In this Lawyers in Hong Kong feature, we interview Kristi Swartz, Managing Partner of Bryan Cave LLP Hong Kong. Kristi concentrates her practice in corporate finance and securities. She has experience with SFC and HKEx Listing and compliance issues. She has acted for, and successfully defended, both companies and Directors (to include INEDS) on enquiries and investigations of market manipulation and insider dealing.
She advises Fortune 500 companies and high profile net-worth individuals worldwide, as well as emerging growth companies and start-ups. She represents clients in Hong Kong, China, Asia and Europe, in a broad range of industries, such as finance, venture capital, and telecommunications. She has served as counsel to East Asia Tax Service Limited, the Lithuanian Consulate, the Indian Chamber of Commerce, the Overseas Indian Organization (Hong Kong), and the Consulate of Uruguay, to name a few.
More about yourself and main practice areas
I am at heart a Texas girl, and am qualified in England & Wales and Hong Kong. Saying that, the majority of my legal career has been in Hong Kong. As Bryan Cave LLP’s Hong Kong office managing partner, I concentrate my practice in corporate finance, with a focus on SFC investigations and financial technology (fintech) matters. I advise on new business models such as robo-advisory and equity crowdfunding platforms along with practical advice and first-hand experience on how to set-up and ensure compliant operations. I guide licensed and non-licensed entities through enquiries and investigations launched by Hong Kong and overseas regulators into client’s business dealings. As the leader of our Hong Kong fintech team, I strive to provide real-time advice to clients as deals and transactions move forward, whilst advising on daily business operations from compliance procedures and governance practices through to complex restructuring and post investigation strategies.
What made you choose to be a lawyer? Do you still feel that the same reason still drives you today?
As mentioned, I’m originally from Texas and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an international corporate finance lawyer. If you ask my family, I was determined to get international experience, and packed my bags and headed to London from Texas to study the LPC at the College of Law. You could say I got the “bug”, and back in the late 1990s Asia, in particular Hong Kong, looked set to be a very exciting place to practice law. I subsequently made the move to Hong Kong where I obtained my LLM at the University of Hong Kong.
One of the reasons why I wanted to become an international lawyer was my desire to experience new cultures and be at the forefront of change. I am privileged to work alongside cutting-edge fintech clients who are the driving force behind the advances in the adaptation of technology to meet commercial market needs. This is an evolving space, and one that I am highly interested in. I find it rewarding to work with savvy clients and to put in place structures to support innovative models and concepts right through to the legal concepts to support inventive businesses. I would say that my motivation to practice law has stayed the same, however what’s more exciting is the way in which I am able to apply my knowledge to provide legal services and add value to my client’s business.
Any word of advice for younger lawyers and aspiring lawyers?
Believe in yourself. It’s an old concept, but it’s true. I dedicate time to various mentoring programs, which include the Law Society of Hong Kong’s CONNECTED program. I have noticed that rising lawyers would benefit from being more confident, and I truly believe confidence will stem from gaining experience and having role models. I highly encourage garnering international experience. Talking from personal experience, studying in the UK and then Hong Kong certainly opened and shaped my eyes as an aspiring lawyer. It made me a more diverse person, and this shows through in my practice.
If you have the opportunity to work or study abroad, seize it! You will grow as a person, and whether you decide to return to your hometown or move elsewhere, the knowledge and insight you will gain will only improve your ability to communicate with a diverse group of people and appreciate other cultures.
Is there a particular legal issue or area that you think should be reviewed (due to societal shifts etc), or if we should work to further develop it?
As mentioned, my fintech practice sits on the edge of current legal concepts. The way in which laws can be applied to new models are limited, and can be perceived as somewhat restrictive. Take for instance crypto-currencies. I am an advocate for the development of crypto applications developed off the back of blockchain technology.
The development of technology will significantly impact and improve how trade finance runs, providing real-time exchanges. Benefits can also be seen to KYC through to AML procedures. The regulatory landscape will, and ought to change over the years to cater and monitor businesses who enter this evolving space. The law is a reactionary process and as new methods become accepted in day to day life, it will take shape and benefit consumers and businesses alike.
What legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
It is well known that fintech is a hot topic in Hong Kong. The government is putting plans into action to build Hong Kong as the fintech hub of Asia, and we’re pitting ourselves against the likes of Singapore and Japan. In the near future, it will be interesting to see how Hong Kong governs and regulates the market as more innovative products and services become available. This will have a great impact on the likes of personal data-privacy, cross-border sharing of data and the global governance of companies. It will also impact how we practice law.
What motivates and drives you on a daily basis?
My personal motivation is quite simple: I aim to provide for my loved ones and enjoy the people I work with, colleagues and clients alike. My clients goals become my goals, and I have worked with start-ups who have become market leaders (which I am very proud to have been a part). I am a team player, and as such, I become invested in all of my relationships, whether professional or personal.
I am blessed to be involved with a number of fantastic organisations, such as The Women’s Foundation, The 30% Club through to more industry-focussed groups such as Conventus Law to name a few. Each of these organisations set to share experiences and raise awareness of issues we all face, with a goal to improve not only working environments, but also to tackle bigger social issues. I champion the notion that we should all give back to the community, and at this juncture in my life, I am pleased that I am able to contribute in a meaningful way.
Could you share with our readers one thing that resonates with you personally? It could be a quote, a book recommendation, a philosophical/religious idea, or even an artwork.
Please share a bit more about your personal interests and passions outside lawyering?
As mentioned before, I am an advocate of giving back to the community and nurturing young talent. I sit on the board of the Faith In Love Foundation Limited (“Faith in Love”) and Global Women Connect Limited (“GWC”). Faith In Love is a charitable organisation that looks to alleviate poverty through the medium of art and expression.
As a firm, we volunteer at Faith In Love, and spend every Monday night, along with my colleagues, hosting English sessions at a Children’s home in the New Territories. GWC offers mentoring opportunities so that every woman can contribute to society in their own way. Whilst I may see this as “giving back” to the community, my experience with both organisations has really taught me quite a lot, and also helped me grow as a person. I am also very proud that every member of the Bryan Cave LLP Hong Kong team gives time to community services or charitable programs, pitching in with either pro-bono legal advice through to spending time volunteering with the Red Cross or at their local Church. I feel incredibly privileged to have built a network of supportive and like-minded people who have shaped me into the person and lawyer I am today.
Need legal advice?
If you are in need of legal advice, you may request a quote from Kristi Swartz or get a Quick Consult with other Hong Kong lawyers for a transparent, flat fee and expect a call back within 1-2 days to get your questions answered.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.