You are now co-head the ESG / Regulatory division at RPCK and last year you worked on some great matters in the field of impact investing / ESG. How did that come about?
As a father of two children, protecting the environment for future generations was always important for me. Sustainability and ESG from an investing perspective were initially a purely private topic that I became increasingly interested in. With RPCK being a pioneer in impact investing and having a remarkable and distinctive expertise in venture capital and private equity, it was easy for me to build and deepen the know-how of the ever growing EU regulations on ESG and sustainability. As this is now a booming area in RPCK’s services, exciting issues and interesting matters keep arising. Especially US clients who want to offer their financial products in the EU often turn to us for support and explanation of the rather complex EU ESG regulatory framework, in which the regulations show an increasing level of detail and often come into force in stages over a longer period of time. In addition, we also advise European and Austrian clients on these topics. In fact, there were some exciting matters last year, mainly from the US. For example, I advised one client in formulating its future ESG investment policy, and another in drafting and formulating a PAI statement. Frequently, we advised on the classification of a proposed fund under Articles 6, 8 or 9 of the SFDR (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation). We are currently involved in the fund formation of a prospective Article 8 SFDR fund. In addition, we focused on advising on the Delegated Regulation on MiFID II regarding the integration of sustainability factors into the client advisory process. Here, we supported clients in formulating and updating processes and guidelines for querying sustainability preferences in investment advice.
Time goes by fast and you’ve been with RPCK for almost two years now! Looking back, what was it like to start at RPCK during the pandemic?
The decision to make a fresh start had already mounted in me some time before the pandemic, because several parameters in my previous professional setting just didn’t work anymore. The pandemic did prevent a quicker switch to RPCK, because we had agreed to wait and see how the pandemic would progress. I was very impressed with the recruiting process at RPCK, in which a lot of time is invested and involves all the lawyers at the firm. I had a great meeting with all of them and afterwards I was very sure that I had found the right professional and personal environment for me. As I know today, this elaborate recruiting process is one of the secrets of the firm’s success in putting together its team.
Despite all the difficulties caused by the regulations surrounding the pandemic, I was able to make good use of the time to prepare the smoothest possible transfer of my clients and matters to RPCK. And it worked out perfectly. Despite the transition to the “paperless” filing system, which was not easy for me at the beginning, the support of the team in Vienna got me up to speed on the firm’s policies and internal procedures in no time. I have been very welcomed into the team.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
In the area of ESG and sustainability, I’m really excited about the collaboration with RPCK’s offices in New York and Denver. The international matters were one of the reasons why I wanted to join RPCK. The daily work is never the same, irrespective of the firm’s focus. The cooperation in changing teams depending on the project and across offices strengthens the team spirit and also provide new food for thought. In addition, everyone is happy to discuss issues on a specific matter with each other at short notice. In my day-to-day practice, this has often led me to adopt a different perspective for solving a particular legal problem.
I also very much appreciate how appreciative and courteous the individual team members are to each other.
I also enjoy sharing my more than twenty years of professional experience with younger colleagues at the firm and taking the time to pass on practical tips that cannot be found in a textbook. I see it as one of my natural roles within the RPCK team to be there as an experienced lawyer for the concerns and needs of younger colleagues and to contribute to their education.
How does RPCK differ from other law firms in this sector?
The team spirit at RPCK is really outstanding. Already during the recruiting process, a lot of time and effort is spent on finding people who are a perfect match for the team. From the very beginning, I was very impressed by the mutual support within the firm. This, combined with the excellent expertise of the individual associates and the perseverance in highly complex matters, make RPCK the perfect partner for challenging cases. From the very beginning of every matter, the focus is on understanding the client’s business, problems and goals, and then finding solutions.
Compared to large law firms, the structure and size of the firm is not cumbersome and bureaucratic, but rather extremely flexible, making quick decisions possible. The high degree of flexibility to handle challenging projects often helps RPCK to compete (and win) against larger law firms in “beauty contests”. “Going the extra mile” is really not just a saying but lived reality. This also applies to the often-used term “diversity”: If you look at our team in Vienna and in the US, it is obvious that diversity is part of RPCK’s DNA.
You also have many years of experience in Corporate/M&A and Real Estate law – what do you think the future holds in this area?
Regardless of the further course of the current difficult economic environment, corporate law advice and support for companies will remain an exciting and varied field. Advising on and implementing various compliance rules will take up a lot of space, such as sustainability and ESG; for example, the supply chain issue in all its facets or also the non-financial reporting of certain affected companies.
In the M&A space, I think there will be an increase in questions around the approval of takeovers in EU member states, partly because the war in Ukraine has made it painfully clear to the EU that critical infrastructure and certain companies in the public interest need to be protected from foreign takeovers to prevent dependencies from arising in the first place. I actually expect that the relevant legal requirements in the EU member states will tend to become even stricter, which will influence the M&A business as a whole.
Due to the structure of Austria’s economy, with its numerous family-run small and medium-sized businesses and the demographic development, questions in connection with the operational handover of businesses will increase significantly and open up new opportunities. Here, RPCK in Vienna could benefit from its pioneering role and involvement in the creation of the legislative proposal for the introduction of the flexible company (FlexCo). This would facilitate the framework conditions for intergenerational handovers. Reducing bureaucracy and red tape and creating more flexibility opens up possibilities for entrepreneurs. I would like to see the FlexKapGG come into force soon, because this could provide a boost for many startups and companies.
In real estate transactions, I do not expect a significant decline despite the high prices and the stricter credit guidelines for real estate purchases, which are a difficult hurdle for young families and younger people. At the same time, high inflation is causing rents to rise sharply, which will certainly not make the housing situation easier in the short term. As is so often the case, this situation will mean that we as lawyers will be in demand for creative solutions within the legal framework.