Inaugural winners of Singapore Chief Legal Officer Awards announced

(From left) Singapore Institute of Directors chairman Willie Cheng, OCBC general counsel Loretta Yuen, Lazada Group's general counsel Gladys Chun, former chief justice Chan Sek Keong and SCCA president emeritus Angeline Lee at the award ceremony on N
(From left) Singapore Institute of Directors chairman Willie Cheng, OCBC general counsel Loretta Yuen, Lazada Group's general counsel Gladys Chun, former chief justice Chan Sek Keong and SCCA president emeritus Angeline Lee at the award ceremony on Nov 19, 2017. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CORPORATE COUNSEL ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - The two corporate counsel who received the inaugural Singapore Chief Legal Officer Awards on Friday (Nov 17) both handled hugely valuable and complex acquisitions for their companies which involved multinational legal issues.

OCBC Bank's general counsel Loretta Yuen won in the Singapore listed company category, while Lazada Group's general counsel Gladys Chun took the spot for the Singapore regional office of a multi-national company.

The awards were presented by the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) at its annual black tie dinner at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach.

These are the first and only awards for the local in-house legal community that focus on the work of chief legal officers at the board or senior management level.

The awards come at a time where the role of in-house counsel is evolving beyond just providing legal advice, said SCCA president Wong Taur-Jiun.

"The best chief legal officers bring to the table broad-based, risk-oriented critical thinking that enhances board or senior management decision making," he added.

Ms Yuen, 42, who was appointed general counsel in 2010 and now serves as the executive vice president of group legal and regulatory compliance, agreed, noting: "In-house counsel also serve as the moral beacon for their companies.

"It is therefore important that they ... also help guide business decisions based on the company's purpose and values."

Among her recent key contributions to the OCBC Bank group include the acquisition of Hong Kong's Wing Hang Bank in 2014, which was the biggest deal done by OCBC to date at S$6.23 billion.

She said: "It was complex as it involved tackling numerous banking legal and regulatory requirements spanning Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau for the both pre-acquisition stage as well as the integration work post-acquisition."

Of her win, she said: "I see this award for me as a testament that what I am doing is in the right direction. I am deeply humbled and will continue to strive to do better."

Ms Chun, 35, who became Lazada's general counsel in April 2014, was part of the team which led the organisation's S$1.4 billion acquisition by Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group in April 2016.

It was the largest Southeas Asia acquisition made to date, and subsequently saw the Alibaba Group increase its stake in the Lazada Group to 83 per cent.

Under her charge, she has also grown the legal and compliance team from just three members in 2014 to more than 30 counsel across eight countries today.

She said that the win was "particularly meaningful" for her as a woman in a male-dominated environment.

"Being recognised by the community itself reflects the united and supportive spirit among all of us in the in-house community," she added.

The awards were given by an independent judging panel chaired by SCCA President Emeritus Angeline Lee, and include Singapore Institute of Directors chairman Willie Cheng and vice chairman Daniel Ee.

Also on the panel was Justice Steven Chong, who heads the Singapore Academy of Law's professional affairs committee.

Chief legal officers must have at least two years of experience before they are eligible for a nomination, which has to be endorsed by a board member or the senior management team.