Sue Kench ()

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has appointed Australia chief executive partner Sue Kench as its new global managing partner, after former postholder Stuart Fuller relinquished the role at the height of problems with the firm’s embattled European arm late last year.

Fuller had held the global managing partner role since the 2012 merger of China’s King & Wood and Australia’s Mallesons Stephen Jaques, and played a key role in the ill-fated tie-up with SJ Berwin in 2013. He has since returned to full-time practice in the firm’s banking and finance team in Sydney.

Last November’s news that Fuller was stepping down came just two months before the European arm of the firm filed for administration in January.

Kench has been Australia chief executive partner since 2013, and is a member of the firm’s global executive committee and international management committee. Prior to Mallesons’ 2012 merger with King & Wood, she sat on the Australian firm’s board and co-chaired the partners’ admissions committee.

“Our focus is on playing to the firm’s strengths, which is the quality of our depth and breadth in Asia and how we leverage this to support our Asian clients as they go offshore, or international clients as they do business in Asia,” Kench said. “We have the leading firms in China, Australia and a very strong firm in Hong Kong. The challenge now is to harness the individual strengths of these practices into something that is greater than the sum of the parts.”

“With this in mind, my number one priority is connecting up and better integrating the firm, which starts with people and clients,” she added. “We will look at the markets and industries which present the greatest opportunities for our clients and establish cross-border teams focused on leveraging our technical and sectoral capability to connect our clients to these opportunities.”

Kench will be replaced as Australia chief executive partner by Australia deputy managing partner Berkeley Cox.

News of Kench’s appointment comes alongside the firm’s creation of a new global chief operating officer position. The role has been taken up by corporate partner Rupert Li, who is also a member of the firm’s international and China management committees.

In his role as international partner, Li has been closely involed in the firm’s establishment of a new Europe and Middle East operation following the collapse of the legacy SJ Berwin business.

Junfeng added: “The creation of the new role of global chief operating officer is designed to focus on greater levels of operational integration across the global firm, and I’m pleased that Rupert will take on this important role.”

Both roles take effect as of 1 June this year.

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