James Whyte, Head of IT Europe & Asia Pacific for Nuveen Real Estate, explains why he values the ability of Technology Law Alliance to balance the legal and commercial aspects of a contract.
As one of the world’s largest real estate asset managers, with over $125 billion of assets under management, Nuveen Real Estate invests in major property developments across the globe.
James Whyte, Head of IT Europe & Asia Pacific, recalls how Nuveen’s UK business grew out of a real estate joint venture between American pension fund TIAA-CREF and London-based Henderson Global Investors, and the challenges that this presented for the IT department. “Nuveen was to be independent from both parent organisations, and we had nine months to create its entire IT infrastructure from scratch, including procuring assets, hardware, software and people. That’s a big enough task in itself, and especially for a regulated entity, so what we really needed was legal advice from people who already understood the nature of this type of beast and could work to a very challenging timeframe to make it all happen.”
James decided to use a specialist practice that could deal as efficiently as possible with the volume of new IT, telecommunications and data contracts that the new business required “I just didn’t have time to create new relationships or work with large, slow-moving City law firms,” he explains. “I’d worked with Jeremy Newton from Technology Law Alliance in a previous role and I was confident that they could help us navigate through this. Jeremy justified that confidence, not only delivering a major global infrastructure agreement but also setting up contracts with twenty or so specialist suppliers for all the IT solutions that the new business needed – HR, accounts, payroll, website development, support services, printer services and a lot more. We got the whole lot done in the space of six months.”
That was in 2013, and Technology Law Alliance continues to advise Nuveen on a number of new contracts and renewals each year, as the company responds to technological changes and the increasingly stringent demands of data security and integrity. James explains that he values the experience and commercial insight that the firm brings to these negotiations.
“We had a super-urgent contract presented to us at very short notice – all ‘rush, rush, rush’ for a new application with an implementor party, licensor and licensee, and a very aggressive timescale with a lot of pressure to get the deal ‘over the line’.
Jeremy flagged up potential ‘showstoppers’ in a series of conference calls and internal discussions, and ultimately saved the deal by providing a toolset which enabled the Finance Directors of the two sides to finally have a sensible conversation.”
The collaborative nature of the firm’s negotiating style is something that James particularly appreciates.
“Jeremy has a considerate approach to his counterpart lawyers – he is polite, direct, fair. When he proposes some kind of change to someone else’s drafting, he always takes pains to explain why he has done so, which avoids the kind of combative distrust that can often make contract negotiations more difficult than they need be. That in turn encourages the other side to co-operate, so we quickly end up with a balanced contract that everyone can be comfortable with.”
James’ experience in working with other lawyers provides him with a final insight into the Technology Law Alliance approach. “Most lawyers I’ve worked with are very unwilling to ‘come off the fence’. The team at Technology Law Alliance are the only IT lawyers I know who have the bravery and confidence to say what’s the right course of action on a given issue. They give you a clear steer. As a client, it makes my life a lot easier.”