08:26, March 20 467 0

2017-03-20 08:26:07
Clifford Chance’s fintech drive: “We want to be involved in shaping the future”

Clifford Chance is to provide wide-reaching support to banking client Citi’s Tech for Integrity Challenge (T4I), as the firm’s newly launched fintech group takes on its largest pro bono global initiative.

The T4I initiative was launched by Citi last month with seven strategic allies. Clifford Chance, a longstanding adviser to the banking group, is one of the allies and only legal services partner thanking part. The other allies supporting the initiative are tech giants Facebook, IBM and Microsoft along with fintech company Let’s Talk Payments, Mastercard and PwC.

The T4I is an open innovation program, which invites technology innovators from around the world to come up with cutting-edge solutions to address integrity, accountability and transparency issues in the public sector and financial system.

Clifford Chance’s contribution towards the program will mostly focus on the provision of legal support, advice and ideas to the competition participants. All of the firm’s input will be free of charge, and will run through the entire four months of the open competition.

In the first phase of the competition, Clifford Chance’s fintech group will provide all applicants participating in the T4I challenge with a web-based legal and regulatory education program. The firm’s fintech group was set up 18 months ago, and now consists of over a hundred lawyers across the firm’s global network and practice groups.

At the end of March, teams from Clifford Chance’s global network will work a range of legal, regulatory and political issues for fintech companies.

Following the education program, the firm will provide free “hotline” legal advice to all the competition entrants. Core members of Clifford Chance’s fintech team will then sit on the judging panel to select eight finalists from all the participants with Citi.

In the second half of the competition, Clifford Chance will act as legal adviser to all eight finalists, providing free advice and helping the innovators developing their ideas into real products.

According to Clifford Chance TMT partner Andre Duminy, a key member of the firm’s fintech steering committee, the T4I program is the largest global initiative undertaken by the firm’s fintech group since its launch 18 months ago.

“It’s the flagship initiative for us globally,” said Duminy. “It taps into our teams across all major jurisdictions and capabilities across a wide range of practice groups and sector focused groups.”

Clifford Chance’s fintech group is led by a six-strong steering committee, which also consists of London based senior associates Peter Chapman and Jonathan Kewley, finance partner Kate Gibbons and corporate partner Guy Norman, and Singapore based banking and finance partner Paul Landless.

Chapman and Kewley have played instrumental role in setting up the fintech group and the duo are also coordinating the firm’s global support to Citi’s T4I challenge.

“Essentially, it’s a condensed innovation lab program,” said Peter Chapman, a member of the firm’s financial services regulatory practice. “The whole idea is to try to find tech solutions to issues of integrity within the financial system: issues such as those around financial crime, fraud, public procurement and tax evasion that are real pain points in the sector.”

Clifford Chance has had long institutional relationship with Citi. Most recently, it represented Citi on the bank’s successful defence against Terra Firma’s £1.5bn law suit before the High Court.

“The senior management think it is a strategic important thing Clifford Chance should be doing,” Chapman said on the thinking behind the fintech push. “We need to adopt to the new way of the world, and we want to be involved in shaping the future, advising clients in this area and applying law to new technologies.”

Clifford Chance is one of several UK firms that have recently formalised fintech initiatives and offerings. Slaughter and May recently launched a new scheme branded “Fintech Fast Forward”, where it will offer five selected fintech start-ups up to £30,000 in free services. It is understand that Clifford Chance has not put a cap on the free services to be provided to T4I participants.

“It was an interesting journey for us. We’ve done deals in many different shapes and forms in the fintech space for decades. Now we’ve put together a more formal and structured task force to focus on this area, as it is evolving rapidly,” said Duminy.

“All big global financial institutions have been fintech companies for some time. What’s changed now is that technology has reached maturity, which allows people to disaggregate the full process that banks traditionally offer. Technology companies can focus on specific process and component part of it and deliver better user experience than the traditional providers, challenging the way it was before.”