Partner Cem Davutoglu — whose firm’s August 2014 merger with the Bener Law Office was widely acknowledged to be the first such combination in the Turkish legal market — has now left Bener to become Legal Counsel at Akbank in Istanbul.
Davutoglu informed CEE Legal Matters that in his newly-created role at Akbank — Turkey’s third largest private and fourth largest bank overall — he will work directly under Akbank’s current Chief Legal Officer, Hasan Esen, to "take charge of the bank’s projects financing and Treasury transactions (that is to say the bank’s own financing matters and large loans), and also non-loan related law suits including criminal law matters.” Davutoglu describes the Turkish banking sector as undergoing a "transition period,” and says that, "in addition to our regular duties, we will all be spending time on building a better organized bank with competitive and innovative products."
Davutoglu insists he was "quite happy” with his partnership with Erim Bener, and that he had "no intention whatsoever to change positions.” Ultimately, however, the offer to join Akbank "was too difficult to turn down.” He insists that, although the move came as a surprise, there are no hard feelings with his former colleagues at Bener. He notes that, by moving in-house, he left his client portfolio behind, meaning "there is no competition between us.” Ultimately, he says about Erim Bener, "I think the most important issue is trust. We both have faith in each other and have always been honest and transparent with each other. He was the first person to learn as soon as I made my decision and in our first meeting we assessed the pros and cons of the offer together."
For his part, Bener says his 18-month partnership with Davutoglu was a productive one, noting that, “we had an excellent energy to work together,” and that "I was very happy to work with Cem.” As a result, "when he mentioned first to me, I did not want him to leave us but it was his decision of course. And only thing that remained was for me to support him whatever his decision was."
As for his former clients, Davutoglu concedes that their feelings were mixed. Still, he notes, "as I am on very good terms with Erim and truly appreciate the capabilities of the firm, I tried my best to leave each client into the hands of sufficiently experienced partners. Therefore my last month was mostly a transition period of introducing the clients with the relevant partners in charge and making sure that they are satisfied. I think in the long run all will stay with the firm.”
Bener agrees. "Cem’s portfolio has already been taken over by the relevant departments of the firm. After Cem’s farewell this will continue as it is. There is no issue about this."