In “The Corner Office” we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. With a rough year drawing to a close, and market uncertainties running high, the question this time: If you had a million dollars, what would you invest it in today?
If I had a million dollars, I would invest in a 1.3 megawatt-peak photovoltaic project. This is the fastest growing and most proven renewable energy technology, with lesser risks and very good returns. The investment cost is around USD 700,000 per megawatt, hence the size of the project. Pre-COVID-19 feasibility was showing a 17-18% rate of return, while during 2022, the rate of return reached 40%. This investment is fairly easy to manage and requires no major input from the investor. It is being built over three to four weeks (following a period of two to three years of development). The construction risk (in most cases) is fairly manageable, and the financing is available (both from local and international financial institutions).
In the context of increasing inflation and decreasing global economic activities, crypto crushes, and the real estate drop, an investment in energy – and, in particular, renewable energy – is a safer bet than most other available asset classes.
Kostadin Sirleshtov, Managing Partner, CMS Bulgaria
I would invest primarily into my own firm. This could generate the highest return in my situation. The more interesting question though is what we, as a law firm, are meant to do with that sum. Should we use it for hiring new recruits? Open a new line of services that is still missing from our portfolio? Should we boost our marketing activity?
Rather than those conventional methods of using funds, I would tend to utilize this extra sum for an investment into legal technology. Why? For several reasons. First, it is always preferred to invest in an area that you know better than others. I believe that we are well ahead of the market in understanding legal technology and its potential use. Second, you normally seek a sector that expects substantial growth. I am certain that the use of legal tech applications will be multiplied in the future – the only question is when. And third, it is advantageous to invest when only a few players are interested. I can count on my single hand the number of Hungarian law firms that have serious legal tech projects at the moment.
Pal Jalsovszky, Managing Partner, Jalsovszky Law Firm
One of my main tasks at CMS is the area of sustainability/ESG, which is very close to my heart. I was brought up with the understanding to respect nature and our environment and all living beings. Therefore, I would definitely invest in solutions that support green change. The climate crisis is the most important issue that needs to be addressed, to secure our future and solve problems such as climate-related poverty, etc. Scientific and statistical figures clearly show that action is needed, and the time is now.
There is growing evidence that companies are being questioned not only by regulators but also by consumers and other stakeholders about their contribution to ESG/sustainability. With this in mind, as I said, a multi-million-dollar sustainable investment that contributes to the sustainability agenda would be my first choice. This investment could consider areas such as decarbonization, waste reduction, sustainable procurement, renewable energy generation, and so much more.
Done Yalcin, Managing Partner, CMS Turkey
I would split my investment between healthcare and waste management. In doing so, I would act in an unorthodox way for the Serbian market, where real estate has probably been the most popular area to invest in for a long time. My reasoning is as follows:
Healthcare – private clinics have been mushrooming in Serbia for a while already and there has already been some consolidation under the umbrella of larger, foreign-controlled groups. However, there is further space for growth and expansion. Also, the staff from the public health sector is moving into privately held clinics at an increased rate, and it appears that this trend will be difficult to reverse. All in all, in the future, the private sector will be an ever more important provider of health services. Hence my interest in this field.
Waste management – this sector is underdeveloped in Serbia and private initiative is the main way to boost it. Starting with smaller, local projects and then aggregating them regionally would be a way to go, initially. The next phase would be to roll out waste-to-energy facilities – this would require a higher budget and teaming up with international players.
Branislav Maric, Managing Partner, Kinstellar Belgrade
Uncertainty is the name of the investment game for 2022 and will stay that way throughout 2023. According to the Economist, there are four things to think about in 2023: the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, the struggle to control inflation, chaos in the energy markets, and China’s uncertain pandemic path.
Bearing in mind all the above, I would divide the total amount into five categories. The first 30% I would invest in commercial real estate, which already generates a steady income. On top of the 30% equity (USD 300,000), I would take a 70% loan. So, the total investment would be USD 1 million. The second 30% of the total amount would be invested in a renewable energy project (solar or wind park) development in Serbia. I would use our law firm as an advisor in this investment and would partner with an industry expert. Then I would invest 20% in stocks – ETFs, linked to the S&P 500 (such as Vanguard). The last 20%, I would divide into two subgroups: 10% would bear more risk and would be invested in a medical technology start-up, and the remaining 10% would be invested in government bonds.
Milos Velimirovic, Managing Partner, SOG Law Firm
There are a lot of extraordinary options to invest in, for sure, and every choice comes with arguments. But if I had a million dollars today, I would invest it all in people, who will always be the best investment and the best ambassadors of the company. The target would be especially young generations – not just because, to use a cliché, they represent the future and a longer-term resource – but because I am aware that, depending on how much you invest in people, especially when they are at the beginning of their professional path, they will appreciate your efforts and will later pay it forward.
In any field of activity, you have something new to learn and, maybe even more so, in the legal sector you must always be one step ahead, knowing the law, but also the characteristics of the industry. Further on, I do believe that extraordinary results do not come overnight. They come from a passion for the profession and, at the same time, from solid education, inspirational mentors, continuous training, a lot of everyday work, and the strong desire to be better tomorrow than you were today. Performance, achieved through this continuous learning process, requires both time and money, especially if you want to learn from the best and become the best.
Investing in the potential of your team, you create the perfect environment, both for professional and personal development, which go along together. For sure, a permanent and quality educational investment will have a major impact on people and, implicitly, on the business, on the market, and within society in general.
Octavian Popescu, Managing Partner, Popescu & Asociatii
This article was originally published in Issue 9.12 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.