Exploring Cross-Border Deals with Kennedy Chen

In this interview, we are joined by Kennedy Chen, a partner at Harry Elias specialising in corporate and finance law. 

Kennedy specialises in M&A, venture capital, equity and debt capital markets, is recognised as one of Singapore’s Most Influential Lawyers Aged 40 and Under by the Singapore Business Review, and is recognised by the International Commercial Mediation Center for Belt and Road Initiative as the only Singapore representative on its mediator panel.

*The responses provided here have been rephrased for brevity and clarity. For the exact answers and a comprehensive understanding, we strongly recommend watching the full video podcast or tuning into the audio podcast.

Q: Can you walk us through your typical day?

Certainly. In my day to day, I usually prioritize tasks based on urgency and difficulty. This involves handling ongoing matters, addressing client timelines, participating in calls and meetings, managing administrative tasks, and engaging in internal discussions with team members. Sometimes, I wear different hats, evaluating potential deals and exploring likely outcomes.

Q: Can you share your experience as the first Singapore representative on the International Commercial Mediation Center for the Belt and Road initiative?

Representing Singapore in the Belt and Road initiative was a source of pride for me. I'm not big on external validation, but this external validation made me feel that I was on the right track. The experience involved real interactions with Chinese lawyers and on-the-ground insights, allowing discussions on commercial and business interests with lawyers from different jurisdictions. It was a unique opportunity for cultural exchange and a broader perspective on translatable legal principles.

Q: Can you share some cross-border deals that have left a lasting impression on you, and what factors played a crucial role in these deals?

I've been fortunate to participate in several noteworthy cross-border deals. Notable projects include extensive fieldwork in China right after graduating, working on renewable energy deals in Vietnam, and handling US NASDAQ matters with Chinese-speaking shareholders. Key factors in these deals involve being outcome-driven and creative, respecting procedures and industry practices, and incorporating respect, humility, and an inquisitive mindset.

Q: How do you manage cultural and personal interests when dealing with cross-border transactions?

Effectively managing cultural and personal interests in cross-border deals involves an outcome-driven and creative approach, coupled with respect for procedures and industry practices. Sincere, active listening and an open mind play a pivotal role in understanding the concerns and interests of all parties. Language proficiency, while not the sole factor, contributes to building rapport and facilitating communication in negotiations.

Q: Your proficiency in multiple languages is impressive. How did you acquire these language skills, and how have they proven beneficial in your career?

Growing up in a multilingual environment and attending a Chinese school significantly contributed to my language proficiency. Mandarin, in particular, was a key focus. In negotiations, an open mind, empathy, and sincere, active listening are essential when utilizing language skills. Proficiency in multiple languages serves as a complementary factor, aiding in building rapport and easing communication barriers.

Q: What advice would you give to young lawyers aspiring to pursue cross-border legal work or a legal career in general?

Rather than advice, I'd share guiding points. Cultivate a passion for excellence in your field, recognizing a moral obligation to be of service and striving to be part of the solution. Aim to leave a positive legacy and understand that failure occurs only when you stop trying. Embrace continuous learning, growth, and practice to enhance strengths. Enjoy the process, with the outcome seen as secondary, and persist through challenges.

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