In his new role, Adams is responsible for all legal, corporate governance, and compliance matters in Canada and abroad. Goldring will focus on the long-term growth and strategy of investment management company AGF.
Adams has been with the investment management company since he joined the it as legal counsel in April 2004. He went to AGF from McMillan LLP, where he spent five years as a securities lawyer. He moved in-house, he says, because he wanted to become more involved in the day-to-day business strategy within the scope of the Canadian capital markets.
“The diversity of what happens day-to-day in-house was what appealed to me. Securities law can be a lot of paper, especially on the transaction deal side, which is what I did. I saw an opportunity at a company that was a key player in the capital markets and I saw a great opportunity to transfer some skills and get involved in a publicly traded company,” he says.
Since Adams joined AGF the in-house legal department has grown.
“We were a pretty small group on the legal side. Judy was the GC and it was basically her, myself, and one other lawyer,” says Adams. “Companies over the last 10 years have realized the benefit of building an in-house team as opposed to continually outsourcing things you don’t really have control over. When I joined there were three of us and over the next four years we went from three lawyers to five.”
As the business has evolved at AGF so has the complexity of the work Adams finds himself involved in. In 2007, he was vice president legal counsel when he was approached to become corporate secretary, something he had never done but corporate governance was becoming an important area.
“We’re a highly regulated industry so being in-house you really get to know your sector and regulations quite well and you have a real advantage because you know your business partners and what the business plans are,” he says. “The one area that is newer for me is that as general counsel the compliance group now reports to me, so I always worked side-by-side with compliance before but now it reports directly to the GC’s office.”
Adams views his biggest challenge as managing the requirements of cross-border work and understanding regulatory issues in international jurisdictions.
“We have an international footprint and from a challenge perspective it’s making sure we’re cost effective in going to these new jurisdictions, but also making sure our business operations and processes are compliant and adhering to the various local requirements that can change depending on what country you’re in,” he says.
“I think a key role for a GC in this field is making sure that your partners at the senior management table are well aware — you don’t have to use scare tactics — but build a common sense approach to what needs to be at the top of their radar screen from a regulatory or compliance perspective, but not stop business.”