CEE Legal Matters first interviewed Ingo Steinwender in 2014, near the end of his first year as Group Head of Legal at CA Immobilien Anlagen AG, one of the largest real estate companies in Austria. Six years later, we check in.
CEELM: Remind our readers who you are and how you got to your current position.
Ingo: My name is Ingo Steinwender. Since 2013 I have been the Group Head of Legal of the Austrian-listed CA Immobilien Anlagen AG, a leading European real estate player. Before joining CA Immo I worked for Deloitte, Schoenherr, Cerha Hempel, Eyemaxx Real Estate, and an Austrian family office.
CEELM: You’ve been with CA Immo for over seven years – and in the real estate sector throughout your entire 12-year in-house career. What is it about your work and the sector that keep you interested?
Ingo: Simply because in the last six years with CA Immo there has been no routine and always even-more challenging projects. Every transaction has certain legal, technical, or commercial challenges (despite quite uniform SPAs) and the same is true for development and asset management.
My enthusiasm for real estate is further fostered by the boom of this industry and of course the great performance of CA Immo.
CEELM: Given the nature of the company you work for, one would expect you and your team to do far more transactional legal work than most Heads of Legal. Is that the case? If so, how has that influenced the development of your team?
Ingo: We do transactional legal work in Austria and Germany, in our home jurisdictions, partly in-house, partly with the help of external counsels. It depends on whether CA Immo is selling or buying, on our capacities, and on the legal complexity.
In CEE and SEE the Vienna-based in-house team is the legal manager and decision-maker in transactions, and we deal with external counsels because we are dealing with a foreign jurisdiction. In my point of view, this is the industry standard.
CEELM: While the company is headquartered in Austria, it reportedly controls property assets of approximately EUR 4.7 billion in Germany, Austria, and across CEE. Do you tend to hire in-house colleagues locally to support you or do you tend to work with external counsel?
Ingo: The figures are true and will be ever-increasing. My team is based in Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin. In these markets, we tend to work in-house, whereas in CEE and SEE we employ external counsels and only manage extraordinary projects (like transactions, material litigations, or developments) from Vienna.
We think this structure best suits our business model, given, in particular, the different fee levels of external counsels compared to salaries for highly qualified senior lawyers in the various markets. Actually, we do not plan to hire more beyond our current team in the near future.
CEELM: If you had to pick, name the three projects you are proudest of having worked on. What was it about them that stands out?
Ingo: The first was in 2013: the sale of the “Hessen Portfolio Leo II,” a portfolio deal with 36 properties in Germany sold to a fund managed by German Patriza with a deal value of more than EUR 800 million. This transaction makes me proud because it was my first portfolio transaction of considerable size and we managed to close it within a short time under seller-friendly terms.
The second was in 2015: The attempt to partially take over Immofinanz, which, despite its failure, proved the abilities of our in-house team to manage complex legal issues within a short time and under pressure.
The third is our 2020 filing of the first action for damages in the symbolic amount of EUR 1 million (out of a total damage of EUR 1.9 billion) against the Republic of Austria and Land Karnten, which is an unprecedented court case in Austria resulting from, in CA Immo’s view, the unlawful privatization of the federal residential property companies in 2004.
CEELM: And what one project did you find particularly challenging and complex?
Ingo: I would say that the projects I mentioned in my previous answer were personally also the most challenging – each in its own way. One of the most important keys to success is the team. The main takeaways from every project for me as a GC is that I have to carefully select the (internal and external) team, build the team (in particular nurturing a “one for all and all for one” culture), even before the start of the project, and then proactively manage and support the team.
CEELM: What do you see on the horizon – either in significant trends in the sector or in terms of legislation – that you believe is most likely to impact your work within CA Immo?
Ingo: We are keeping an eye of course on ongoing legal developments, but apart from that at the moment specifically on the beginning of digitalization of the real estate business and its legal impact. Apart from data protection digitalization touches many established workflows and procedures which must be adjusted or raised in particular liability discussions.
CEELM: On the lighter side, looking around your office, name three items: the first thing you’d pick up and run within the case of a fire, the thing which best represents your work/management style, and the thing you believe most readers would be surprised to hear you have in there.
Ingo: Of course my laptop to have all the information I need, then my phone to be able to talk to people as I deem the personal contact becoming more and more important in these digital, anonymous times. There are no surprises in my office, which is equipped in only a very Spartan fashion and – actually after our office refurbishment – lacks personal items.