Can you tell us about your role at the TSB NZ, what you love about it and what it is teaching you about yourself?

I joined TSB Bank in April this year as GM Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel after 3 years away from the law in a business position. This new role is teaching me that I enjoy being a lawyer again, but also the importance of taking a whole of organisation view to things. What I love is that TSB is owned by the Toi Foundation, a community philanthropic trust, so all our dividends go back to the trust which distributes them in the community.

What does leading the legal function for TSB NZ involve and what does a standard day look like for you?

My first priority has been to build our team, to be clear about what we need to deliver and how we best do that. We look after four areas of the bank: Legal - Customer & Product, Regulatory & Governance (including Co Sec), the CEO’s Office and the Internal Audit function, so we touch a fair bit of the Bank. Banks operate in a very complex regulatory environment. We need to make sure we provide (or source) excellent advice and guidance so TSB’s Board and management can make well-informed decisions and navigate that effectively. Where possible we need to provide solutions, and sometimes our role is also to provide challenges so we can pick the best path.  

My standard day usually starts with some exercise; a run or walk outdoors – essential if you’re going to be at a desk all day. Then it’s a mix of online or in-person meetings. These are with my immediate team, my boss the CEO, some steering committee meetings for product or regulatory changes and perhaps planning for board meetings. Then there is drafting or reviewing some regulatory submissions, legal advice, or board papers. I also contribute to overall bank strategy and input into risk issues such as BCP, cyber security or health & safety. I think the ratio is normally about 60% meetings to 40% focus time (if I’m lucky), but that’s ok as a big part of my role is staying connected to my team, colleagues, board and our regulators. Subject to Covid lockdowns I tend to spend every second week working at TSB HQ in New Plymouth. It’s a lovely part of the country.

What is the biggest challenge in your role and how are you tackling it?

My initial challenge was building a team of in-house financial lawyers for TSB, which is based in New Plymouth. To find the people we need we’ve been flexible about this with lawyers now based in Auckland, Wellington and New Plymouth and a mix of work from home and office arrangements. We’ve been able to hire some great people. As we’re spread out, we’ve had to think about how we stay connected and aligned as a team and what structures we need to support that.

We also face a barrage of existing and new laws so have had to consider how we best handle all the incoming regulatory change and legal traffic. We have had to set up systems and processes to effectively assess, prioritise and manage that. It’s a good start but a work in progress.

What are the skills and attributes you look for when recruiting new lawyers for TBS NZ?

A certain degree of technical skills is essential for working in an in-house team. Legal questions won’t always be neatly served up for you, so you have to know enough to spot issues and ask good questions. After that we need great communicators and pragmatic problem solvers. We need people who can translate the law into digestible advice and help identify and assess options for implementing it. Some degree of curiosity in the business, an ability to deal with change and a sense of humour is also helpful.