GC Spotlight: Sophia Yap discusses how LegalTech and RegTech are integral for the success of legal and regulatory departments.

This month, we feature Sophia Yap who is Co-Owner and Chief Legal Officer at Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN). With over 25 years as a leader and strategic advisor providing expertise in corporate legal, compliance, risk management, government relations and regulatory affairs to Fortune 500 companies. Sophia brings a wealth of multi-sector proficiencies covering everything from M&As, risk and crisis management, to corporate change management, technology licensing and intellectual property,  underpinned  by multi-jurisdiction experiences with deep and diverse cultural understanding of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

With a background and passion for  computer science she is Green Belt and Lean Six Sigma  certified – Sophia has helped  Fortune 500 companies develop award winning  RegTech solutions. She holds a double degree with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce (majoring in accounting, information systems and data analytics) from The University of Adelaide, Australia, and is admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor in Australia.  Sophia started her career as a banker with ANZ and Adelaide Bank in Australia, and was  recruited to Hong Kong by Baker & McKenzie. She subsequently  stepped up to serve a variety of regional roles for Fortune 500 companies such as  General Electric and CBRE, including  as Asia Pacific Technology Counsel, Asia Pacific Senior Counsel – Litigation and Compliance, Asia Pacific General Counsel and Deputy Global Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, overseeing matters covering 60+ countries. Prior to HKBN, Sophia has also served business and legal roles in the private equity and venture capital markets.

Sophia is a Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators and is a multifaceted professional who actively shares her knowledge advising numerous organisations, including as a Founding Member and Director of Knowledge Transfer & Technology Licensing of the Hong Kong O2O E-Commerce Federation, and as a Founding Board Member and Executive Director of the Hong Kong Medical & Healthcare Device Industries Association. Amongst other pro bono positions, she currently serves as an Appeal Panel (Housing) member, and a member of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Entrepreneurship Investment Fund. She has also been professionally  recognised with accolades that include  Asia Pacific’s Leading Women Lawyer  from Asia Legal Business, Asia Pacific Innovative Lawyers Award from the  Financial Times, Asia Pacific Compliance Innovator of the Year Award from the International Law Office, and others. Sophia loves music and volunteering to support local communities.

1. Hi Sophia, can you tell us a little about your role and journey into law? What excites you outside of work? 

I am proudly Co-Owner & Chief Legal Officer of HKBN Group, a dynamic and innovative company that provides full solutions for residents and companies in Hong Kong and beyond. With a background in law, computer science and accounting, it has been a fulfilling journey in my private practice, in-house and business roles to be able to contribute above and beyond. I enjoy solving complex problems and embedding digitisation and technology into the workflow to be proactive in predicting, preventing, detecting and responding to evolving business, legal and regulatory risks and challenges. Having been Six Sigma trained in my early career with General Electric, simplification and removal of muda (waste) and redeploying resources to more productive and time efficient ways has become a core DNA in my professional services.

Philanthropy is a core part of my childhood upbringing and, also what I install in raising our children. I enjoy making people happy and spreading positive vibes, and I do that through composing music, painting murals, mentoring youth and community services.  I enjoy making things happen such as being part of the team that conceptualised and implemented the LeaveHomeSafe App to help jumpstart Hong Kong’s economic recovery, bringing together scientists, medical experts, business leaders, lawmakers and government decision makers. It is my personal belief that passion and positive energy in a mission are the key ingredients to bring positive sustainable change and impact for a common good, where we will be able to energise and infectiously draw together like-minded people and requisite resources to execute a mission even if it could be unchartered waters.

2. As a Co-Owner & Chief Legal Officer, what are some of the challenges that keep you up at night? How are you addressing them? 

Sleep is my best friend and spending quality time with my best friend every night is top priority. As such, my mantra has always been mitigating Murphy's Law by driving proactive 360-degrees risk management to always stay vigilant of industry, technological and regional changes in proactively protecting our business, legal, regulatory and operational risks to better protect shareholder value. Data, cyber and personal data security risks of our customers and clients are very important to us and drives our processes, work-flow and innovation to deliver best in class services proactively incorporating AI and other latest technology, backed by strong legal support which includes regulatory and government affairs work.

3. What do you think about the use of LegalTech, data analytics and process optimisation to improve your legal department's value? 

LegalTech and RegTech is integral for the success of any legal and regulatory department. It is my personal mission to always explore how we can always contribute through simplification of workflow and embedding data analytics to better risk mitigate to proactively protect and strengthen the business in mitigating and managing evolving risks. We also contribute to good design thinking, privacy-by-design, cybersecurity-by-design client solutions. We are integral team members in designing and implementing exciting new solutions for clients like various SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) which incorporates the use of smart contracts, AI, blockchain, big data, smart data and other evolving technologies to help with SmartCity, Advance Manufacturing, SmartRetail and much more. You can think of it is selling LaaS (Legal analytics as Solutions) or RaaS (Regulatory analytics as Solutions) to be a value creative and differentiator to win businesses, rather than being a passive cost-centre.

4. What trends do you expect to see in the legal services industry in the next 5 years? 

More use of technology, in particular AI in all aspects. Some jobs will be replaced by AI, some work will heavily rely on AI. Those with interdisciplinary expertise, particularly in AI, FinTech, BioTech will be in hot demand given expected growth of and dependent on the digital economy, Industry 4.0, web3, aging population, greenTech and new quality productive forces.

5. Where do you see NewLaw/ALSP fitting in the matrix of your legal department? 

ALSP provides a flexible, time saving and cost effective alternative to address unanticipated workloads, projects or where temporary specialised expertise is required.

5. Your favourite tune? And why? 

"When You Believe" from the musical The Prince of Egypt. I am a great believer of miracles and transforming what may appear impossible to POSSIBLE! :-)

Lily Evans and Sophia Yap