Legal departments typically play a major role in any company’s decision-making. But when Ruchi Kaushal assumed the role of general counsel for Cable & Wireless Communications—an international communications and entertainment company that has operations in more than forty markets across the Caribbean and Latin America—she noted a disconnect that she had not experienced previously in
“I came to an environment where the last general counsel wasn’t part of the executive leadership team, so it felt like she was separated from the commercial and executive side of the business,” Kaushal recalls. “My first few months consisted of demonstrating the value of the legal department by highlighting all the different things we do, all the complex problems we work through, and all the ways we find solutions. I felt it was important to map out for our CEO the matters we, as a legal department, had completed within a month and the resulting revenue/EBITDA/strategic impact. It’s not about the number of contracts you secure or litigation settled. It’s about the value of those actions to the company.”
In other words, Kaushal connected the dots in an effort to demonstrate the value of the legal department to the company and reiterate the importance the legal team holds in bridging together various facets of the company, from commercial to finance to regulatory to accounting. Making those connections is a skill Kaushal has accomplished throughout the course of her career, and it seems to be an almost innate talent.
Born in London to Indian parents, Kaushal’s family moved to Canada when she was young. She later returned to London for a thirteen-year period that included traveling throughout Europe before moving to the United States with her husband and two young children in 2017. Kaushal says the multicultural upbringing and a deep-seated love of travel gave her a better understanding of people’s unique backgrounds.
That understanding is important in her current role with Cable & Wireless, which was acquired by Kaushal’s previous employer, Liberty Global, in 2016. Cable & Wireless is an international company that has customers in more than forty different jurisdictions throughout the Caribbean and Latin America alone, and Kaushal says that, even with a life spent traveling the world, she still had much to learn about the Caribbean when she took on her new role.
“I came in with the notion that the Caribbean culture was relatively homogeneous,” she says. “That’s completely wrong. Every single island in the Caribbean has its own background, its own culture, and its own legal and regulatory rules. As a result, you have a lot to navigate in terms of understanding the rules and understanding the legacy of each of these islands. It makes for a much more complex business environment.”
Some of those complexities have also prompted Kaushal to help spearhead a compliance initiative within the company with the help of her Liberty Global colleagues. Because Cable & Wireless was originally a UK-based company before becoming a US company as a result of the 2016 Liberty Global acquisition, it is now subject to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Kaushal says Cable & Wireless has been rolling out a program to embed a culture of compliance and ethics throughout the company that relates to matters such as anti-bribery, corruption, and gifts and hospitality.
More recently, Kaushal helped establish, and is a director of, the company’s first US public charity, the Cable & Wireless Charitable Foundation. She has been diligently initiating support, programs, and immediate relief efforts to the company’s impacted footprint from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Kaushal has also been working on efforts to make her team more effective and accountable within the company, which she says not only can serve to strengthen teamwork at a company level, but can also bolster talent development.
“People want to be challenged and want to be developed,” Kaushal says. “You can help them develop their talents and skill sets—even outside of law. Lawyers are great project managers and organizers, and I’ll often ask different people throughout the company whether there’s anything my lawyers can do on a project that’s not within their traditional remit. It’s good for them to push their boundaries and get that extra experience and mentorship.”
Still, Kaushal says that she’s on the lookout for the right attitude as opposed to just a finely-honed skill set when she’s looking to bring on new hires. Although organization and project management are fine tools to have at one’s disposal, Kaushal says she actively seeks out team members who are—above all—proactive, responsive, and energized.
For someone who’s traversed the globe, it’s easy to say those qualities are simply a reflection of her own personality. However, they’re also vital to her most profound achievements in the legal world.
“I like to solve problems,” she says. “I don’t know whether it’s that sense of achievement or accomplishment or just knowing you have made an impact, but I get a thrill out of it. I like to connect the dots and bring people together, and I like people who can do the same.”
The Bigger Question
Even as a self-proclaimed problem-solver, Cable & Wireless’ Ruchi Kaushal says there’s one major question she’s committed to solving now that she’s in the United States.
Although she notes that most of the top women bankers she encountered in the United Kingdom are American, she says she’s still surprised by a lack of diversity at the board and executive level.
“What I’m struggling with is, although we have a diverse and open recruitment policy, how do you get women in the C-suite? I don’t have the solution, but it’s something I want to figure out,” says Kaushal, adding that it’s an exciting time for Cable & Wireless as the leadership team recently appointed Inge Smidts as CEO.
Photo: Mark Chivers