FINANCE PHOTO

Digital change: it’s time for finance professionals to lead the way

All colleagues in the public sector need to get involved in harnessing the benefits technology for a positive change, says CIPFA’s president Andrew Burns.

When it comes to deploying technology to improve the way we deliver public services, there is still a default assumption in most organisations that any new initiative will be led and delivered by the IT team.

Although that’s the way things were in the past, this way of thinking isn’t fit for today’s digital world.

In our lives outside work, most of us have become expert at adapting to and using technology to make our lives more convenient.

We now bank online or through phone apps, use smart technology to keep our homes warm when we need to, or simply turn to Netflix if we want to watch a film at a time that suits us, without a second thought.

Within our organisations, technology is as much an integral part of everyone’s role now as it was in the past for the people in the IT department.

And to use our resources as effectively as possible in a digital world, every public sector organisation has the obligation to improve the pace at which it deploys technology.

However, there is still a gap between the opportunities offered by technology to the public sector and the ability of professionals to identify them and then put them to work in creating better public services.

With an overarching perspective on, and understanding of, the fundamentals of business, finance professionals are well placed to change that.

Based on the conversations I have had in the past year as president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, there is a lot of work we need to do if we are to lead the charge.

The starting point must be to accept that technology is force for positive change, better for the public purse and better for the services we have to deliver.

Rather than a threat to finance jobs, it will change what we do.

As routine tasks and some decision-making are automated, our knowledge will be in greater demand.

New roles will emerge which will require the of skills finance professionals.

We will retain an important role as business partner and adviser.

This change will be mirrored in virtually every function across our organisations.

There are a number of progressive finance professionals who understand how different our organisations have to be.

They are already leading their organisations on their digital journey.

However, more of us need to join their number as champions for and drivers of this change.

In order to help finance professionals understand what they need to do, CIPFA is partnering with Eduserv to find out the extent to which we are involved in digital change today and what support we need, so that we can ensure our organisations get more out of technology in the future.

The views shared through this research will help shape new resources and tools which will help public sector finance professionals maximise their contribution to the future of their organisations.

On behalf of CIPFA, I would like to urge you and any fellow professionals to get involved.

Legal PHOTO

Criminal barristers close to ‘action for justice’ over legal aid cuts

Criminal barristers will tell the government that reforms to advocates’ legal aid fees should be delayed or withdrawn, as the prospect of taking direct action for the first time since 2015 draws closer.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said today that a statutory instrument implementing the revised advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS), which bases advocates’ pay on the seriousness and complexity of the work rather than the number of pages in a case, will be approved on 1 April.

According to chair Angela Rafferty, the CBA’s executive committee will make a formal request for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ‘delay, withdraw, amend or reconsider’ implementation of the statutory instrument. The CBA said it will meet officials tomorrow.

Further, the CBA has also decided to survey senior members directly on whether there should be ‘action for justice’. A survey has been sent to the circuit leaders and all heads of chambers.

’We need to establish what appetite there might be for action. It is clear that the criminal justice system cannot continue with this level of underfunding,’ Rafferty said.

In 2014 and 2015 CBA members, as well as solicitors, voted in favour of ‘no new work and no returns’ in protest to cuts to legal aid.

The House of Lords’ secondary legislation scrutiny committee wrote the MoJ seeking clarification on the AGFS scheme. A government impact assessment claimed the changes would increase legal aid spending by an additional £9m per year but the Bar Council and the CBA say it actually amounts to a £2m cut.

Rafferty said: ‘The new AGFS reform has exposed this impoverishment of the system like no other event in recent legal aid history. There is real concern that the more complex work will not be adequately paid for. Money has been moved around the AGFS system but there is no new money to go in.’

A similar method for remunerating solicitors, the litigators’ graduated fee scheme, was cut in October last year.

A spokesperson for the MoJ said it ‘greatly values the contribution of all criminal defence advocates’.

They added: ‘The changes under AGFS will create a simpler and more modern pay system in legal aid funded cases. They will also ensure that pay better reflects the actual work being done by defence advocates in the Crown Court. We will be engaging with the CBA to discuss the concerns they have raised.’

Credit PHOTO

Credit Suisse finalises new global legal panel with four firms winning spots

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has finalised its new global legal panel, with four firms winning places on the roster.

Ashurst, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Latham & Watkins have all been appointed to the line-up, which replaces its EMEA and UK panels.

In addition to the global panel, which is expected to handle the bulk of the bank’s work, Credit Suisse has also appointed a number of firms to sub-panels covering practices such as employment, litigation, M&A and securities work. It also has a separate panel for Switzerland, and countries in Asia where it may require specific local expertise.

Credit Suisse’s Zurich-based corporate general counsel Julian Gooding led the review, with the global panel expected to run for two to three years.

The move to a global panel structure is in line with wider organisational changes at Credit Suisse, with the bank moving away from regional divisions in 2016.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: “The driving principle of how we now run our panels is to manage our firm relationships in a holistic way more consistent with our organisational strcture. We’re happy that what we’ve put in place is a more coherent way of managing firms – we want to make sure all parties get the most out of the relationships by managing them globally.”

The bank’s review had been delayed by several months, with firms initially hoping to have heard if they had been successful in August last year.

Confirmation of Credit Suisse’s panel comes after fellow banks Societe Generale and Santander recently completed their international legal panels.

Societe Generale appointed DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright and Mayer Brown among its ‘preferred’ advisers.

The French bank’s panel comprises 12 full-service firms – split into eight ‘preferred’ firms and four ‘selected’ firms – alongside six others appointed specifically to handle large litigation and tax advice.

Santander, meanwhile, has agreed terms with 46 firms, understood to include global firms DLA Piper, Baker McKenzie and Dentons, and US firms including Latham & Watkins and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

ANZ PHOTO

ANZ Bank to suspend retail asset finance business

ANZ Bank will suspend its retail asset finance business from the end of next month while it undertakes a review, affecting new loans for cars, boats and caravans.

“ANZ will continue to service its existing consumer asset finance customers and will continue to provide customers with access to personal loans during the suspension,” the bank said in a statement on Friday.

ANZ’s asset finance product for commercial customers is not affected.

The move comes amid the first round of hearings for the royal commission into financial services which is looking at case studies covering areas including home loans, car loans, credit cards, add-on insurance, credit offers and account administration.

Car loans will be a key focus, with the commission hearing from customers about ANZ and its former subsidiary Esanda’s car finance practices, and Westpac and St George’s finance practices. ANZ was hit with a $5 million fine earlier this year over the car lending practices at Esanda.

The suspension of new loans is effective from April 30 and the review is expected to be completed by September 30.

ANZ’s managing director of retail distribution, Catriona Noble, attributed the review to “the increased technology costs required to effectively compete in the secured consumer asset finance market”.

“Our secured consumer asset finance product represents less than 1 per cent of revenue within our broader Australian business, so we need to assess if it is better for our customers, shareholders and employees if we focus our investment on areas of our business that are core to what we do,” Ms Noble said in a statement.

“Providing asset finance solutions for commercial customers remains a core business for ANZ and we will also continue to service existing retail customers for the duration of their loans.”

INDIA PHOTO

India court ruling bars foreign law firms from practice

Foreign firms can only advise Indian clients on matters pertaining to foreign laws on temporary ‘fly in, fly out basis’.

New Delhi – India’s top court has refused to allow the entry of foreign law firms wanting to practise law in Indian courts.

Foreign lawyers can only advise their clients in India on matters pertaining to foreign laws on a temporary “fly in, fly out basis”.

“Fly in and fly out would cover a casual visit and not amount to practice,” Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel was quoted as saying by Indian news media on Tuesday.

The court has directed the Bar Council of India and the Indian government to frame rules for foreign lawyers advising Indian clients.

Joseph Pookkatt, partner at APJ-SLG Law firm in New Delhi, said the ruling “essentially means that foreign lawyers cannot set up shop in India”.

“The concept of ‘fly in and fly out’ means that in case foreign lawyers need to render legal advice to their clients in India, they can come to India, meet their client, render advice and then fly out without establishing any sort of permanent establishment in India,” he told Advisory Excellence.

“But only lawyers registered with the Bar Council of India and governed by the Advocates Act can practise law in India.”

No ‘carte blanche’

The Bar Council of India (BCI) has been averse to the idea of opening up the legal field to foreign players.

The BCI has said it does not want to give foreign arbitrators a free run in the country.

“They can’t have a carte blanche, do what they wish,” CU Singh, a senior lawyer appearing for the BCI, had argued.

In a special India report, global law firm White & Case had warned that foreign business companies should structure contracts in a way that disputes are resolved through offshore mediation, possibly through non-Indian courts.

“Even when Indian law is the basis of the contract, it is important to agree to settle disputes through arbitration seated outside India,” said the report titled Navigating India: Lessons for foreign investors.

The firm had also referred to judicial delays while resolving business disputes in Indian courts. Some take as long as a decade.

There are more than 30 million pending cases in Indian courts, according to recent government data.

“The Indian government and the Bar Council of India should work together to eke out rules and regulations that would frame work of foreign legal counsel in India, preferably on reciprocal basis. If an Indian lawyer appears in a foreign court, what are the rules governing his practice? It should be reciprocal,” Pinaki Mishra, a senior Indian Supreme Court lawyer and Member of Parliament, told Advisory Excellence.

Rules for foreign lawyers

The Indian government had earlier asked the Bar Council of India to frame rules for foreign lawyers in India.

“We want foreign lawyers to come so as to not deny the Indian advocates of the same privilege in other countries. If the BCI does not frame the rules, the Central government would take it upon itself to stipulate the rules,” Maninder Singh, India’s additional solicitor general, appearing for the government, had argued in the court earlier.

Dushyant Dave, a senior Indian Supreme Court lawyer, representing the London Court of International Arbitration, had argued for rejecting the plea that foreign lawyers cannot practise in India.

“Today the world is globalised. India can’t stay away from the rest of the world. Even a communist country like China has allowed foreign law firms into the country. India needs to let foreign lawyers practise here because of our commitment to the WTO that we would open up legal services in India,” Dave told Al Jazeera.

“India also really need FDI. Those who are going to invest their precious capital in technology would need it to be safeguarded. They would be more comfortable with their own lawyers working here.”

Family PHOTO

Brexit is big challenge for family lawyers in Scotland

One of Scotland’s leading family law practitioners has warned that Brexit will have major implications for that area of the law and legal practice.

Rachael Kelsey, director of SKO Family Law Specialists said: “Over the last decade family lawyers in Scotland have become properly European lawyers – all of our basic jurisdictional, recognition and enforcement rules emanate from the EU. This isn’t just in international cases, either, this is in our domestic law; in Scottish cases. This may well change next year.”

Ms Kelsey is speaking at a major ‘Brexit Update’ seminar, which is taking place in Edinburgh on Monday 26 March.

She will be looking at the issues that family lawyers need to know now about the EU Withdrawal Bill. Other speakers will be looking at the likely impact of Brexit on consumer, family, environmental, and trade law and legislation in Scotland.

The conference is organised by Public Policy Events in association with Scottish Legal News. For full details and to book places, simply visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brexit-update-implications-for-law-and-practice-in-scotland-tickets-43017407223

‘Early Bird’ discounts available for registrations before 13 March.