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Richard Kurniadi is the general counsel of Kimberly-Clark Softex, part of the multinational FMCG manufacturer Kimberly-Clark. After a few years in private practice, Kurniadi moved in-house in 2010, first with Sony, and then with Mercedes-Benz and Multi Bintang (makers of Heineken). He joined Kimberly-Clark Softex in 2022.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're a general counsel based in Asia who'd like to be featured in this series, please email ranajit.dam@tr.com.

 

ALB: Tell us about your legal career so far, and what led you to taking up this role. Can you briefly introduce your company?

Kurniadi: In the early days of my career as a lawyer in a law firm (which I enjoyed very much), I was always passionate about the business side of the law. That led me to move into the corporate world by being the in-house counsel. I'm fortunate to consistently have had the experience of working in multinationals from totally different industries, which enriches my experience and shapes my career thus far, including having the opportunity to work overseas in the Netherlands. Lastly, I'm taking the current role as the general counsel at Kimberly-Clark Softex. Kimberly-Clark Softex is part of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which manufactures and distributes household and medical devices (FMCG) products.

ALB: How would you describe your strategy for the legal team?

Kurniadi: My strategy is always about being proactive and business partnering. As the Legal function, naturally, we are considered as people who just sit at our desks, waiting for the "client" for a consultation. And if anything is at risk, Legal would just simply say "no." Such an inherited image of Legal sometimes creates our own Legal challenges in supporting the business, whereby people might be reluctant and even tend to avoid Legal ("don't talk to Legal, it's complicated and probably they will just say NO!").

It is crucial to be part of the business, taking calculated and smart risks, and even sometimes, we need to push the boundaries without breaking the limits. It is always helpful also for Legal to "sit at the table" and be present in business meetings. Therefore, we can not only give early advice/intervention before an important business decision is made (so we are not slowing down or giving a setback to the business), but it would also be beneficial for Legal so we are not just firefighting all the time. Eventually, it is about giving added value to the organization and becoming a business partner (not only a legal advisor).

ALB: How important is the company’s culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster both within the team, as well as your business as a whole?

Kurniadi: Without question, a company is nothing without a great culture. I'm grateful in K-C we have such a great "culture compass" which navigates our life in our K-C world.

My personal favourite "way of working" in K-C is "play to win." At the personal level, I'm very competitive, and I hate losing. So, this is something very close to my heart and what I always foster within the team, which is to always "play to win," not just "play not to lose" (which really makes the difference). I also think directness and openness are key cultures in terms of building a high-performing team. Last but not least, nurturing inclusivity and diversity as a culture is crucial in this highly competitive business.

ALB: What would you do if your compliance code of conduct runs contrary to business decisions?

Kurniadi: In running the business in such a VUCA environment, it is always critical to set the tone from the top. As I also learned in K-C from our business leaders, "there is no business result worth compromising our integrity." I think this really resonates with how we navigate the business. In the end, it is always about risk-vs-benefit analysis. Sometimes, we need to make a painful decision (from a business standpoint) but eventually, that also triggers us to challenge ourselves and be more creative in providing solutions for the future. And, if we look at it differently, that is exactly what makes us uniquely different (in a positive way).

ALB: When it comes to cooperating with external lawyers, what qualities or capabilities do you believe are the most critical to not only the work itself but also a sustainable long-term cooperating relationship?

Kurniadi: I'm a big fan of external lawyers who also have experience as an in-house counsel (not that the ones who don't have experience as an in-house counsel are not good). To me, external lawyers are also part of the in-house team, therefore, it is always helpful if they can speak business instead of only giving multiple pages of legal memos. Giving advice is important, but also advising how to make the advice workable and doable is equally important.

ALB: Tell us a little about your role and what excites you outside of work.

Kurniadi: As the general counsel, I'm leading the Legal function to perform a full spectrum of legal operations from end to end, including strategic initiatives. Being part of the Leadership Team also allows me to do business partnering with the business leaders. This is a very exciting time for me to be part of the transformation journey at Kimberly-Clark Softex. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, watching movies, and a lot of eating!

ALB: What trends do you expect to see in the legal services industry in the next few years?

Kurniadi: AI and digitalization are here to stay. So, I guess that would be also relevant for the legal service industry. I would also imagine that we will see more and more stricter regulation and enforcement in the digital world.

ALB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Kurniadi: I would say two things. First, "follow the numbers," and second, "we are not learning anything if we are always comfortable." In terms of my professional life, I have lived by these two pieces of advice until now. This always reminds me to be entrepreneurial (in the end we are running a business) and don't get carried away with the "comfort zone."

 

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