Global menu

Our global pages

Close
Print Friendly and PDF
Kirsten Taylor - General Counsel at Roland Europe Group

Alumni spotlight

Kirsten Taylor

General Counsel at Roland Europe Group

Eversheds Sutherland alumna Kirsten Taylor spent seven intense years at Barclays, leading a team of lawyers as a Director of the bank’s Global Competition Team.

Today she is General Counsel for the European arm of Roland, the iconic Japanese manufacturer of musical instruments, and is relishing the shift in tempo.

Rock star lawyer

A move perhaps to raise eyebrows, yet Kirsten has no regrets swapping the pristine towers of Barclays’ headquarters in Canary Wharf, the heart of the capital’s financial district, for Roland’s European HQ in Theale, Berkshire. There, it is not uncommon to encounter rock ‘n’ pop royalty the company enlist to trial and promote new gear (members of Deep Purple and Depeche Mode have made recent cameos); occasionally Kirsten steals a moment for herself in the studios. “There is nothing like beating the heck out of a drum kit to combat stress,” she recommends.   

Roland is famed for innovation in electronic equipment, its products of which have majorly influenced popular music, notably the TR-808 drum machine and TB-303 synthesizer. “I had never played or used any of the company’s products,” admits Kirsten. “I was a cellist in my youth so tended to play mainly classical music, but I love a wide range of music and the tech that surrounds it is fascinating.” 

Rewind to the late noughties during her time as a competition lawyer in Eversheds’ (legacy) Birmingham office, Kirsten recalls a spirit of collegiality which exposed her to a range of clients and matters. The open-plan environment suited her outgoing nature as “everyone felt accessible so I was involved in many areas…plus there were some epic karaoke nights”, she laughs.

I was advising a broad spectrum of clients with similar legal issues, but there was no one-size-fits-all solution. I had to become a creative thinker and this flexibility set me up for a different challenge at Barclays

Friendly interactions with colleagues under the tutelage of commercial partner Richard Prowse gave Kirsten freedom to express creativity: “I was advising a broad spectrum of clients with similar legal issues, but there was no one-size-fits-all solution. I had to become a creative thinker and this flexibility set me up for a different challenge at Barclays.”

Adapting to life in-house

The transition to an in-house legal function powered by more than 700 lawyers was a journey into the unknown. As Barclays fought to reclaim its position following the global economic downturn of 2008/9, the ensuing years were set upon a backdrop of innovation in financial services and the rise of fintech.

“Every piece of legal advice was heavily scrutinised across the business,” remembers Kirsten. Buoyed by the pressure, she applied the flexible, client-centric approach she had nurtured at Eversheds and rose up the ranks. “My experience guiding clients of varying sectors through competition law issues helped me advise my ‘clients’ within Barclays” she explains.

Buoyed by the pressure, she applied the flexible, client-centric approach she had nurtured at Eversheds and rose up the ranks

The profile of Kirsten’s myriad stakeholders was diverse, ranging from regional branch managers climbing the corporate ladder to whip-smart traders in the investment arm. She describes leading the retail bank through a five year market investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as the proudest achievement of her Barclays tenure: “It was an amazing but intense experience.”

A natural corollary of progression is people management. Promotion to director necessitated the recruitment and development of junior lawyers into her team. The in-house City life attracts many, but something was missing and Kirsten could not immediately place it.

“It had become less about the law and more about firefighting,” she reflects. “I had lost the enthusiasm that I saw in the eyes of my recruits and, as a working mum, I needed more of a justification to commit such a large proportion of my life to something other than my family. Upon reflection, I sensed a yearning to get back to the front line.”

Going solo

Roland’s invitation to join as its first European General Counsel came at the right time. Another foray into the unfamiliar beckoned, one in which Kirsten would have first and last say on all legal affairs as the sole lawyer. It was an opportunity she grasped with characteristic gusto: “I wanted the broader remit of a GC role and the stimulation of having closer contact with the business.”

Stimulation comes from regular dealings with the senior management of Roland’s numerous European subsidiaries and a sweep of commercial contractual work, data privacy, intellectual property, Brexit planning and business continuity owing to Covid-19.

Her knowledge as a competition specialist also plays a significant aspect; Roland is one of the musical instrument manufacturers recently announced as under investigation by the CMA for allegedly operating policies restricting price competition online, an illegal practice known as resale price maintenance. Roland is cooperating with the investigation which has been ongoing since April 2018.  

Two years in and Kirsten is enjoying embedding the legal agenda across Roland’s European network and acting as conduit to the mothership in Japan. A sense of continuity manifests by virtue of her rapport with colleagues and exposure to all corners; qualities testament to the “family atmosphere” and reminiscent of her days at Eversheds.  

-->