We asked Carolina Machado Dufau, head of the ICG legal department at Citi Banamex and the winner of the Regulatory (Financial Services) Team of the Year award at the 2018 Global Counsel Awards, her opinion on what it takes to be a successful in-house counsel, the best way to advise senior leadership and what winning the award meant to her.
Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).
I am the head of the ICG legal department of Citigroup in Mexico. This means I am responsible for all legal and regulatory issues related to investment banking and corporate banking, excluding the consumer business. My team is composed of 25 lawyers, all product experts, out of 200 lawyers in the legal department in Mexico.
What led you to a career in-house?
It was an opportunity, in my early years, to start a financial legal career at JP Morgan in Mexico, where I worked for 19 years. I thought I could not go wrong given the globality and top reputation of the institution.
In your current role, what is the most challenging situation that you have faced? What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?
In 2016 I was invited to become part of this team in order to help to integrate Banamex into the Citigroup culture. Because of my background at JP Morgan, it was in my DNA to work closely and efficiently in a global corporate structure such as the one Citigroup was introducing to a large local institution. The challenge has been to change the mindset and integrate the local team to the global structure.
The most significant challenge that we will face as in-house lawyers is making sure that the standard of ethics at our institution remains at the highest level, while maintaining a profitable business in a highly regulated environment.
Are there particular types of legal issues that you routinely refer to outside counsel? And what kind of matters do you tend to handle in-house?
The work done in my area as ICG legal is very transactional in nature. Therefore, it is very common that we get specialized and timely support from outside counsel. However, I always get involved in those decisions where we have to consider what is “the right thing to do”, taking into account the values of our firm.
What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?
The three Is: integrity (do the right thing); independence (don’t be influenced by the wrong incentives); and Intelligence (learn the products you support quickly and in-depth).
What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?
The best advice we can provide as in-house counsel to our senior leaders is to analyze the full picture (from the holistic perspective) of difficult situations and not focus only on the short term result.
How does the legal department contribute to your company’s growth?
As product lawyers, we work very closely with our business partners in transactional matters, while making sure we are in compliance with legal and regulatory matters. The legal department must be viewed as a leader in adhering to the firm’s values.
With regard to your industry, are there any significant developments worth highlighting?
The financial sector has become highly regulated and complex in the last decade. Lawyers must be updated and educated on the regulatory changes and trends which are going through constant change.
If not a lawyer, what would you be?
A writer, a journalist or a travel agent (only with the bonus of travel experience).
What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?
It means external recognition by our peers of the exceptional quality and technical skills of the Citibanamex Legal team. We could not be prouder of each member. It was a particularly good moment to get such recognition – and really motivating!
The purpose of the Global Counsel Awards is to identify those in-house counsel, both teams and individuals that excel in their specific roles. The primary aim is to reward lawyers for demonstrable achievements across the full spectrum of in-house responsibility, not simply those who have acted on high-profile transactions.