When the world’s largest nonbank ATM operator, Cardtronics, bought DirectCash Payments (DC Payments) last year, it also validated the complex and confidential work achieved by Aimie Killeen. As the general counsel of the acquired ATM operator, based in Calgary, Canada, Killeen balanced normal operations, the company sale, and DCPayments’ acquisition of an Australian company. Thanks in part to these efforts, Cardtronics has emerged with an even stronger portfolio of 225,000 ATMs in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific—which Killeen now oversees with her dynamic global legal team.
Yet, during the acquisition, the Australian legal leader did not immediately know what her future looked like at the newly merged company. She was hesitant to move to the US, but the then CEO Steven Rathgaber suggested she could contribute from another location. Killeen responded that for the right role—the general counsel role—she’d relocate. He made an offer, she consulted with her family, and she then headed to the Lone Star State to serve the billion-dollar company as its executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary in March 2017.
Soon after her arrival, Killeen realized the legal team was under-resourced and over-reliant on outside counsel. She petitioned leadership to add lawyers and internalize some of that work. “There are some things we can do better in-house, having lawyers who really understand what makes the business tick,” Killeen says.
Killeen’s American team currently numbers four lawyers, three paralegals, and an executive assistant. Together, they’re exploring the possibility of adding more US-based lawyers in the near future as Cardtronics focuses on growing its domestic US business while continuing its global expansion. For now, the department is working through the strategic shift that the new head count has empowered. With a more complete view of the business, the legal team can see past previous blind spots and better and more wholly support other business units.
As the department and its role have evolved, Killeen has specifically assessed the legal department’s relationships with outside counsel. She has reviewed the strategic, personal, and financial aspects of each of the partnerships, and her team has held meetings with those partners specifically to discuss their future.
During her first few months, Killeen even reviewed every invoice line by line. “When I’m paying for top-end advice, I don’t like seeing things like ‘photocopying’ on my invoice,” she says. “My view is that it reflects that value you place on our relationship.” Outside partners would point out that those charges were in the terms of their contracts, but Killeen would respond that it might be time to craft a new contract.
It wasn’t an easy process—a tedious combination of close bookkeeping and breakup conversations—but the work was necessary and effective. Killeen’s team successfully refreshed its roster and discovered opportunities to save money, and the two objectives were often related. “Maybe it’s only a dollar, but if I’m not getting the value—in advice—for that dollar, I don’t want to keep paying it,” Killeen says, explaining that details in invoices reflect the health of partnerships. “And, to be candid, I haven’t had any pushback from my external partners on this approach.”
Her team also relies on and prizes clarity of communication. That’s why Killeen does her best to be direct with leadership and other business units. Otherwise, there’s a risk of partners going rogue, acting and producing unforeseen consequences because of a failure to communicate first with legal counsel. Since business teams tend to see only their piece of the operation, leadership and legal have an opportunity and a responsibility to drive intelligence and education.
“I try to lay it all out on the table,” Killeen says. “We all have blind spots; maybe I know point A and point B, but in the middle, we don’t understand each other. If we can have that conversation, we can go on the journey together and produce a better outcome overall.”
Killeen also views internal leadership development and growth as a key part of her job and is actively working to train multiple candidates to eventually lead the department if they want that opportunity. In the context of a global operation, that means keeping the opportunity available to anybody with the ambition and drive to want it. The next general counsel for the company should come from within, she feels, meaning from any department or any location globally. “I see it as a very key part of my role,” she says. “Making sure that you know that you can have this job, if you want it.”
“We have worked with Aimie on antitrust, corporate/board matters, and finance. Aimie has strong technical skills, great boardroom judgment, and brings her valuable international experience to the table. More than anything, she is collaborative and a pleasure for external advisors to work with.”
—Robert Ogilvy Watson, Partner