Daniel I. Puente – Grupo Cuprum
Since 1948, Grupo Cuprum has been supplying aluminum used to make products for the construction industry, auto parts, ladders and hospital beds.
Based in Monterrey, it’s an enduring company with a network of plants and more than 70 retail stores and operations in Mexico, the United States and Canada. It’s also provided a wealth of legal opportunities for General Counsel Daniel I. Puente while pushing him to focus on the future.
“Cuprum´s culture is very dynamic and committed to continuous improvement, providing me the opportunity to constantly learn and develop new skills,” he says. “We’re always questioning the status quo, modernizing and staying ahead. The world is moving at a fast pace—you want to be two or three steps ahead to be more efficient in our legal department and our services to our clients.”
A digital progression
While noting firms such as Stites & Harbison have been essential in providing the outside counsel to help Grupo Cuprum grow, Puente and his team also keep a keen focus on ensuring the legal department modernizes.
In an ongoing process that began in 2015, Puente and his team are automating operations in ways that also improve overall company efficiency, he explains.
“It started when we began thinking about how we could convert to a paperless process,” Puente recalls. “Unlike the U.S., we have a lot more we have to document as we operate, and we wanted to create a digital library.”
Enterprise content management software Laserfiche is used to digitize documents and build a highly secure library that can be accessed by other Grupo Cuprum business units, Puente says.
As the digitizing continued, he and his team opened a content platform on Microsoft SharePoint, making a contract request system simpler. That’s improved how his team works with other departments, and also opened the possibility of using data in the contracts as a business driver.
Now the company is developing its own software to pull data from the contracts, Puente says. The mined data will detail contracts and workflow on a monthly and yearly basis and also track patents and trademarks.
Another step coming is integrating e-signatures into legal operations. While widely used in the U.S., e-signatures have faced legal challenges in Mexico, and Puente says his team is looking for a platform that holds up in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.
Creating clearer paths and data points has sometimes proved easier than forging a clear path through the COVID-19 pandemic.
While plants and stores remain open, Puente says he, his team and HR have worked through sometimes conflicting government orders on the federal and state level about which businesses were essential.
“This is one of the most challenging things we’ve encountered,” he says. “First, our lawyers review documents in order to interpret them and provide guidance. We’re trying to understand who fits into the essential part of the chain and can carry on.”
And while ensuring the company followed the required hygiene and social distancing guidelines, Puente says Grupo Cuprum executives further strengthened those measures for the benefit of the employees. The company now uses a “sanitation tunnel” for workers entering and exiting plants and the number of people using the lunchroom has been curtailed.
Those who can work remotely, such as Puente and his team, do so. In fact, the company sent home any employee older than 60 before the Mexican government ordered them to shelter in place.
Mexico’s restrictions are in place until May 30 and have already been extended once. In the meantime, Puente and Grupo Cuprum’s vice presidents meet weekly to review developments related to the pandemic.
Another area where the company was ahead of the Mexican government is in fighting corruption, Puente says. While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made a priority of enforcing anticorruption measures passed in 2017, Grupo Cuprum’s code of ethics already covered much of what the reforms entailed.
Still, Puente and his team worked with others in Grupo Cuprum, especially the HR and finance departments, to revise the code of ethics while also making it more user-friendly. Instead of simply listing the rules, for instance, the new code also provided everyday examples of conflicts of interest to be avoided.
“Our main goal was to ensure clear and simple guidelines,” Puente says. “And we focused on strengthening the number of ways people could speak up and report—we have a number to call, an email and a place on our web page.”
Along with the training for existing employees, he also helped establish training that walks new employees through hypothetical situations to explain what should be done.
“We want our people to understand the values and behaviors that drive our business,” he says.
A rich tradition
Explaining the required behaviors within the context of the law is something of a family tradition for Puente. His father is a retired attorney and one grandfather was a civil court judge while another was a criminal defense attorney.
“Although all the lawyers in my family work in completely different areas from mine, integrity and justice have always been key in how we conduct ourselves,” Puente says.
He earned his law degree at Tecnológico de Monterrey in 2003 and has since earned a Master of Laws from the Boston University School of Law as well as a management degree from the IPADE Business School.
After earning his law degree, Puente joined the management consulting firm of Deloitte in 2003. In 2008 he became a senior associate at J.A. Treviño and in 2012 he was hired as a senior corporate counsel at Grupo Cuprum.
Married with two daughters, Puente is working from home during the pandemic, and if not on the job or helping care for his children, he enjoys running and reading anything from novels to “Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal,” by Jack Ewing.
Of course, work is taking up a great deal of his time at home these days, but as he oversees Grupo Cuprum’s legal department, he’s always struck by the diversity of the work he and his team tend to.
“One of the things we enjoy very much is meeting the challenges of the business we’re in and the richness of the transactions,” Puente says. “I think all of this has actually brought us closer together because we understand these are difficult times. I’ve seen a lot of positives created from this and we are looking forward to apply the lessons learned from the pandemic to create better experiences for the benefit of Grupo Cuprum, its employees and clients.”
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