Liberty’s legal department has won the award for being the Best Large In-House Legal Department of the Year at the prestigious 2021 African Legal Awards.
The Liberty Group is a JSE listed company operating in over 27 African countries, boasting total assets under management of R776 billion at the end of 2020.
Liberty’s legal team have a deep knowledge of the laws governing the group and consist of over 30 diverse lawyers, compromising primarily of women. They were assisted professionally in many instances by Liberty’s partners STANLIB and L2D.
The past 12 months have seen them leading Liberty through a number of complex issues, including managing the group’s COVID-19 response and a number of high-profile court cases.
“Liberty’s legal team are guided by a strategic vision aimed at focusing on what is fair, just and equitable. This is underpinned by the values of Liberty, its reputational impact and the spirit of the law, to enable the group to fulfil its purpose of improving people’s lives by making their financial freedom possible,” says Yvonne Perumal, Group General Counsel.
“As legal practitioners representing financial services providers, the team must deliver quick, risk adjusted decisions, all the while balancing risk appetite with value-based judgments and ethical considerations in order to deliver sustainable outcomes. This is what we believe creates a competitive advantage and drives business growth,” she says.
An example of this was Liberty’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team provided pragmatic legal advice and analysed over 70 COVID-19 regulatory instruments, supporting the group with enabling premium, commission and rental relief options for customers, advisers and tenants. They also assisted with the establishment of the Liberty vaccination site in Braamfontein.
In terms of protecting the group’s interests, one of the legal team’s most notable achievements was the landmark judgement against Discovery regarding customer ownership of data. The concept of data belonging to the customer is a key recommendation in the Financial Services Conduct Authority’s Regulating Open Finance paper and has featured in a number of publications on what it means for the financial services sector and business as a whole.
The team also takes part in broader industry activities, including engaging on various regulatory issues.
“We actively participate in regulatory lobbying across several influential industry bodies such as IRFA, PLA, SAPOA, SA REIT Association, BUSA and ASISA. This has, amongst other things, helped lead to positive outcomes for our customers in terms of premium relief during COVID,” says Perumal.
“It is a tremendous honour to receive this Award for being the Best Large In-House Legal Department of the Year. Given the events of the past 12 months, everybody in the legal team have utilised their expertise to the fullest and the results of this tell its own story.”
The African Legal Awards set out to recognise exceptional achievement from Africa’s legal professionals. Hosted by Law.com International, they are partnered with the Corporate Counsel Association of South Africa and Africa Legal.