Linklaters’ new Bangkok and Singapore heads eye Asia recovery

Linklaters new Bangkok and Singapore heads eye Asia recovery, Jonathan Horan and Wanwisar Nakarat
From left: Jonathan Horan, Wanwisar Nakarat

Linklaters has named Jonathan Horan and Wanwisar Nakarat as managing partners in Singapore and Bangkok, respectively. Both succeed Christopher Bradley in Singapore and Pichitpon Eammongkolchai in Bangkok, who had been in charge since 2016. Bradley is retiring this year after 25 years.

The appointment will place Horan and Nakarat as members of the firm’s Asia Executive Committee, which is responsible for key management decisions that help shape the firm’s strategy and vision across Asia. Horan will be assisted by Melvin Sng, who was recently made a senior partner in Singapore.

“As we all emerge from covid, we are focused on reconnecting our office­­, both formal and informal networks, and implementing flexible working arrangements that will apply in the long term,” Horan told Asia Business Law Journal.

“We are continuing to build out Singapore as a regional Southeast Asia hub with greater integration with our other Asia offices and alliance firms,” said Horan. “We recognise that close relationships and seamless teamwork with the local jurisdiction firms are critical to success in cross-border transactions in Southeast Asia.”

Nakarat agreed that client relationships are at the heart of the firm, and fostering such bonds becomes more crucial as Thailand re-opens.

“After two years locked down, we’re looking forward to re-establishing in-person connections,” said Nakarat. “We will also look to further strengthen our support to our clients in their strategic investments and transactions in Thailand and the region.”

Linklaters opened its first Southeast Asian office in Singapore in 1992, and Bangkok became its second in the region six years later, relying on international and local expertise to build a strong reputation. Horan said the firm would continue to emphasise its on-the-ground expertise across jurisdictions as its key strength.

“Competition across all markets is strong and will increase as more firms look to either open or build out their Southeast Asia operations,” said Horan. “Global macro factors are challenging, and we expect that these issues, and the market uncertainty that they are creating, will have an impact on overall business activity.”

For Nakarat, being bold, ambitious and looking to push the boundaries forms part of the strategy.

“We are aware it is a competitive market, and Thailand is gaining more interest, so reputation alone isn’t enough,” said Nakarat. “Innovation is in our DNA, and we want to be known for partnering with clients to create innovative solutions.”

Nakarat expects sustained growth in the energy, consumer, telecoms, media, and technology sectors, as well as financial regulation and fintech, as more Southeast Asian countries return to business and accelerate their recovery. Digitalisation and sustainability are also priorities.

Horan saw numerous attorneys at all levels transition from private practice to fintech internal counsel roles as Singapore became a burgeoning centre for fintech and digital enterprises. Although this has no bearing on the firm’s operations, maintaining a good working relationship with in-house staff is considered vital, and the firm will continue to prioritise this regardless of market conditions.

“We are interested in emerging fintech opportunities across the region, increasing involvement of funds and private equity investment in Southeast Asia and private fundraising trends,” said Horan.

Horan is a capital markets lawyer and has been with the firm for 15 years since joining in Hong Kong before moving to Singapore in 2017. Wanwisar has been with the firm since 1998, specialising in energy and infrastructure and advising Thai corporations on cross-border acquisitions, investments, project development and finance.