Champion of Consistency: An Interview with Chris Fox, Chief Legal Officer at Kambi
“We’re currently considering in-house solutions, as it’s partly a digitisation of an asset that we’ve developed ourselves. Unfortunately, initial assessments suggest the costs would outweigh the benefit, as it wouldn’t be cheap to either develop or implement, but it is something I would like to thoroughly explore in the future.”
As Head of Legal for an international firm of about 1,000 employees, Chris Fox leads a relatively large team of around 20 people. The reason, he explains, is that his role encompasses more than legal alone. He also oversees the compliance, regulatory and regulatory compliance functions, which, for an international B2B sports betting solutions provider, are fairly significant responsibilities in themselves.
“All three areas are critical to our business,” says Chris. “Compliance includes legislative requirements such as GDPR, anti-bribery and corruption, but also touches on insurance, AML, and various international certifications; our regulatory function supports the Sales department when prospecting, and also acquires new licences for specific territories or US states, and the regulatory compliance team ensures that we maintain our licences and achieve against our regulatory requirements. On top of that, we’ve got the usual legal work an in-house legal team is tasked with.”
Kambi has relatively few customers, but each generates significant revenues, so contract negotiation is critical. This is the reason that, rather than using an external law firm, Chris felt there was value in building up that expertise in house, which is what they’ve done. Although Kambi does still use external firms, it is most typically for capacity reasons, or specific expertise, with the majority of negotiations, led from within the team.
Due to the nature of the business, Kambi leverages various third party providers in addition to its own proprietary technology, and so contracts are critical at every stage of the supply chain. These range from agreements with major global cloud hosting environments like Oracle, Microsoft or Amazon Web Services, to data centres and data providers for different sports, such as IMG for tennis.
Strong on strategy
Chris is a former strategic consultant, so he has ensured there is a robust contract lifecycle management (CLM) process in place. He worked with his team, and the Sales and Corporate functions, to build a contract governance flow chart, taking the process from initial instruction through to negotiating agreements and contract execution.
“The purpose of the governance documentation is to give complete transparency to all stakeholders in the process, ensuring that interested parties have visibility as to where we are and what time will be required for review. It makes sense to keep this process as smooth and speedy as possible because our commercial model is based on revenue share. The quicker the operator can start trading, the quicker we start earning revenues. The governance process is key to speeding up negotiations while managing risk and providing certainty and transparency across the business,” explains Chris.
His team doesn’t use any specific technology or tools to help with that process. Documents are stored in OneDrive, with a contract summary document for each contract, a very clear folder structure and a file naming convention that is rigorously applied. While it might be beneficial, in terms of process efficiency, to use a document management system with deeper functionality such as version control and rollback, Chris believes the cost-benefit justification isn’t quite there. This is partly down to volume: a larger company with more customer agreements would derive more benefits from a formalised document management system.
The number of customers creates complexity in other ways, however. Each contracting solution is bespoke and, due to the nature of the business, can often be very complex. Some agreements, for example, do not have a single master services agreement but instead use multiple framework agreements to cover off different parts of the service with different parts of the operator group. Not having a clear understanding of this and the relationships between the different contracts could lead to a situation where one part of the agreement is renewed but another is not, or only part of the service is renewed when the whole service should have been.
A tool that Chris is considering to address this risk digitises the contract summary document in a way that enables it to be interrogated and reported against. This could deliver significant benefits, he says. A member of the team would still need to feed the summary information into the system, but once logged, it could be used to generate much deeper cross-contract reports. So, for example, it could produce a report on all the contracts with insurance obligations, or all those that had control provisions and what those provisions were, or termination rights.
Three Key Takeaways
- Don’t dismiss off-the-shelf products. You don’t need to invest big sums to be able to come up with effective contract management solutions.
- Make the effort to understand not only the needs of the business, but also the wants – things the company might not even know it needs, but which could deliver significant benefits.
- Remember that good governance is not just about risk management. It is about ordering data and processes to give people transparency and certainty.