Policing the business – Zurich Portugal

Ensuring a company avoids any problems such as money laundering and bribery is one of the main challenges facing in-house counsel, says Nuno Moraes

Companies´ business processes have to become increasingly robust as the issue of compliance exerts a fiercer grip, according to Nuno Moraes Bastos, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Zurich Portugal. “Compliance these days is complex and getting more stringent, with legislation no longer limited to the borders of the country, and requiring very strong business processes to avoid any exposure,” he says. “This has been my most time-consuming period, as there are lots of changes happening in the near future that we’ve been anticipating for some time.”
Upholding the reputation of a major international brand focused on customer-centricity, Moraes Bastos is familiar with the challenges that come with legal compliance. “Basically I have to make sure that we don’t cross the line,” he says of a pivotal role that involves managing litigation, debt collection, anti-money laundering antitrust, anti-bribery, business conduct and licensing, across all channels and lines of business.

Not just passive support
Whether anticipating questions coming directly or indirectly out of sales and distribution channels, maintaining close relationships with intermediaries, or enforcing Zurich’s strong policy regarding segmentation within general insurance and life insurance, Moraes Bastos says he is used to terms and conditions “always being submitted and discussed”. He adds that his team is recognised internally for the “close relationship we are able to maintain with the business, and not just as a passive support function”. Moraes Bastos says this applies to everything from assisting a specific sales and distribution project to the definition of internal procedures, and coordination regarding regulatory relationships.
Additionally, the scope of his job extends to discussing implications for the business itself, meaning “it’s very normal to have someone from compliance and someone from the business to discuss the impact of such legislation with the internal client – even if the project is not ours”.

Inside knowledge
No stranger to working with different departments, Moraes Bastos began his career working at a small niche law firm, before joining Simmons & Simmons Rebelo de Sousa. However, it was on secondment to an asset management company that he first entertained the idea of crossing over to in-house work, realising the variety and quality of the work was appealing. Moraes Bastos became Head of Legal at Banco Invest, “an offer I couldn’t refuse”, and the following year was made Head of Compliance aged just 30. But with insurance litigation a major proportion of his work at Simmons & Simmons, “the kind of work put together with the kind of structure at Zurich Portugal became appealing”, and in May 2011 he joined as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer.

Outside counsel
Generally, Moraes Bastos has the legal resources he needs in-house, but sometimes it makes sense to seek outside counsel. “If you have an international project with potentially lots of changes in process, or if you’re setting up a new process of something that already exists and it’s something vital where you might have enquiries and grey areas, it is appropriate to have external support.” When necessary, he also outsources litigation because, for example, “we don’t want employment litigation and compliance in the same department”. With no panel of preferred law firms, Moraes Bastos chooses outside counsel based on their recent cases, cost and the “specific know-how they have”. However, he adds that he declines to reveal the names of the firms.

One step ahead
Moraes Bastos says his private practice background enables him to anticipate the needs and wants from both sides of the client/lawyer relationship. “As it’s a small market place, I not only know many of the firms, I know how to better control the kind of information that an external lawyer needs in order to provide good advice. I can also control the costs wisely.” This, combined with the knowledge gained from his in-house role, enables him to make bold decisions when making changes. “As a company focused on consumer protection, we’re always looking ahead and closely watching the different releases made on the legislation, with many of those rules having already been put in as standard, rather than us just being passive and waiting for such changes to become real,” he says. “If we are anticipating things, the competitor challenges will be our opportunities.”

Policing the business – Zurich Portugal



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