Herbert Smith Freehills alumni Rebecca Cochrane arrived in Singapore in 2012 on a two-year secondment. Fast forward six years, Rebecca (still based in Singapore) is now in-house legal counsel at global payment technology giant, Worldpay. We are excited to share with you the story of Rebecca Cochrane’s life-changing secondment.
In 2012, Rebecca Cochrane arrived in Singapore on a two-year secondment. Six years later, she has no plans of leaving.
A year and a half into her secondment (from the legacy Herbert Smith offices in London), Cochrane was put on another secondment in Myanmar, where she spent 11 months. “It was a unique and wonderful experience,” she recalls, “but that time away made me realise how much I loved Singapore and missed being there. I love how it never ceases to offer up something new for those of us who live here. There’s always this great buzz wherever you go, and that’s also down to the people: everyone is so energetic, enthusiastic and driven and it makes for an inspiring professional network.”
Shortly after leaving Myanmar, Cochrane made the difficult decision to not go home to London but instead to stay in Singapore.
In 2015 she made the next biggest decision of her career, to take the plunge from private practice to in-house where she landed a role with Worldpay. “I’d been with Herbert Smith Freehills for so long,” she recalls. “I started my training contract there in the London office in 2007, and I absolutely loved it. I learned so much, and I’m absolutely certain that I wouldn’t have been able to do my current job without the training I had from the firm.”
Moving away from private practice was challenging in itself, but even more so was the move to a completely new industry. Even on a private practice basis, she had not worked across the payments sector before and there she was, joining a large-scale global acquirer that was about to undergo the largest IPO on the London Stock Exchange in the year to date.
Cochrane recalls her first interview with Ruwan De Soyza, then general counsel in Worldpay’s e-commerce business, as being the moment she realised this was an opportunity too good to pass up. They discussed the different aspects of the role as well as the industry. Despite it being relatively young, it’s growing and changing at a rapid pace. “The sheer number of payment options available demonstrates the large scope for future growth. Rapidly evolving sectors such as these tend to promote an energetic culture, which I continue to love.”
Cochrane talks of the fact it’s an interesting time to be involved in the industry, particularly in Asia Pacific. “There are so many regulatory aspects to consider, and regimes constantly changing. Japan has just passed a new Instalment Sales Act which requires us to become regulated in Japan, there are a number of other changes happening across APAC, and the Singapore Government is in consultation on new payment legislation, which should happen in the next year or so.”
Cochrane’s role as senior legal counsel takes her to other countries in the region, and the opportunity to travel is another aspect of her work she loves.
Worldpay has recently merged with US payments company Vantiv. “Now, I think one of the most challenging things to my mind is looking at and understanding how the two companies come together, and the M&A work I did at Herbert Smith Freehills has helped to put this in context,” says Cochrane. “Being an in-house legal counsel you see that once the court stamps the documents and the shareholders have given their approval, that’s when the real work starts. There’s integration happening and putting systems together; we’ve got two sets of contracts now and we’re trying to ensure that we have one set, and we’re looking at how legal risk appetite is different across the two companies.”
Being in-house comes with other challenges. “You can’t hide!” she laughs. “It’s an open-plan office and, in effect, you’re sitting among your ‘clients’ who will see you at your desk, and just come straight over to have a question answered. It’s really important to juggle – to keep the lines of communication open while prioritising tasks. But I’m really lucky to have a great junior lawyer and a lot of support from both my bosses, who are in the UK. We’ve also got a bigger legal team based across the globe, who are great and I speak to them regularly. Maintaining constant contact is crucial so if you need help you can get that.”
Post merger with Vantiv, Cochrane has also been speaking and working with new colleagues in the US. “I always enjoy learning about new areas of law and we have team members in the US who are experts in matters that I haven’t really had much involvement in previously. I’m currently working with our new chief regulatory counsel in relation to merchants looking to do online gambling or social gaming – learning about how the law operates in this area across 50 different states is really interesting.”
It’s a busy life professionally and personally – hard work during the week followed by weekend boot camps by the beach, coffee and brunch with friends, engagement parties, baby showers… there’s always something happening and something new to try out, and it would seem that Cochrane draws energy from the lively city that she so loves living in.
“It can be a little transient at times,” she admits, referring to her life as an expat. “But for me, it’s been the norm. I find that having lived and worked within such a diverse community, it’s far easier to sit across the table from someone in a negotiation and relate to them on a deeper level – and I really value that.”