Once a month at Crafty Counsel we focus on getting to know more about an in-house legal team. This month we feature the team at WorldRemit and speak to Sami Osman, the company’s Corporate and Commercial Associate General Counsel. Sami told us more about the company’s ways of working, highlighting some of its big wins, which includes the acquisition of Sendwave, another international money remittance business. He also discusses the principles the company follows and its favourite motto.

WorldRemit is a digital payment solution providing money transfers and remittance services to over 130 countries.

Background of Associate General Counsel, Sami Osman

As Associate General Counsel, Sami Osman is responsible for overseeing all corporate and commercial contract work, and all legal matters relating to the Company’s debt or equity arrangements. He reports to the Group General Counsel, Laura Oyesanya.

Before joining WorldRemit’s legal team Sami was a corporate solicitor at Travers Smith and advised WorldRemit on it’s Series D funding round in May 2019. He joined WorldRemit on a secondment shortly thereafter, which turned into a permanent role in March 2020.

Sami says he loves the company’s mission of enabling migrants to send money to their families “the mission was always near and dear to my heart, and since joining the company I’ve led on the legal side of two fundraisings, a secondary transaction to provide liquidity to some of our longstanding shareholders, a group reorganisation, the introduction of a growth share scheme, and the acquisition of the Sendwave business is probably my proudest achievement was ” he says. 

Some key members of the legal team

Sami says “every member of the legal team is key” and calls them “absolutely phenomenal lawyers”. The team is made of 12 lawyers, but there are an additional six team members who work across CoSec and data protection “we consider them honorary legal team members because we work so closely together” explains Sami.

Lara Oyesanya, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary
  • Laura has oversight over all aspects of the legal team and liaises with the board and the rest of the executive committee.
  • Joined WorldRemit in August 2021
  • General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer at Contis before joining WorldRemit
  • Was UK Counsel and Legal Director at Swedish fintech company Klarna between 2018 and 2020
  • Worked as Senior Legal Counsel at BAE Systems and Barclays UK
  • Qualified as a solicitor in 1993 with British Rail
  • Initially qualified as a barrister in Nigeria
Associated General Counsel in the United States, Marilyn Barker

Marilyn has “immense US regulatory and payment experience” says Sami.

  • Joined WorldRemit in September 2021 and based in Denver, Colorado
  • Worked as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for a number of financial services providers
  • Marilyn was a Senior Counsel at U.S Securities and Exchange Commission for 8 years
  • Marilyn started her career as an Enforcement Attorney in Banking, Supervision and Regulation at the Federal Reserve System in Washington D.C where she was for 6 years
Sally Wallwork

Sally leads on non-US, international regulatory matters.. She joined WorldRemit in January 2022 from Barclays

  • Joined WorldRemit in January 2022 and based in London, England
  • Has extensive regulatory experience with the Bank of England, Prudential Regulatory Authority, Financial Conduct Authority and with the European and Australian equivalents of these regulators.
  • Worked at Barclays where her team was awarded the Barclays Global Legal “Above and Beyond” reward in 2020.
  • Significant practical experience in embedding complex strategic partnerships and deploying retail customer Open Banking and related hubs.
Maurice Asielue, Data Protection Officer
  • Maurice joined the WorldRemit team in February 2020
  • Before joining WorldRemit he worked as a Data Protection Officer for a number of entities including for the Food Standards Agency in the UK
  • He worked as a Senior Manager at the Information Commissioner’s Office
  • At the start of his career Maurice worked as a caseworker at the Solictor’s Regulation Authority
David Wheatley , Assistant Company Secretary
  • David joined WorldRemit in March 2020
  • Before joining the company he was a Senior Associate at Vanner Perez Notaries
  • David started founded his own translation services company in 2010
  • David is a Committee member of the Royal Yachting Association

Sami notes that this oversight team is supported by a group of eight lawyers across various PQE levels. Sami says “and every one of those eight lawyers is a business partner with another team within the business” Sami gives the examples of Vicky Robinson, Legal Counsel at WorldRemit, who reports to Sami and “mainly covers corporate, finance and employee incentive matters” while acting as the team’s finance business partner, whilst Senior Legal Counsel, Clary Maynard is the commercial team partner.

Sami says that while everyone has their own “special interests and specialisms”, they all support each “outside of these areas in an effort to cross skill and develop our knowledge across the business” he says.

How did the team adapt to working remotely during the pandemic?

“The team adapted extremely well” according to Sami. He says that they were in the middle of a group reorganisation to “add three holding companies at the top of the group structure” just as everyone had to work from home during the pandemic.

Sami says he was initially “extremely nervous about transitioning to exclusive home working” where people would not be around to sign documents physically. He recalls “we had several hundreds of signatures that we needed across at least 55 documents, so I remember being extremely nervous about transitioning to exclusively home working, where we wouldn’t have people around to physically sign things”.

WorldRemit encouraged employees to test home working in the weeks leading up to the lockdown, which Sami says helped them to adapt. For Sami, tools like Zoom and DocuSign made the process “significantly more straightforward” than he imagined it would be and he says his “initial fears were allayed within probably about two weeks of working from home when we got to the signing process on that reorganisation and managed it so smoothly. In hindsight, it was much smoother than it would have been if we needed to collate all of the physical signatures”.

How will the team be working going forward and why?

Sami says that he thinks the legal team members have demonstrated that they continue to “be effective and responsive in a remote working environment”. He says they have established goodwill since March 2020 and that allows the team to have more control over their working location. 

He says there is an expectation that everyone will be responsible and reasonable, for example if there is a meeting that needs a team member to be physically present then they will be there. According to Sami, the business is comfortable with remote working and with team members joining conference calls remotely. In terms of working styles going forward, he says the team will “ continue to evaluate options” but “some form of agile or flexible working is probably here to stay now”.

How do the team stay connected with each other?

Like most other professional teams during the pandemic, WorldRemit’s legal team stayed connected with virtual drinks and pub quizzes during the Covid-19 lockdowns, but there was also a big focus on mental wellness, which Sami says he appreciated.

He says “it was really important for us to acknowledge that certain team members were new to living in London or living alone without family nearby, and so it was important to ensure that everybody knew there was moral support around if they needed it.”

It also helped that the team were busy on many transactions, because it meant they were “constantly communicating with other people through the work, but also being distracted from the early stages of the pandemic” he says.

What external resources does the team use?

Sami says the team recently put together a panel of their preferred legal advisors. He says that each specialist area within the team has their own “preferred law firms”. Sami says in his case, in corporate, banking and employee incentives, their preferred law firms are Latham & Watkins, Freshfields and Travers Smith.

“I’ve had phenomenal experience with these firms and it’s really great when you have the kind of relationship where you just pick up the phone to a partner and have them validate your views or give you a quick steer. I’ve been lucky enough to develop relationships like that while at WorldRemit”

Big wins?

Sami cites the acquisition of Sendwave as “easily the biggest win for the team” and for him personally. He says the legal team “led the negotiation of the legal and commercial terms in-house” and he was involved “at a really granular level from the drafting of the indicative offer letter to final closing of the deal” he says.

Sami and his team managed the process of obtaining change of control approvals from the FCA and National Bank of Belgium. These were conditions for closing the transaction which the team managed with minimal external support. Alongside the acquisition the team also worked on debt financing.

Sami says that the commercial knowledge the team developed by working on the process was “incredible”.

“You’re on the inside. You’re hearing the decision making and the reasoning from senior stakeholders for some of the points that they need as part of the transaction and some of the lines that they can’t cross. It broadened my commercial and operational knowledge more than any of the deals I had ever worked on in private practice. It was impossible to consider matters in a legal silo. All of the decisions around the deal terms needed input from the CEO, CFO, head of commercial finance, head of treasury, and various other people including the chief people officer, since we were taking on so many employees” he says.

He says he enjoyed working with the various teams, including with the “working with the announcements teams to publicise the transaction”

Biggest challenge?

Sami says one of the biggest challenges for the team was the idea of starting to work remotely. At first this was an especially challenging idea for him because he says he comes from “such a structured background in private practice, I was terrified of this”. He says he feels the team managed the transition well, especially because of the test run before it became mandatory during the lockdowns.

WorldRemit facilitates remittance so that migrants can support their families abroad

This is something close to home for Sami. His family were Arab immigrants to Canada, where he was born.. He says “the idea of a business that supports migrants in supporting their families abroad has always been something I’ve cared about.”

Sami says when he first joined the company, it did not offer remittances into Lebanon. He says the executive team involved him in early discussions around establishing a payout partner in Lebanon and byy 2021 WorldRemit offered this payment service to Lebanon. This was transformative for Sami as he uses the service to send money to his family and he says he can now send more money because he says the foreign exchange rates using WorldRemit and Sendwave are “substantially more” in his favour than the “bigger player” he used before.

Do you or your team have a favourite expression or motto?

Sami says he thinks the team all have their own mottos and sometimes share them to inspire others. His favourite is:

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Sami says “I think it’s a funny, slightly obnoxious phrase but it means that you got to voice your concerns to actually get what you need. A colleague actually had that printed on a coffee mug for me for my birthday, it’s my favourite mug.” As a general rule, the team should try to remain “concise and commercial” in their advice and they must understand why a request is made. Sami says the team will always ask “What’s the question behind the question?”

“It’s clearly helpful if you can understand the reason behind the task, because it might influence the way that you ultimately complete the task, and target your advice towards what you’re trying to achieve” he explains.