Daniel Lo joined Cake Group, which operates in the crypto space, as its chief legal officer. He has more than 10 years of experience as in-house and external counsel in the financial field, having worked for companies such as UBS and NF Trinity, and law firms such as Dentons and boutique Walkers. In his current role, Lo contributes to Cake’s strategic direction planning as part of its management team, sits on its risk management committee, and participates as an advisor within its venture capital arm.
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ALB: What have been some of your highlights from your time in charge? And what are some leadership lessons you have learnt?
Lo: A major highlight for me is getting involved in the strategising and execution of the company’s restructuring into a group holding structure to align better with its growing number of new business verticals. This exercise would allow the company to become public-listing ready in the future and pivot itself beyond being a decentralised finance company and towards a Web 3.0-focused instead. An important lesson I have internalised in this role is humility. I like to remind myself that there is always someone better than me, and I need to stay curious and not give up learning opportunities.
ALB: How would you describe your strategy for the legal team?
Lo: My strategy right now is to ensure all of my legal counsels are well-versed in and connected to every company business. Because we have a small team, the company’s business continuity risk is high if any one of us is not available for some reason. This is why I am prioritising strategies to consolidate all our knowledge contents and ways to empower internal stakeholders to vet for legal review necessity before sending to the legal team to avoid blocking low-risk matters. Eventually, I want legal counsels according to different verticals of the company so that our legal counsels can gain specialised knowledge and provide more proactive and tailored support.
ALB: What are some of the significant challenges the business has faced in the past few months, and how are you looking to tackle them?
Lo: The ongoing price pressure on crypto, regulatory uncertainty, and general distrust of the industry.
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 and your business as a whole?
Lo: I value the idea of healthy and sustainable company cultures. People are social creatures and often will forego a career and financial gain just for a healthy and happy working environment. I look to foster a fun and loyal culture in my team. There should be lots of laughing, and we should all support and protect the company and each other.
ALB: On that note, how would you describe your hiring and talent retention strategy? What kinds of lawyers would make the best fit for your team?
Lo: Independent and resourceful lawyers fit my team the best, those who are confident in their abilities and scrappy enough to find creative solutions. Lawyers who start every sentence with “no” or “we can’t do that” do not belong on my team. There is always a balancing of risk with every decision; the legal function should present these solutions as best as possible, even when it’s not ideal. I want to break the stereotype of in-house lawyers being a blocker to business.
ALB: What would you do if your compliance code of conduct runs contrary to business decisions?
Lo: A compliance code of conduct exists to provide safety rails for the business to operate within. If there is a business decision that would breach these safety rails, the business needs to understand the ramifications of it and take ownership. At the end of the day, these are all commercial decisions to make, and the compliance and legal function exists to advise and help mitigate risk for the business.
ALB: How would you describe your approach to technology? How has the use of tech within your team evolved since you started at the helm, and what is your blueprint for the next year or two?
Lo: For a lean legal team, technology is our best friend. With the readily available LegalTech tools around these days, in-house counsels have a lot of help. At our current stage of growth, the legal team has yet to fully adopt LegalTech tools as the company has yet to scale to a point where this is needed. However, we have been using template generator platforms to build up our database and ChatGPT to give a high-level sense check on what an answer should be before we dive into our own research and verifications. Going forward, I would love to introduce a contract lifecycle management solution to streamline our corporate secretarial function and sales contract negotiations flow. I would also love to adopt an AI tool which can provide analytics on our legal, risk and compliance exposure in our contractual relationships.
ALB: How would you rate the current standard of legal services available in your jurisdiction? What do law firms do well, and what could they do better?
Lo: Singapore’s legal industry is top-notch; lawyers here are well-trained, commercial-minded and execute matters effectively. They are all responsive and always look to add value to an in-house counsel’s life. I think law firms could do even more for in-house counsels if they hold regular learning courses where they provide in-house counsels with knowledge about relevant legal subjects. Not only does that help us develop more specialised knowledge, but it also allows us to gain insight into that law firm’s capabilities.
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?
Lo: Creativity and proactivity. We vet our external lawyers to see whether they can provide creative solutions or processes for our problems. We also appreciate when our external lawyers proactively reach out to us with relevant updates that may impact our business, showing the level of care we expect from our closest advisors.
ALB: Where would you like to see the team five years from now?
Lo: would like to see each team member develop into an industry leader in the Web 3.0 space.
ALB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Or What motto do you live by?
Meaning: “Through hardship, great heights are reached.” This was my alma mater’s motto. I internalised this phrase during my law school days; it reminds me to keep doing uncomfortable things in order to advance in my life and career.