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How dealmakers are ‘moulding’ themselves within a new workscape

With new and age-old obstacles alike persisting through hybrid work, industry professionals continue to find creative ways of meeting the needs of stakeholders. 

user iconJerome Doraisamy 13 September 2022 Big Law
How dealmakers are ‘moulding’ themselves within a new workscape
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Dealmakers continue to face industry-wide challenges, with the likes of conduct risk and indemnities being recurring concerns through transactions and mergers in the financial services industry. With hybrid work and a future of uncertainty added into the mix, dealmakers across Australia are provoked to reimagine how they work within their specialties. 

Lawyers Weekly spoke to Sarah Yu, partner and financial services specialist at King & Wood Mallesons, to find out more about how dealmakers are adapting to address the looming challenges the future of work will face. 

Ms Yu was the recipient of Dealmaker of the Year at the Australian Law Awards 2022 and has seen herself and other professionals navigate this recently changing terrain.


Make ‘people’ your priority

When asked what makes a good dealmaker in our current market, she said: “A commercial mindset, authenticity, empathy, grit and a cohesive team across a range of specialties.”

She added that success could only be found in “deeply listening to clients and understanding their stakeholders, dynamics and drivers”.

The number one issue for financial services is around people — both attracting and retaining talent as well as moulding the team’s culture in a hybrid working environment. In executing mergers, it is important to have a clear strategy around communicating the vision for the future organisation and retention of talent,” she said.

With the negotiations of mergers and acquisitions envisioned with stakeholders reasonably in mind, Ms Yu said that dealmakers need to be flexible and prepared for any new changes that need to be taken in stride.

Understand the demands of your specialty

For professionals like Ms Yu, who are operating over a number of areas, she has found intersecting challenges that she continues to consider and emphasises the importance of recognising. 

“The shadow of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry continues to loom over deals with a key focus being conduct risk and indemnities.

“For the superannuation industry, there continues to be a large number of regulatory challenges with mergers that can only be overcome with thoughtful structuring and working respectfully and transparently with regulators to seek relief where appropriate,” she explained.

“For the insurance industry, operational risks remain the key issue which requires targeted due diligence to understand and often indemnities to address.”

Find motivation in new opportunities

Ms Yu offered that there are many areas other dealmakers can tap into that she believes to be upcoming trends that have gained traction amongst the industry.

“There are so many opportunities for both large organisations and niche players including:

  1.   Designing governance frameworks that enhance value for stakeholders;
  2.   Data and digitisation to create efficiencies while managing the enhanced risks;
  3.   Cybersecurity trends and the intersection with duties;
  4.   Sustainable businesses practices and ESG;
  5.   Provision of affordable financial advice (and the Quality Advice Review);
  6.   A focus on risk management and the ‘just in case rather than the just on time philosophy’; and
  7.   Ongoing remediations and class actions.
“Only a team with a range of capabilities will be able to help clients navigate all of these trends, and most importantly do so commercially — not saying something can’t or won’t work, but instead offering solutions,” she said.

Look toward the future of work

Ms Yu’s team is embracing technological literacy, not only as a new way of working but also as a form of individual development within the business.

“I have always enjoyed the structuring side of deals, especially when it requires a novel solution. Utilising new technology to increase the efficiency of execution also feeds my love of learning new things. I am very fortunate that building digital literacy among our people is a key focus for King & Wood Mallesons … It has been a game changer!” she said.

“It enables me to learn digital skills from the younger lawyers in my team, while I can share dealmaking experience with them.”

Take hurdles as they come

Ms Yu explained that a good sense of humour complements the demands of being a dealmaker in a market so heavily affected by the pandemic. She shared her experience of her special counsel needing to move overseas amidst border closures, and unluckily, on the day of a final board meeting. “[It was] like a scene out of Thelma and Louise.

“I have learned the importance of being flexible as circumstances can rapidly change.

“Also, the glass or two of bubbles at the end is also pretty exciting to me,” she concluded. 

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is the editor of Lawyers Weekly. A former lawyer, he has worked at Momentum Media as a journalist on Lawyers Weekly since February 2018, and has served as editor since March 2022. He is also the host of all five shows under The Lawyers Weekly Podcast Network, and has overseen the brand's audio medium growth from 4,000 downloads per month to over 60,000 downloads per month, making The Lawyers Weekly Show the most popular industry-specific podcast in Australia. Jerome is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, and a board director of Minds Count.

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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