Interview with Feng Xiaoju, APAC general counsel of Saint-Gobain (China)

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Managing a legal team is a test of a general counsel’s wisdom, especially in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic crisis such as the one the world faces. Feng Xiaoju, Asia-Pacific general counsel of Saint-Gobain (China) Investment shared his insight with us on team management

“The structure of our legal team in APAC is pretty agile and lean, although the coverage is 14 jurisdictions and the responsibility includes both legal and compliance. This demands a lot of balance in terms of dedication, quality control, empowerment and trust, and in particular optimization of limited resources.

Many in our community believe that a general counsel plays a more and more important role in the company’s management and decision making, including implementation of compliance culture and policy. As for me, the compliance part accounts for 30% or even more of my time, which is something you could not imagine a few years ago.

But this cannot be the job of the GC or CCO (chief compliance officer) alone, and much effort needs to be made in fostering and enhancing the spirit and strong conscientiousness of compliance in the whole team, and across the entire organization, so that it can be practised and abided by in our daily work.

If we hold our head up and look around, the macro business environment has significantly changed, while the general trend is clear that globally the regulators and the regulatory environment are getting more stringent and things at stake are much more costly these days, as reflected in many real cases in the EU, the US and China. and as crystalized in a famous saying: “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.” It’s now the reality, and to which more time and resources need to be dedicated, in order to ensure the sustainable development of the company.

The ongoing pandemic situation looks like the coming of winter or all industries, and even the legal industry is unlikely to be immune. Headcount reduction, freezing recruitments and cost cutting, etc., will be inevitable as we can foresee. “Do more with less” will be the motto and the golden rule to prove our value and to enable us to survive this grey rhinoceros.”

This interview was conducted during the CBLJ Forum at Grand Hyatt Hotel, Shanghai, on 12 November, with the theme “Seizing Cross-Border Opportunities – Managing Global Risks”. For more information about the conference and videos of the forum sessions, please visit our CBLJ Forum 2019 webpage here.