02 October 2019

Under the spotlight in HK

Putting Hong Kong into perspective for general counsel and taking compliance up the agenda key messages at Hong Kong in-house gathering.

While rioting takes the headlines, it was M&A challenges and changing attitudes to compliance that were flagged at the Asian Legal Business 16th annual Hong Kong In-house Legal Summit, held in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong rises

An Ashurst presentation discussed overall management of the M&A process to reduce litigation risks, due diligence as a risk management tool and counterparty risk issues. Chin Yeoh, partner at Ashurst further referring to the Hong Kong protests and global trade wars, said “A lot of our international clients are considering if Hong Kong is a stable place to be investing in, and perhaps that's a result of the uncertainty being overplayed in the media. Part of our role as a trusted advisor to clients is to give a more balanced view of these things. It’s not necessarily legal advice, but it is practical information which helps clients make commercial decisions.” The need to improve communication in all areas was highlighted, “Communication and the volume of information is always going to be an issue if you’re working on a large complicated transaction as you get towards a deadline, but I think the trick is to put in place an agreed way of communicating and to have agreed processes,” said Joshua Cole, Ashurst’s Hong Kong managing partner. Mr Cole explained that having “a means of communicating that is agreed upon, regular, and it’s not just a barrage of information” provides “a strong foundation for ensuring that that right people have and understand the right information.”

Compliance rises

Compliance was also high on the agenda, as Leila Szwarc, TMF Group head of compliance and strategic regulatory services, explained “The most common misconception people have is that compliance is a showstopper and is, at times, even against the business - it’s the complete opposite. The more compliant you are, the more you understand the market you operate in, and the regulations that are there. The easier it is to sustain the business, the easier it is to navigate and to flourish.” Ms Szwarc said “It is clear that because of the ever-evolving role of the GCs, the conversation with the board is evolving. It’s becoming less paper-driven and more action-driven, which is fundamental, because ultimately the board needs to set the tone. One other point that was put out there was, don’t be afraid to speak up, because the chances are you have something worthwhile to say. Every business has specific needs, it’s not one size fits all, but the pain is shared, and I think that was appreciated in the discussion had.”