Roger Wiltshire, deputy European legal director of Northrop Grumman, on the challenges he faces in his role...
For those readers of The Brief who aren’t aware, Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company which recorded $25bn USD of annual sales in 2012 and it has a presence in 25 countries across the world. The firm’s main sectors are; Aerospace Systems, Electronic Systems, Information Systems and Technical Services. It has an established - but relatively small - European business and is actively looking to develop and expand its UK and European operations as well as in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Australia. We have also recently appointed new chief executives in Europe (Andrew Tyler), Australia (Ian Irving) and the UAE with plans to do the same in Saudi Arabia. The European Legal Department has lawyers in the UK, France and Germany.
My role as Deputy European Legal Director is proving a diverse and challenging one as we build up our regional presence in Europe and internationally. It is an exciting time to be with Northrop Grumman. Historically, Northrop has been a US market focused organisation with the vast majority of its revenue being derived from selling to the US Government, in particular the Department of Defence.
However, it is now going through a commercial and cultural shift and is seeking to expand into – and also enter - new markets. The legal department in Europe is playing a crucial part in that process, working closely with our US legal team colleagues who work in the US businesses that are seeking to export into these targeted international markets. This requires trust and collaboration but also careful management of risk and taking a considered, but pragmatic, approach where needed. A key part of the European legal team’s role is to translate local legal requirements and practice to make them understandable to the US side of the corporation.
Moving into some new markets also presents compliance challenges that need to be worked through carefully. For example, ensuring all advisers are vetted in accordance with Northrop’s strict company processes and that required training is delivered to relevant personnel. A key enabler for the business is high calibre external counsel in each region to assist us in delivering a quality service.
Northrop is a US business so ensuring that the corporate policies are flowed down to other territories around the world and making them relevant is crucial. As a result, they are carefully reviewed for each jurisdiction, and adapted if necessary to comply with local regulations.
On home soil, consolidating the UK legal entities into one trading entity is complex and presents a number of TUPE and pensions issues, whilst delivering legal support to a group of businesses through a lean team requires efficient use of both internal and external resources.
The attraction of the role is being in at the “ground floor” of a US corporation as it develops and expands its non US operation. Also, helping to shape how it manages risk and compliance in some complex areas of the world.
My job is about supporting the regional chief executive with all the legal and practical issues that entails; from setting up a regional management team to corporate restructuring and developing a legal and compliance framework. This is combined with working out how to gradually move more operational control to the regions. It’s a big job but one that I am certainly enjoying.