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Inspiring Women In Law - An interview with Ginny Castillo: How to understand the importance of Compliance for companies

Latin Counsel spoke with Ginny Castillo, Senior Legal Manager at EY Law in Guatemala and a lawyer specializing in Compliance, about the steps to implement a successful compliance program within a company, her outstanding projects in the corporate sphere, and the strategies she uses to keep herself updated and informed in her field. In addition, the member of AmCham’s Compliance Committee recommended that women professionals should make their way into innovative and emerging branches of law.

Marina Vanni,  April 29, 2024

Latin Counsel: What has been your experience in advising local and international companies on labor and compliance matters, and what do you consider to have been your most significant contribution to this area?

Ginny Castillo
: My experience in this area began when I was the Regional Manager in Central America of the Legal and Compliance department for an international company, listed on the stock exchange and also a regulated entity in most of the countries in which it operated. This responsibility allowed me to learn a lot, not only from theory and practice, but also by understanding from the regulators’ perspectives the core issues they are concerned about and usually audit to verify the level of compliance of an organization. Within EY, we have clients in different industries (electricity, energy, oil, real estate and telecommunications) who have placed their trust in me to accompany them from stage zero, which has been spectacular, and from the eyes of a consulting firm it is fascinating when they allow us to accompany them from the beginning, providing comprehensive and timely advice, which has allowed me in recent years to structure phases of initiation and implementation of compliance programs that have included:

  • Training and awareness to their stakeholders (employees, suppliers and senior management) on the importance of compliance, criminal liability of legal persons, the pillars of a compliance program, among other topics.
  • Identification of regulatory compliance obligations and identification of those obligations of voluntary compliance but that generate value and standard to the industry to which our clients belong;
  • Advice in preparing and/or reviewing the internal policies that the organization needs to implement for a solid and successful compliance program;
  • Review of your internal processes for whistleblower channels and internal inquiries, so that you can ensure that relevant rights are honored (confidentiality, privacy, transfer of information, responsible parties, consent, etc...).
  • Review of risk matrices identifying opportunities for improvement and gray areas in light of current legislation; etc.
LC: What frequent challenges do you see your clients facing in terms of Compliance?

In my experience, I can highlight the following:
  • Understanding. Compliance is a concept that has gained a lot of traction in recent years, and it can be as generic and broad as it is concrete, depending on the industry and the risk appetite of our clients or stakeholders. The first challenge is to understand what can be covered by Compliance. Modern Compliance no longer refers only to compliance with mandatory laws and regulations, but also to compliance with union standards, good practices, or even internal policies and values of the organization. To the above, other pillars of compliance must be added (training, risk measurement, control mechanisms, continuous improvement, whistleblower channels, etc...); in this universe, the uncertainty of how to start, how much an organization wants to commit, and which route to follow, is the key to build an effective compliance program.  
  • Conviction. Let’s assume that the organization recognizes the need for compliance implementation and advice. But are they convinced or is it inertia? The conviction of senior management (Tone from the Top) is a key element, as they must be able to convey with certainty the reasons why it is worth implementing a compliance program and adhere to a culture of ethics, legality and integrity. This conviction makes it possible to lead by example, and to ensure that there is cohesion between regulations (external or internal) and the expected conduct.
  • Communication. Learn to communicate, understand the forum and what message is transmitted whether they are suppliers, customers, employees, shareholders or management. The communication of what makes up compliance must be maintained permanently, but it must also be concrete, timely and even creative, so that there is a guarantee that the message was heard/read, but above all: understood.
  • Continuous improvement. Implementing a compliance program never ends. I have noticed that some of the challenges faced by organizations interested in compliance go through a process of realization in which they start thinking that it is just another project with a start date and an end date, and end up understanding that as long as the organization exists, compliance and its pillars must be reviewed, updated, innovated, and kept in view of continuous improvement so that it responds to the needs of today, and even those that can be foreseen for the immediate future, and thus contribute to long-term sustainability.
LC: Could you tell us about an outstanding project you have led in your career related to corporate transactions?

The most challenging and outstanding project that I can remember now responds to an M&A transaction that we carried out between 2017-2018 that involved operations in 7 different countries, and whose dispute resolution and conflict resolution legislation was Spanish law. I had the opportunity to be entrusted to lead the transaction from Guatemala, coordinating different legal, financial and tax advisors in the jurisdictions involved and with a very efficient but capable team of lawyers from EY, involving the due diligence, negotiation and closing phases, reviewing a series of documents and contracts signed with multiple edges, from forward-looking obligations for the parties to regulatory approvals such as suspensive conditions. It is a project that I remember with much gratitude and pride because both individually and as a firm, the transaction was successfully completed and allowed us to win over one of our main clients whom we still serve on a regional basis and have accompanied them in their exponential growth.

LC: What strategies do you use to keep up to date with trends and changes in the legal areas in which you specialize?

I am never done learning and maintaining an attentive listening attitude is key.

I have "simple" ways to keep myself updated, I read a lot on professional social networks, I listen to channels or podcasts, I learn from my colleagues, I have conversations with content in which we exchange positions, trends and experiences, I even learn from my own clients and it is a symbiotic relationship that has allowed me to maintain them for many years as we give each other value.

But I must complement the above, and therefore, I frequently look for courses, diploma courses, forums and congresses that allow me to be updated and learn from different perspectives (private sector, public sector, regulators, certifiers, etc...) the areas in which I have developed my professional career.

LC: What advice would you give to women professionals seeking to enter the legal sector?

To quickly find their areas of passion. Possibly it will imply that in a short time they will experiment with different branches of law, but given the agility with which law has evolved, there are new branches that are waiting for us to decide as professional women to conquer them and become referents in them. For example, everything that derives in computer law, data protection, blockchain, private equity, artificial intelligence, space law, bioethics, digital health law, environmental and climate law, among others. My advice is to open your mind to these trends, find areas of passion, specialize in them and then, do not forget to enjoy what you do and that you can get to do.


Interview: Marina Vanni

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