Lisa Mantello’s leadership at Osler helped usher in major reforms to Canada’s financial markets

She was recognized as a Top 25 Most Influential lawyer for her role in the complex transition

Lisa Mantello’s leadership at Osler helped usher in major reforms to Canada’s financial markets
Lisa Mantello

Lisa Mantello likes solving difficult problems. She always wanted to be a lawyer and was drawn to her practice area – structured finance – because it is a “complicated puzzle.”

This affinity for complexity culminated in her most recent challenge: spearheading industry reform. In May 2022, Refinitiv Benchmark Services (UK) Limited announced that it would cease publishing the Canadian benchmark rate, the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR). As a result, Canada has embarked on a fundamental reengineering of its financial system as it transitions financial benchmarks from CDOR to the new term Canadian Overnight Rep Rate Average (CORRA).

Working pro bono, Mantello played a pivotal role in a transition that may sound technical but will broadly impact financial markets.

The Bank of Canada appointed Mantello to chair the legal and compliance committee as part of the working group established to manage the shift. She was also appointed the co-chair of the accounting, tax and regulatory committee as part of the Canadian Alternative Reference Rate (CARR) working group, which helped the Bank of Canada work with industry to plan and execute the complex transition.

“We're really making sure that this works for all the stakeholders,” says Mantello. “It's been a long process. I've been doing this for two years, and I've developed great relationships with many people at the banks through this, many people at the pension plans, [and] with the Bank of Canada.”

Mantello's contribution to the broader industry pre-dates her mandate for the Bank of Canada. She established the Canadian legal IBOR committee, which includes senior legal counsel of each of Canada's Schedule I Banks, to focus on providing thought leadership and best practices on issues related to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) fallback planning.

Her client work also involves developing long-term relationships, which means she had gained the trust of industry players before her recent mandate for the Bank of Canada. She acts on derivatives deals – a complex kind of capital markets deal – often on the “buy-side,” meaning for pension plans.

“There are not a lot of players in this area, which means that we all know each other. … I always want to make these clients look good. I know what's happening in their shops; I know what's happening in their institutions.”

Mantello began her career at McMillan LLP as an articling student. She then joined Goodmans LLP in 2005, eventually joining the firm’s partnership.

“I got a lot of deal experience there. I really did deal after deal after deal after deal. And I developed a specialization in finance and in derivatives.”

Mantello joined the financial services group at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in 2017. The firm now describes her as the “driving force behind the success of the go-to derivatives practice.”

“I've done a lot of different things in my career,” she says. “I've done lending, I've done derivatives, I did quite a bit of insolvency at Goodmans as well. I think that that's the way to keep a career interesting because you're always trying to do something new, and you don't stagnate that way.”

Mantello has always enjoyed bringing industry leaders together – her firm has hosted a dinner with the top Canadian derivatives industry players for the last six years– so her recent role culminates years of building relationships.

While she is trusted and known in the industry, achieving industry consensus for the benchmark rate was no simple exercise.

“Everything sounds like it's very simple. Of course, we're going to swap out CDOR, our existing interest rate, with CORRA, which is what we're doing right now,” says Montello. “But what I found with this process is, you can present that to a boardroom of people, and everyone says ‘Yes, OK.’ And then they take it back to their institution, and then they start saying, ‘Well, what about this? And is this the same economic value? And how is this going to work operationally? What's going to happen from a technology perspective?’ So, there's a lot involved in making these types of changes.”

Mantello speaks and writes extensively in Canada and internationally about the derivatives industry, fintech and cross-border financings. She also mentors many young lawyers at her firm.

But her accomplishments with the benchmark reforms are undoubtedly the pinnacle of her years in the derivatives trenches, a success she says she shares with the entire industry.

“I'm really proud of it. I really am. I feel like we've accomplished something. And that's something that everyone should be proud of.”

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