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General Counsel spotlight: Marcus Strohemier from Perth Mint

By Sam Burrett,

14 November 2020

Perth Mint is Australia’s official bullion mint responsible for the majority of Australia's gold. We sat down with General Counsel Marcus Strohemier to learn how his team has successfully responded to huge surges in demand and how he has managed to effectively shift his team from a traditional, office-based environment to an agile remote-working set up.

Marcus, thanks for making the time to speak with us.

It has obviously been a turbulent time for many legal teams as they’ve attempted to navigate the Covid-19 Crisis.

It’d be great to get some insight into how COVID has impacted your team. What is your day-to-day routine like right now?

Our company refines the vast majority of Australia’s Gold. When the world goes into crisis, one of the things they turn to is precious metal. So we were crazy busy.

Over the last few months, demand shot through the roof. To give you an idea, we hit 4x our budgeted profit - profit, not revenue! That’s how busy we were.

Separate to that, we had our team starting to work from home. We had begun to onboard with Plexus Gateway and we had to push the button on that really quickly. With our CEO and CoSec working from home, they weren’t going to want to print and scan documents to get them signed. So we had to move quickly!

We used to rely on emails and printed documents - but not everyone has printers at home.

[Gateway] was a really good solution for people that were going to be spread out, and for documents with multiple approvers.

A lot of legal teams right now are busier than ever, and they’re working from home, from the edge of dining tables and in hastily assembled home offices.

How is your team handling remote work? What's the strategy?

Look, it’s about balance. If there's stuff that needs to be done, you've just got to get it done to respond to what the business needs.

But it’s also about flexibility as well. Our legal counsel, Madison, loves to surf. I said to Madison, ‘if the surf's up and you haven’t got urgent work on, then get out and surf!’

In the past we’ve wanted people in the office physically and we’ve wanted the whole team in one place. So we had to shift to getting laptops and mobiles - lots of people had desktops!

Part of the equation is trusting your staff, giving them the tools they need to get the job done and the flexibility to strike the right balance. We all have families, and I have a family of teenagers. There’s a lot that we need to attend to.

My teenage son graduated from Year 12 yesterday and I was able to approve things using Plexus Gateway on my mobile phone, which means the business keeps functioning and moving forward.

I often say, the business is a bit like a bus, and the legal team is a bit like one of the wheels. If we stop then the business grinds to a halt - or they go around you! So we need to keep doing what we need to do to keep the bus moving forward.

How do you make time to plan for the future of your legal function? How do you balance doing the work, with stepping back to plan for your function and for the future?

It’s a difficult one but ultimately, it’s about prioritising.

Recently there have been some longer hours, but I’m still trying to maintain that flexibility where I can. Unfortunately, you need to step up and respond to what the business needs.

We’re also trying to automate some of the ‘churn work’ to free our team up to do things where they add value. I don’t want my team to be doing mundane administrative tasks. I shouldn’t be doing filing at a relatively high salary - I should be doing legal work that adds value.

Maintaining relationships is also key. That includes informal lines of communication, whether it’s having a coffee or grabbing a beer after work. You need to know people [in the business] on a personal level so that when it comes to a challenging work situation, you have a great connection to build on. It makes the job much easier.

We’re all in the people business. The AI hasn’t got to a point where we can just not rock up to work!

Thanks Marcus, so great to have your insight!

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