investment banking. I now have a decent network in Fintech, and am an advisor to a top Fintech accelerator so it’s been a relatively and objectively successful transition. I now really enjoy what I do for a living, it hasn’t always been the case, believe you me!

What inspired you to enter the legal profession?

Actually, sort of a complete accident! So, I started out after university working in advertising as I wanted to work and earn some cash. I actually sold advertising, first in publishing for the likes of EMAP, and then for the likes of Capital Radio selling airtime – it was really good fun, very sociable and I had some amazing bosses. I look back on those times fondly. I am still in touch with people from back then. I thought law would be a useful skill to have generally and train the analytical side of my brain. A couple of uni mates convinced me to do it so I gave up my job, self-funded myself to go to Law College, with the general aim of going into media law as a trainee. To cut a long story short, I couldn’t get a training contract for love nor money and spent a few months working for a mate doing sales work. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) worked at one of the big investment banks and suggested I try and work for a bank, so I spoke to a lot of recruiters and finally got an interview as an ISDA negotiator – I did a bit of reading up and they took a punt on me and gave me the job. The rest is history! Of all of my university mates, I was the last one you would have expected to have had a career in the city as a lawyer. It has been a real journey. Have met some really inspirational people along the way and worked with some really smart, nice people, so actually consider myself very lucky. It’s not a career I thought I would have, but the positives have far outweighed the negatives!!

What is your favourite pass time?

So COVID has driven a truck through the live events industry, that for me has been gutting as I am a massive music fan and have spent many a night in a club, from way back in the days going to jazz bops in Brighton or the legendary sessions at Dingwalls in Camden, through to brilliant nights at the Ministry of Sound and some amazing clubs in London like Lazy Dog at the Notting Hill Arts Club. I went to the opening night at Ministry and it blew my mind! From clubbing I ended up borrowing a mate’s decks when he moved to Paris for a year, then bought my own, which I still have now. If the house burned down, the only possessions I would save would be the decks and my vinyl. I DJ’d a lot back in the days, all over London in clubs such as the Ministry or Scala in Kings Cross – playing deep house, rare groove, disco, funk, drum and base. Loved it!

I only play vinyl, so a proper dinosaur! I also love going to gigs. My favourite gigs recently was Kate Bush in Hammersmith, Tears for Fears last year at Blenheim and Goldie at Royal Festival Hall – incredible! I am also a trustee of two charities in the creative sector, one is a music production charity, the other is a theatre production charity – really enjoy both. Finally, also mentoring younger lawyers, especially in the BAME community. The other big thing for me is travel. Have travelled extensively… COVID has driven a truck through that as well!