Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law Ms Indranee Rajah at the In-House Counsel World Summit 2014 Gala Dinner
5 Jun 2014 Posted in Speeches
Distinguished Members of the In-house Counsel Community;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you this evening on the closing night of the In-house Counsel World Summit 2014.
I have no doubt that the 3 days have been enriching and productive ones, in which you have had the opportunity to connect and interact with fellow in-house counsel to discuss important issues affecting the in-house counsel community. Just going by the dynamic mix of nationalities and industry representations alone – is enough to ensure that the discussions would have been rich and insightful. This year, the In-house Counsel World Summit saw more than 300 registrations and over 50 speakers consisting senior in-house counsel from the world’s top MNCs, judges, regulators and thought leaders hailing from more than 20 countries and representing no less than 120 companies.
The Evolving Role of the In-house Counsel as Strategic Advisors in Businesses
Ben W Heineman, Jr, now a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s schools of law and governance and previously General Electric’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, has noted that the General Counsel was now the go-to counsellor for the CEO and the board on a myriad of issues including law, ethics, public policy, corporate citizenship, and country and geopolitical risk. He said that the General Counsel is now often a core member of the top management team who helped shape discussion and debate about not just the law, but also business issues.
The Georgetown University Law Centre also studied the changing role of the General Counsel. From their survey of current and former General Counsel, board members, CEOs, legal futurists and executive recruiters from across the world, it is clear that the counsel’s strategic contribution to business decisions will be one of the most important factors in driving value in companies in the next decade.
The Globalised Nature of Businesses and Increasingly Complex Business and Regulatory World
The role of in-house counsel is without a doubt increasing in importance globally. But it is also one that is ever evolving, as businesses seek new strategies and growth opportunities around the world.
- Asia is emerging as a key player in driving growth in the next phase of development in the global economy.
- The significant growth of Asia and ASEAN has spurred a wave of cross border investments. MNCs are venturing into these new markets with renewed vigour.
- Asian economies comprise about 60% of the world’s population. According to estimates, by 2015, the number of Asian middle class consumers will equal the combined number in Europe and North America. By 2021, on present trends, there could be more than 2 billion Asians in middle class households.
- Undoubtedly, trade and service links between Asian and Western economies will be further strengthened and intertwined.
At the same time, businesses increasingly face ever more complexities in dealing with the different, and constantly changing, laws and regulations across different jurisdictions, language and cultures. Companies, large and small, have to gear up to deal with these complexities.
Top international General Counsel have noted that in such an operating environment, global political and economic risk and compliance with government regulation are amongst their topmost pressing concerns. The challenge of advising on risk and compliance is compounded due to the rapid technological developments, where policies and regulatory frameworks are still being formed, such as the use of bitcoins and the advent of cloud computing.
The extent of the concerns over regulation and compliance has even led some to label it a “compliance tsunami” – a seemingly overwhelming and burgeoning set of old and new international, national, public and even private rules. Stakes in this serious game of compliance are high.
Singapore as the Location for In-house Counsel to Support Businesses
In Singapore, we recognise the value of in-house counsel as well as the need to support them so that they in turn can help their businesses navigate the challenging operating environments in Asia.
We have a strong community of more than 1,700 in-house counsel in Singapore. Many hold regional or international responsibilities that reflect the coverage of their company’s business here. Over 7,000 multinational corporations have set up shop in Singapore, with more than half of them using Singapore as their regional headquarters. They are here because Singapore, being one of the most competitive business locations in the world, is a vital international and regional hub for multi-national companies in Asia.
Our approach is to develop our legal policy, infrastructure and services in a way that enables in-house counsel and their companies to more effectively manage their legal needs for Asia from Singapore.
- First, we ensure that in-house counsel in Singapore are supported by a strong slate of international as well as local law firms. We do not have to look far – this conference itself was generously supported by a mix of top international as well as local law firms in Singapore. We are home to about 40 of the world’s top 100 international law firms. Our Singapore law practices have strong regional expertise to help companies navigate ASEAN. Law firms like Rajah & Tann, Allen & Gledhill, WongPartnership, Drew & Napier, Rodyk & Davidson and Kelvin Chia Partnership have strong regional practices that cover ASEAN. The Singapore Government will continue to support our Singapore law practices to build even stronger networks and expertise to serve their clients in the region.
- Second, we will continue to expand our dispute resolution offerings, leveraging our success as a premier international arbitration hub. As Minister Shanmugam said in his opening plenary speech, we will be establishing the Singapore International Commercial Court and Singapore International Mediation Centre, in addition to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, to offer the full suite of dispute resolution offerings. These will give companies and in-house counsel the added confidence that if business disputes arise in the region, they can be resolved privately, expeditiously and cost-effectively.
- Last but not least, we will look to support in-house counsel in Singapore in building stronger capabilities and expertise. This Summit is just one example where the community can come together to share their experiences and knowledge to exploit new opportunities and deal with common challenges for their businesses.
Singapore is honoured to play host to the In-house Counsel World Summit, the event by in-house counsel and for in-house counsel, and that celebrates the “lawyer for all seasons”. These are exciting times to be an in-house counsel in this region. The opportunities for growth and development of your role along with the expansion of businesses across emerging and home markets are boundless.
I would like to thank the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association for the tremendous effort in putting this together, as well as the In-house Counsel Worldwide Presidents for their strong, unwavering support for the Summit.
Most importantly, I thank you, the speakers and participants, for contributing your experiences and knowledge to the discourse and being an important part of this inaugural Summit in Asia.
- I wish you all a pleasant gala dinner. Thank you.
Last updated on 06 Jun 2014