By Ellen M. Zavian
Liv Biesemans started her career as an attorney at the Brussels Bar, a long way from her current gig in New York as Group Deputy General Counsel at Kindred Group Plc, one of Europe’s most successful public online gambling companies. With a cross-Atlantic role, an International Advanced Certificate in Anti-Money Laundering (ICT) and an LLM in Intellectual Property and European Competition Law from the University of Liège, Biesemans is well grounded in compliance, regulations, and acquisitions law both in Europe and the US.
One of the few women in the gambling legal space is not something Biesemans takes for granted. We caught up with her to discuss her beginnings, the growth in the market, and diversity challenges in the gaming space.
Question: During your traineeship at the Brussels Bar, you participated in a national exchange project in 2009 which landed you a position within a law firm in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Lubumbashi, Katanga) for 4 months, focusing on a variety of contentious matters and human rights cases. What lessons learned do you continue to apply to your position today?
Answer: That was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity given to me at the time. I learned a number of valuable lessons, not in the least how important human relationships are in a professional environment, in particular supportive female partnerships, but also how important it is to step outside your comfort zone and continuously challenge yourself, both personally and professionally. The importance of being able to express yourself and communicate in a common language was another learning that I value to this day. Understanding your colleagues or clients and genuinely listening to their needs and expectations is a true skill, not an automatic given. Performing to a high standard with very little resources was another, often harsh, lesson but it has definitely made me a more well-rounded professional.
Q: With many folks jumping into the gaming space, what are you telling your team of attorneys to be most cautious about?
A: The Kindred legal team has a central role in the organization, and we are a true partner to the business. Having a thorough understanding of our highly regulated industry, being familiar with our products and ways of working and being visible to our stakeholders are all key to that partnering relationship. We always aim to be pragmatic, supportive, think-outside-the-box and be solution-oriented. Our remit, however, is very clear: we need to protect the business against any legal risks and while we always aim to be pragmatic, the legal reality sometimes dictates otherwise, and we need to manage this appropriately. Securing that fine balance proactively and transparently, especially in such a fast-paced industry, is key to any in-house attorney.
Q: When you reach out to outside-counsel, like Ifrah Law, what are you seeking guidance in?
A: It depends on the query, but it would be a combination of legal technical expertise and guidance on best practices. The fact that Ifrah Law has such a wide understanding of the US gaming industry (both past and current) and combines that with a full-service approach is very valuable to us. The gaming industry is one of the few industries that is touched by almost all areas of law, so the full-service element is extremely important.
Q: With many gaming companies moving to partner with media companies, what is on the radar for Kindred?
A: There are obvious upsides for a new brand like Unibet to partner up with a media company. For instance, we look at attributes such as brand equity and accessibility to a sizable database. As a growing company, we are thoroughly evaluating any relevant opportunity with these attributes and more.
Q: In May 2018, the Kindred Group Legal Team was awarded “Best Team in the Industry” at the International Women in Gaming Diversity Awards for delivering change in equality, diversity and inclusion. Can you share with our readers on some of the strategies you put in place to achieve this honor?
A: I am extremely fortunate to work for a company that puts diversity at the heart of the business. I always felt valued and appreciated at Kindred throughout my career and I aim to make my teams feel the same way. The Kindred legal team is multi-national (+10 different nationalities), comes from varying professional backgrounds and they each bring something unique to the table. That level of individuality and diversity has truly enriched the team and our ways of working and is fully in line with the Kindred values.