The entries were reviewed and our panel of general counsel judges delivered their verdicts: we are now delighted to reveal the winner of In-House Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.
Tying in with our annual GC Powerlist: UK report and event, this award is given to the in-house team that can demonstrate outstanding performance on behalf of the company, either through innovative use of its own resources or effective management of external law firms.
Winner: Bank of England
Untangling decades of regulatory alignment with continental Europe was always going to be a tough task, and on the front lines has been the Bank of England (BoE), with the UK central bank legal team’s workload dominated by Brexit. But under the leadership of general counsel (GC) Sonya Branch, the BoE’s legal function has risen to the occasion, impressing this year’s judges to win In-House Team of the Year.
A major part of the 150-strong legal directorate has been involved since the mid-2016 referendum in reviewing about 10,000 pages of legislation and tracking 39 statutory instruments, to which it contributed drafting. That’s 6,000 pages of binding technical standards and 6,000 rules, all to make sure the UK financial services sector had a regulatory framework fit for purpose on the point of exit.
Brexit has made it an interesting time for the in-house function at the BoE. The central bank is navigating the tricky regulatory terrain while also balancing the commercial needs of financial traders and banks with the BoE’s role as custodian of market ethics and financial stability. Striking that balance has required the judgement and skillset of Branch as well as transformation at the heart of the bank’s legal function.
Under Branch’s leadership, headcount has almost doubled while the structure of the legal function has been streamlined from nine legal units to four alongside an EU withdrawal division and appointing of two deputy GCs. Permanent paralegals have also been appointed for the first time, creating a structure whereby staff can join as a paralegal and move all the way up to GC. Meanwhile the first three women have been appointed under the Women Returners scheme, which places people in work after extended career breaks, making BoE a worthy winner of this year’s award.
Highly commended: Provident Financial
A turbulent 2019 saw Provident Financial GC Charlotte Davies’ team thrust into the spotlight in the ultimately successful fight against a hostile takeover bid by Non-Standard Finance. The bid fell through following a lack of support from both NSF and Provident shareholders, as well as regulator intervention.
Early on Davies and her team saw the bid was not the right deal for the company, in particular being concerned about the impact the bid could have on Provident’s customers and employees. Davies tenaciously supported the board, the CEO and the bid defence team in fighting the takeover.
Separately, Davies has also spent the last 10 months building the company’s ethics committee, including a whistleblower process, while also rolling out a cultural blueprint that sets out the behaviour and purpose of the group in relation to customers.
This car finance company has an accomplished legal team which acts as trusted adviser to senior management and the boards of directors and recently worked on its first public securitisation. The team has won praise for being instrumental in assisting the business amid a fast pace of change while navigating the ever-changing complex legal landscape in a regulated environment.
The in-house legal team at fintech unicorn Revolut has rapidly grown from one lawyer in 2017 to more than 50, led by head of legal Tom Hambrett. Growth has followed the business, which in 2018 raised $250m at a $1.7bn valuation, with Revolut wanting at least one legal counsel and regulatory compliance manager in each of the markets it has launched in.
The past 18 months have been some of most strategically important in Three’s history, and GC Stephen Lerner’s team has been at the forefront of it. The team played a central role in making the roll out of Three’s 5G home broadband network and purchase of 100MHz of contiguous spectrum a success, overcoming some serious regulatory hurdles in the process.