Malaysian bank CIMB’s group general counsel Lee Chin Tok picked up the In-house Counsel of Distinction award at the Emerging Market Awards, for leading his team in the implementation of a company-wide strategic plan to boost growth across CIMB’s consumer, commercial and transaction banking units.
That involved working closely with the relevant business departments to help steer the rollout of new digital banking products by securing legal agreements with external partners, finalising commercial terms and conditions for its customer contracts and also providing support for product launch advertisements.
Under Lee’s guidance, CIMB’s in-house legal team has been responsible for coordinating each project and helping bridge any information gaps between the product and distribution teams, both internally and externally.
He has successfully translated CIMB Group’s strategies into operational solutions and effective outcomes
“As the digital banking business is still developing and evolving in CIMB, our group legal colleagues have worked intensively with business colleagues in understanding the commercial and technological aspects of the business, whilst seeking to optimise the workable outcome and solutions despite the nascent stage of the legal landscape, to help our business colleagues keep up with the speed at which the market is moving,” Lee said.
Lee and his team also played a central role in revamping CIMB’s transaction banking division by standardising documentation and related forms to meet the cross-border nature of the business.
“Standardisation improves our internal efficiency and minimises costs, and is also more likely to improve our customers’ experience when dealing with us,” he said.
A revision of the group’s working culture and practices were also key to the bank’s strategic overhaul. To that end, Lee – alongside the various legal teams across the business – drove the introduction of a new regional operating model to encourage better interaction and communication among the group’s roughly 39,000 employees, and to bolster teamwork across borders.
As part of that push, Lee chairs a monthly group legal management committee to maintain oversight of the various legal issues and challenges the bank might face, and to shape the necessary policies and procedures for dealing with them.
“It involves sharing of best practices and experience, such as legal developments in markets in which we operate as well as globally, for instance, on how legal developments in the US and the European Union may have an impact on CIMB Group,” he said.
Lee also participates in other communications initiatives with senior management through informal meetings and chats with colleagues in other divisions. He says it is important for his colleagues to recognise legal as a business partner to foster closer collaboration and to be able to respond to challenges and opportunities more quickly.
“Chin Tok is a commercially savvy and committed legal counsel, and has proven to be a great asset to the CIMB Group,” said Mark Lim of Malaysian law firm Wong & Partners. “He has successfully translated CIMB Group’s strategies into operational solutions and effective outcomes, and champions the greater need to promote cross-departmental communication between his team and the rest of the organisation.”
This is an enhanced awards writeup, in association with CIMB. The Emerging Markets Awards were hosted by The Asian Lawyer and Legal Week and took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Singapore.