Building an agile team: Q&A with HSBC’s Lilac Bosma

HSBC general counsel shares her strategies for supporting the business

Building an agile team: Q&A with HSBC’s Lilac Bosma
Lilac Bosma

How did you come to be an in-house lawyer?
I have always loved storytelling and communication. I was a commercial litigator for 10 years at a regional firm in Vancouver. I am a lot more focused on collaboration than litigation, so, when the opportunity arose to go in-house at HSBC, it felt like a natural fit. I started as an employment lawyer, which made me very curious to learn about the business of the bank. After two years, I took on the role of deputy general counsel, and I was leading a team of nine professionals. Four years later, I became general counsel. 

What are your primary responsibilities at HSBC?
I’m a member of the executive committee and I play a role in the global legal risk executive committee for HSBC. On a day-to-day basis, my main responsibility is leading and supporting my team of 30 lawyers and legal professionals. My goal is to help the team be agile and help them provide support for the business in a simple, commercially sensitive way. I also work hard to focus on the client’s commercial priorities and the legalities and ethics of every situation that we come across.

In what ways does your legal department work with and support the whole organization?
We have lawyers on the team to support every aspect of the bank’s operations and business. I try to focus on my stakeholders as humans. I make sure we are thinking of people not just from a business perspective but also from a human perspective. That helps people be more agile and efficient. Our mission statement is to protect HSBC and collectively partner with the business. To do this, we need to stay agile, communicate simply, build relationships and gain influence. The goal of the legal department is to think not only about what is legal but also about what is right. 

Please describe any recent initiatives of which you are particularly proud.
Since becoming general counsel, I have focused on my team’s culture and well-being. In order to keep people focused and productive, we talk about resilience and the challenges that we face, and we share best practices. We talk about how to share our influence. As a result of that, we have created more opportunities for leadership among team members. 

In what situations do you engage external counsel partners?
We rely on external counsel partners to assist with litigation work and to support large projects driven by legislative changes. When we engage external counsel, we stay very close to the work and drive the overall strategy because we are best suited to understand the reputational risks that are inherent to our global business. 

Fast Facts

Name: Lilac Bosma
Position: SVP and general counsel at HSBC Bank Canada
Years in the industry: 20
Greatest accomplishment: Watching my team grow and thrive and become effective leaders.
Goal for the year ahead: Supporting my team on a one-on-one basis and helping them connect with the bigger picture in Canada and across the globe. 

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