Banco Pastor: Getting closer to the business

As Secretary General and Head of Legal at Banco Pastor, Oscar García Maceiras oversees the legal role at one of Spain’s biggest banks – with distinct teams working to better understand the bank’s retail, banking, litigation and wider corporate needs

First established in 1776, Banco Pastor has a capitalisation of around €1bn and operates over 660 branches including representative offices in the UK, France and across Latin America.

On the core banking side, much of the emphasis of the dedicated 20- strong team is inevitably towards issues surrounding the sale of financial and other ancillary products. The bank’s core focus is on individual deposit accounts, and small and medium-sized businesses, but it also operates investment management, pension funds and consumer finance businesses.

“Our goal currently is to move the lawyers out into the business, to understand what the risks are, and to be closer to the Regional Directors. A challenge previously was to react to needs sufficiently quickly, so part of the decentralisation process is to establish service level agreements (SLAs) so that all sides know what is expected of them.”

Such a change involves a return trip for many of the lawyers in the banking team, explains García Maceiras. An element of the legal recruitment strategy is to attract employees from within the bank who already hold law degrees. “What is important is to understand the context in which we work, and while some lawyers bring this with them others need to learn it better.”

Como Secretario General y Director de Asesoría Jurídica del Banco Pastor, Óscar García Maceiras supervisa el departamento jurídico de uno de los bancos más grandes de España, dividido en varios equipos para una mejor comprensión de las necesidades legales de la banca de consumo, litigios y otras cuestiones corporativas. El núcleo de negocio del banco son los depósitos individuales y la pequeña y mediana empresa, pero ahora también gestiona de manera independiente inversiones, fondos de pensiones y crédito al consumo.

The six-lawyer corporate team inevitably takes on a more strategic role within the Banco Pastor Group. “To some extend we expect higher level delivery at the corporate level. But while we may have a better defined client body, the 100 companies that form part of the Group, the level of sophistication required and the legal risks involved are also significantly higher.”

The majority of the work tends to be project based, and outside legal advice is only sought for matters that demand a level of input that would otherwise overwhelm the team’s day-to-day capability, or for very specialist help. “With the level of internal expertise we have, the ideal situation would be to manage everything internally. We are always looking to bring more work inhouse, but any desire to stop using external law firms is mere wishful thinking.”

The corporate team uses around ten firms regularly but is looking to build closer relations with a smaller number of preferred firms.

Nonetheless, García Maceiras is clear that in return for a larger share of the bank’s legal work law firms must be more transparent. “In the past, we have had occasions where firms have been using our assignments as learning exercises, to develop their own teams’ expertise. This is not something I am prepared to accept.”

The third legal pillar at the bank is the work of the seven-lawyer litigation legal team, and it is here that the most use is made of external law firms. It is also where the legal department has made among its most significant investments in IT, software and case management, explains García Maceiras.

“A major role of the team is to coordinate matters with our network of law firms, and again the emphasis is on managing the quality of service and speed of delivery. We only work with firms that are willing to ‘plug in’ to our own systems, which enable us to effectively measure the quality of return we are getting.”

An important part of the legal team’s work is inevitably regulatoryfocused, but while levels of regulation may be on the increase this is not necessarily an area of growing concern for García Maceiras, “Regulation is a part of the bank’s DNA. We have always had to operate in an environment that is strongly defined both by domestic and EU legislation and the rules of the Bank of Spain.”

The legal challenge is instead to pre-empt new legal burdens, he says, but this can only be done if the legal team understands the business environment in which it works. “We have credibility with the senior management, but have to continue to demonstrate that we offer added value for money. We must therefore first know the banks´ operations, products and clients, and ensure that managers across the business also feel comfortable working with us”.

Oscar García Maceiras is Secretary General and Head of Legal at Banco Pastor.
Banco Pastor: Getting closer to the business


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