LexTalk World Talk Show with Dr. Yasser Abo Ismail, GC & Compliance Officer at Schindler Group, UAE.
LexTalk World interviews Dr Yasser Aboismail. Dr Yasser Aboismail is a seasoned legal professional with extensive experience in offering legal advice across broad range of business areas encompassing commercial, corporate, M&A, employment, antitrust & competition, compliance, and general business. His career has been focused on leading rigorous efforts aimed at accelerating growth, mitigating long-term risks, and cultivating an enterprise-wide compliance culture. He is an articulate communicator; and he plays a critical role in persuasively negotiating to provide firms with advantageous suggestions that can result in beneficial outcomes. Besides this, he excels at establishing relationships with stakeholders, governmental authorities, and public sector entities to achieve long-term goals.
He is currently the global head, compliance culture and training at Schindler Group, based out of Dubai, UAE and is a highly respected legal professional in the global corporate circle.
Host: Kindly brief us about your current job or assignment. What is the line of business of the organization that you work for?
Spearhead a team of seven legal counsels and compliance officers and 6 commercial managers in directing all legal, commercial and compliance matters related to Schindler Group within MENA region. In addition, I serve as Lead of the Global Function of Compliance Culture and Training with a mandate to support Schindler Global Compliance Team in strategically developing and strengthening compliance culture and training programs of Schindler organizations worldwide.
In my current role, I offer strategic support to the executive leadership and formulate strategies and procedures to expand business growth. Support commercial teams with negotiating key commercial agreements encompassing distribution, supply, manufacturing, and licencing deals. Guide senior management on major legal concepts and issues. Select, direct, manage, and assess processes outside counsel as needed. Identify contractual risks and devise appropriate mitigation action plans. Train and mentor legal team to build their core competencies in line with Schindler’s business objectives.
Schindler is a global leading organization with a legacy of 150 years in the business of supplying, installing, and maintaining elevators, escalators and moving walks.
Host: You have been instrumental in developing the right legal framework for businesses in your current organization as well as others in the ME region. How have you been able to create this coveted role for yourself as not only a widely respected global legal professional but also as a motivator and mentor to a lot of legal professionals across the globe?
It all starts with my focus on “adding value” as a great value for me. In order to live such important value, my objectives must be always guided by the needs, objectives and priorities of my business team. In this “Adding Value” journey, it is very important that we develop a holistic approach on how to serve our customer which requires us to be able to understand the pain points of my business colleagues, work with them closely to develop workable and business friendly solutions (strategies, plans, policies, and processes) and help them in the deployment of such solutions on the aground and drive its continuous improvement process.
However, this can never be achieved without mastering how to think and speak as a true business person happened to be a lawyer and manage to show my business colleagues what is in it for them to get me a seat on the table to support them as early as possible.
I believe that it is my duty to pass this “know how” with my peers and friends in the legal community, which might of help to them in their “Adding Value” journey.
Host: As an educator and a strong influencer, how do you help transform individuals?
Seeing the best part in people is a gift that cherish a lot and I’m always keen to effectively use this gift in helping people to unleash their potential and put them on a sustainable self-development track. With this genuine intention, people would allow a chance to connect with their minds and hearts and play a role in their development journey.
This mission would require caring and trustworthy leaders who have genuine interest in people.
Host: What are the prerequisites of a corporate counsel especially in a dynamic environment like yours?
Being a magician to strike a balance between being a business partner and the conscious of the organization;
Strong commercial and business acumen;
Having strong “People Development” will and skills;
Being dynamic and fast learner;
And much more 😊
Host: What are the major challenges that you have faced in your career and how have you tackled them?
Knowing how to be a true business partner: I started to explore this motion with my first in-house experience with PepsiCo back in 2007 and I must admit that it is still “work in progress”. I initiated this journey by joining the Marketing Department of PepsiCo Egypt as a humble trainee for few weeks, which opened my eyes on my great role as in-house legal counsel trusted advisor, people developer and value amplifier within my organization.
Establishing legal and compliance functions from scratch. I had the honour of having this experience in all my in-house roles throughout my career, which became an amazing source of joy and fulfilment for me. This experience always come with some pain, especially when we feel that we are aliens in the business organization and our business colleagues prefer not to involve us in their daily decisions and challenges to avoid any complications. It takes a lot of courage to put our ego aside and start marketing our legal services to the business team by saying “Try Me.” Once we draw their attention to the great value that we can add to their daily operations and results, the business team develops a sort of addiction to our services and then we move to the next level where we are expected to do more with no or less resources. Considering the pressure coming from being considered always as pure cost, we tend to be willing to give more with less resources which does not help to continue adding the same amount of value that we used to do before in the first stage, which means the fun part of the story starts to get less and less gradually. To overcome this challenge, we must invest in transforming our legal and compliance function to a value generating machine by showing the monetary value of our contribution to the business results to show the management what kind of return they would expect by investing and putting more resources within your hands. In this enjoyable journey, General Counsels must operationalize their legal function by adopting objectives that would serve the sustainable and profitable growth of their organizations’ businesses and demonstrate that impact of such objectives through clear set of relevant KPIs (e.g., Control, Impact on profitability, efficiency…).
Host: What are the areas of advice you give to business leaders to build a robust commercial organization, especially in the areas related to compliance and anti-trust competition?
First, business leaders should own compliance and demonstrate their compliance leadership and set the right tone from the top in every decision they take. Understanding what is in it for everyone to comply and proactively boost a healthy culture of integrity and compliance are the key foundation for a sustainable business organization. All aspects of Compliance including competition protection principles should be impeded in our daily operations in a seamless way as a vital prerequisite for attracting and retaining the right talents, promoting productivity and creativity, and boosting a culture of transparency and accuracy. Raising the compliance awareness of our frontline colleagues is extremely important, however it is more important that we show them how to do it right first time and lead by example.
Host: You are such a highly proclaimed communicator and you have played a lead role in so many corporate commercial deals, what has been the motivation factor that you have passed on through your communication?
Respecting my audience and making sure that deliver my messages in the right way that could be easily digested and well perceived by them. Driven by my focus to add reel value, I need always to make sure that I share relevant experience and personal insights with my audience rather than just information that they could find on google. People will engage with us when they feel that we care about addressing their interests and keen to let them get out from any conversation with valuable perspectives and food for thoughts.
Host: What would be the advice you would like to give to debutant legal professionals who are about to embark on a career in the corporate sector?
Own your development and take it seriously with a clear plan. Visualize and capture the fine details of your dream in the plan and keep in front of your eyes everyday and let it guide your baby steps every day. Appreciate your daily achievement and let it fuel your energy for the next battles. Believe that the legal profession is one of the most noble and honourable jobs ever and being lawyer means that you are able to influence the world to become fairer and more sustainable. Being successful lawyer requires courage, patience, and determination because the journey is not sweet and short.
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