Robin Oldenstam: SCC is a well-oiled machinery
“My aim as chair will be to draw on the vast experience and knowledge of the Board to ensure that the decisions made continue to be of the high quality for which the SCC is known.” Robin Oldenstam, new Chairperson of the SCC Board, shares his thoughts on assuming this role.
What do you most look forward to in the role as Chairperson of the SCC Board?
The SCC Board consists of a highly competent and diverse mixture of individuals, including distinguished international as well as Swedish arbitration practitioners, academics and in-house counsel. I believe that brings both breadth and depth to the discussions. I am very much looking forward to working closely with all of these great individuals. Most of them I know quite well already, whilst others will be more or less new acquaintances. My aim as chair will be to draw on the vast experience and knowledge of the Board to ensure that the decisions made continue to be of the high quality for which the SCC is known. To that end, I will try to accommodate open and thorough discussions whilst still maintaining a high degree of efficiency. The work of the Board is of course greatly assisted by the professional counsels of the Secretariat, a well-oiled machinery that is the backbone of the Institute.
I am also very much looking forward to working with the Secretary General, Kristin Campbell-Wilson, both in and outside of the Board meetings. Outside of the Board meetings, I hope to be able to contribute to the positioning and promotion of the SCC in the international legal market as well as to the further development of the Institute’s offering. It is something I have a keen interest in.
You have a vast experience as both arbitrator and counsel in commercial disputes. What general trends do you foresee in the development of international arbitration in the future years?
I believe that international arbitration – as most of society – will become increasingly digitized. This will involve everything from case management to virtual hearings and the use of AI. Although there is still some reluctance in parts of the profession to fully embrace this development – not least with regard to virtual instead of physical hearings – I believe that this will change with time. The technical solutions continue to improve, providing consistently better quality and user experience. At the same time, more and more practitioners are getting familiar with using these technical solutions. I believe that in the next couple of years, the use of heavy paper files will have become a thing of the past.
The move away from physical hearings may be a bit slower. There may even be an initial increase in such hearings, once the Covid related restrictions to travel and to gather many people in a physical hearing room are finally lifted. People are naturally longing to meet again in real life. However, I have no doubt that in the long term we will see less of physical hearings and more of virtual ones. The potential for saving time and cost, combined with an increasingly user-friendly experience provided by virtual hearing-rooms, will prevail. Sustainability and reducing the carbon foot-print also speaks in favor of virtual over physical hearings, where participants often have to travel great distances by air. In 5 to 10 years, I would therefore predict that virtual hearings will have become the new normal, with physical ones being the increasingly rare exception.
I also believe that the pressure from the market to continue to make arbitration more time and cost efficient will continue (and rightly so). However, to achieve such improved efficiency without losing quality is challenging. Giving parties a reasonable opportunity to state their case and providing arbitrators a good foundation upon which to make legally correct and well-reasoned awards are fundamental aspects of international arbitration, which may not be sacrificed in the interest of efficiency. To anyway increase efficiency will likely necessitate the development of new case management techniques and a further use of technical solutions. It will also require arbitrators to generally be more proactive and firm in their case management. Although challenging, I have no doubt that it can and must be achieved in order for arbitration to maintain its position as the primary tool for solving international commercial disputes.
What strengths and potential for development do you see in the SCC as an international arbitration forum?
I believe that the SCC is very well equipped to meet the challenges lying ahead. It combines a longstanding history of independence and high quality, with efficiency and innovation. Being over a 100-years old, one could imagine that it would be old-fashioned and slow. Instead, the SCC is among the most efficient – if not the most efficient – of the relatively small group of highly reputable international arbitral institutions to which it belongs. It is also at the very forefront of innovation in the industry, not least with the introduction of the digital SCC on-line platform for case management and, most recently, the SCC Express. If the SCC can maintain this unique combination of attractive features whilst further developing its offering, I am sure that it will continue to be the first choice for many users in the international market for many years to come.