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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Peter Hsu is “the go-to guy” for supervisory law with a “very strong presence in the insurance market”.

Questions & Answers

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer’s head of insurance and a key contact for the banking and insurance practice. His practice focuses on insurance, banking, fintech and financing. He regularly advises Swiss and foreign insurers, reinsurers, banks, securities firms and other financial intermediaries, as well as fintech and insurtech businesses, with regard to regulatory and M&A/corporate law matters. Moreover, he is often involved in complex financing transactions where he represents either lenders or borrowers. Further, he advises clients on M&A transactions in other industries.

Looking back over your career, what is the most interesting case you have been a part of?

An exciting project has been the voluntary reorganisation of a reinsurance group with a listed parent company. This project involved a full range of business, legal and regulatory topics including (re-)insurance regulatory, corporate/corporate governance, merger law, insurance contractual, general contractual, IP and tax queries. Together with the business and more than a dozen work streams of various disciplines in a project team, we shaped a suitable target operating model, elaborated and implemented sensible transaction structures in a cross-border context. It was a very rewarding experience for us as external counsel to act as one team together with the client and the other advisors over a time period of many months. 

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

For several years, low interest rates were a challenge for insurers, in particular for life insurers. Furthermore, (re-)insurers have been challenged by stiff competition, a soft market and shrinking margins. Increased losses often cannot simply be compensated by an increase of the premiums. However, in general, the market participants have mastered those challenges very well and Swiss (re-)insurers overall provide for a very robust solvency ratio. New distribution channels require changes but create new opportunities for (re-)insurers as well.

Furthermore, (re-)insurers have been facing an increased regulatory burden, including e.g. cross-border restrictions that are difficult to navigate. The importance of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA’s role as a supervisory authority has increased as FINMA developed its practice and sharpened its mandate in the insurance sector over time, in particular to protect creditors, investors and insured persons, as well as to safeguard the functioning of the Swiss financial marketplace and to foster its reputation, competitiveness and sustainability. In performing this mandate, it makes use of its supervisory powers and instruments, including e.g. on-site inspections, (informal) intensive supervision as well as enforcement procedures, and may impose regulatory sanctions. Against this background, legal and regulatory compliance has become even more of a focus for financial institutions and insurers in particular. In this context, clients appreciate guidance from a trusted advisor. Similarly, a business-oriented approach and specific industry knowledge help to create value for the client in M&A transactions.

In what ways has COVID 19 impacted your clients and your practice, and what future issues do you see on the horizon caused by the pandemic? 

COVID 19 impacted distribution channels of insurance undertakings as physical meetings were no longer possible on the sales front. As a consequence (among other reasons), distribution through electronic means has become even more important.

Further, in the area of business interruption, travel insurance etc., exclusions for pandemic-related losses have become a hot topic. In some areas, COVID 19 reduced (potential) losses e.g. because people had to stay and work at home resulting e.g. in fewer miles being driven in cars (car insurance), fewer accidents (accident insurance), fewer COVID 19-unrelated visits of medical doctors and fewer surgeries (medical insurance). 

So far it seems that the insurance sector in Switzerland managed the COVID 19 crisis well. It needs to be seen how business and economy in general develop in the second half of 2020 and in 2021. Insurers and their employees have very well coped with working from home arrangements, including continued good team work and successful real life stress tests for reliable IT infrastructure. We would expect that working from home at least partially might become a better accepted working model in the future.

Similarly, our practice has continued to be very active. Pre-existing M&A and enforcement proceedings work continued at large. The number of new deals slowed down but it appears that several transactions are again in the pipeline. Furthermore, clients sought for advice in COVID 19-related matters. It needs to be seen how this will further develop by the end of 2020/2021, including how the economic situation develops in other parts of the world as we “export” our legal services to a large extent to other jurisdictions.

What qualities make for an effective insurance specialist? 

Be interested in what your client is doing and aiming for, know your client’s business, be open for new ideas and think “out-of-the-box”, anticipate potential future developments, enable your client to create value - be a trusted advisor to your client.

How does Bär & Karrer distinguish itself from competitors in the market? 

We focus on our client’s business and goals and elaborate business-oriented and efficient solutions to create value for our clients. Joint teamwork throughout the firm, including all practice groups and all levels of seniority enables us to achieve best results. Having offices in all language regions in Switzerland and a longstanding network of corresponding law firms on a non-exclusive basis in many jurisdictions, we are local as well as international and offer our clients a one-stop-shop solution. 

Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?

Market consolidation and restructuring of large run-off portfolios might result in increased M&A activity. We might as well see more complex voluntary group restructuring activities. Furthermore, insurers might want to assure new distribution channels by way of joint ventures or acquisitions. In addition, insurtech will further develop. Further, the increased regulatory burden, including e.g. cross-border restrictions and supervisory bodies further developing their role and mandate call for provident legal and regulatory responses.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Be open minded, listen and look what your client needs and wishes are, enable your client to do his or her business, create value for your client.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

Making people outside the practice and the industry, including in particular the young generation, aware of how exciting the practice area and industry sector of insurance and reinsurance is.

WWL says

Peter Hsu is an “outstanding insurance lawyer” and “definitely one of the big names”. He has become “well established” and “very well known”, applauded for his excellent knowledge of the market.

Questions & Answers

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer’s head of insurance and a key contact for the banking and insurance practice. His practice focuses on financing, banking, insurance and capital markets. He regularly advises Swiss and foreign insurers, reinsurers, banks, securities dealers and other financial intermediaries, as well as fintech businesses, with regard to regulatory and M&A/corporate law matters. Moreover, he is often involved in complex financing transactions where he represents either lenders or borrowers. Further, he also advises clients on M&A transactions in other industries.

What attracted you to a career in the banking and insurance fields?

Banking and insurance as a sector-specific practice area is very broad in scope and interdisciplinary – it includes various legal aspects such as regulatory, M&A, corporate, contractual and other topics. Yet it is still specialised as it focuses on the financial services industry sector. I was – and continue to be – attracted to the challenges and possibilities of this unique combination.

What have been the most significant challenges for the insurance market and the banking industry?

In recent years, low interest rates have challenged Swiss life insurers in particular, but also other branches of the insurance industry. Further challenges for insurers have been stiff competition, a soft market and shrinking margins. Swiss reinsurers also incurred significant damages stemming from natural hazards, in an aggregate amount of approximately 70 billion Swiss francs: half the cost of damages in 2017, but still above the 10-year average. In contrast to earlier years, reinsurers have not been able to fully compensate this by increasing premiums. Health insurers have also had to adapt to increasing health costs. Despite the challenges, Swiss (re)insurers overall still provide for a robust solvency ratio. As a response to the challenges, many insurers cut costs and slimmed down product lines (for example, several life insurers stopped offering guaranteed life insurance products to focus on asset-linked programmes).

The Swiss banking industry has also been challenged by low interest rates for several years in a row, while at the same time facing an increasing regulatory burden, including, for example, cross-border restrictions that are challenging to navigate. While Swiss banks incur most costs in Swiss francs, often a big share of the revenue is generated from their business with foreign-domiciled persons. Consequently, the strong Swiss franc further negatively impacts the business.

The Financial Services Act (FinSA) and Financial Institutions Act (FinIA) is currently expected to come into force in January 2020. What impact do you think it will have on the market? 

Among many other changes under the FinIA, asset managers and trustees will become subject to prudential supervision. This might result in a further consolidation of the market. Until now, the Swiss inbound cross-border regime for the offering of financial services has been very liberal. FinSA will, for example, introduce a registration requirement for client advisers. This may affect foreign-based client advisers that have so far benefited from the current regime. Moreover, market participants in the scope of FinSA will have to address the new rules, including rules of conduct, and might have to align and re-document their client relationships.

How has the growing importance of FINMA’s role as a supervisory authority in recent years affected client demands and priorities?

FINMA takes its role and mandate as a supervisory authority – in particular, to protect creditors, investors and insured persons; to safeguard the functioning of the Swiss financial marketplace; and to foster its reputation, competitiveness and sustainability – very seriously. In doing so, it makes use of its supervisory powers and instruments – including, for example, onsite inspections, and (informal) intensive supervision and enforcement procedures – and imposes regulatory sanctions, as the case may be. Against this background, legal and regulatory compliance has become a key priority for financial institution clients. In this context, clients appreciate the expertise, experience and resources of external counsel.

As regulatory burdens become heavier and frameworks more complex, how do you ensure you are well equipped to provide clients with up-to-date, cutting-edge counsel?

To stay at the forefront of legal and regulatory developments, it is essential to closely monitor such developments along with the practice of the regulator and courts; to share know-how and expertise within the firm, including other practice groups; to train the team; and to exchange ideas with colleagues.

In what ways has recent consolidation changed the landscape of the Swiss insurance market?

The consolidation process has probably been more prominent in the banking industry than in the insurance sector. However, some insurers have reorganised their business operations and the M&A market has been active. Interestingly, private equity investors have become increasingly active investors in the insurance market, especially in the area of run-off carriers. Investments by experienced private equity investors appear to have become readily accepted by the regulator. Many insurers have also streamlined their product lines to focus on fewer products in their core business.

What opportunities and challenges do you think the rise of fintech and insurtech will bring for the traditional banking and insurance markets?

New distribution channels and business models evolve from the application of new technology. One example is the new payment systems replacing traditional banking payment services. There is usually still a bank involved somewhere in the value chain. However, the point-of-sale contact with the client has shifted from the bank to the provider of the payment app – the bank is more like a back office. Platform providers have access to an enormous amount of data (which technology enables it to exploit) and very sizeable network. Consequently, financial institutions have to explore new distribution channels and ways to stay connected to their clientele.

Another example, in insurance, is purchase platforms. If a customer can buy a good or service, and by way of a few mouse clicks take out insurance at the same time, the customer might be inclined to do all this on a single platform (ie, a new distribution channel for insurance products). As a consequence, to assure preferred rights in these new distribution channels, some insurers have entered into joint ventures with platform providers or acquired them.

What advice would you give to a younger lawyer looking to pursue a career in insurance law? 

Find out what you are interested in. Be interested, fully committed, business-oriented and open-minded for new ideas. Focus on a practice area but keep a holistic view. Most importantly, serve and appreciate your clients, and enjoy your job.

Global Leader

Banking - Regulatory 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Peter Hsu draws high praise from market sources, who recognise him as “an outstanding regulatory lawyer”.

Biography

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer’s key contact for the practice area of banking and insurance. He has been a partner with Bär & Karrer since 2009 and works in the Zurich office.

Peter Hsu regularly advises Swiss and foreign financial institutions as well as fintech businesses on M&A, transactional and regulatory matters. Furthermore, he represents clients in regulatory licensing and enforcement proceedings. Moreover, he is often involved in complex financing transactions and advises clients on M&A transactions as well as in other industries.

Peter Hsu has published several books and articles on topics in banking, insurance and capital markets, and is regularly invited to speak on these topics.

Peter Hsu holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich (1999) and an LLM from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (2004). He is a member of the Zurich and the Swiss Bar Associations as well as of the International Bar Association. Moreover, he is a member of the organising committee of the Association Internationale de Droit des Assurances - AIDA Swiss Chapter. 

He speaks German and English.

Peter Hsu is ranked as a leading individual in the practice areas of banking and finance as well as insurance and reinsurance, and he is listed as a “most highly regarded” practitioner in insurance and reinsurance and as a Thought Leader in Switzerland (WWL 2019 and 2018). The Legal 500 2014 refers to him as a “key individual within the banking and insurance sector” and recommends him for insurance advice. In WWL, he is quoted as “the ‘go-to guy’ for clients in need of insurance and reinsurance regulatory advice” (2013, 2018) and a “key player in the Swiss insurance and reinsurance regulatory field” (2014), and wins praise for his “unparalleled abilities”. In addition, he is described as “extremely knowledgeable” in insurance and regulatory matters, lauded for his “business oriented approach” (2016), and it is further noted that “he is not only an expert on regulatory topics, but also has a very profound understanding of other legal areas”. Moreover, he is praised for “his pragmatic approach to resolve legal issues” (2018). In IFLR1000, a client characterises him as “very knowledgeable, detail-oriented and very open to novel solutions and approaches”.

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm’s clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland’s Law Firm of the Year by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

Insurance & Reinsurance 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Peter Hsu is "the go-to guy" for supervisory law with a “very strong presence in the insurance market”.

Biography

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer's key contact for the practice area of banking and insurance and heads the insurance team. He has been a partner with Bär & Karrer since 2009 and works in the Zurich office.

Peter Hsu advises Swiss and foreign insurance and reinsurance companies, insurance intermediaries, banks, security firms, asset managers and other financial institutions as well as fintech businesses on M&A, transactional, regulatory and contractual matters. Furthermore, he regularly represents clients in regulatory licensing and enforcement proceedings. Moreover, he advises clients on corporate/M&A and in complex financing transactions as well as in other industries.

Peter Hsu has published several books and articles on topics in banking, insurance and capital markets, and is regularly invited to speak on these topics.

Peter Hsu holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich (1999) and an LLM from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (2004). He is a member of the Zurich and the Swiss Bar Associations as well as of the International Bar Association. Moreover, he is a member of the organising committee of the Association Internationale de Droit des Assurances - AIDA Swiss Chapter. 

He speaks German and English.

Peter Hsu is ranked as a leading individual in the practice areas of banking and finance as well as insurance and reinsurance, and listed as a "most highly regarded" practitioner in insurance and reinsurance and as a Thought Leader in Switzerland (WWL 2019 and 2018). The Legal 500 2014 refers to him as a "key individual within the banking and insurance sector" and recommends him for insurance advice. In WWL, he is quoted as "the 'go-to guy' for clients in need of insurance and reinsurance regulatory advice" (2013, 2018) and a "key player in the Swiss insurance and reinsurance regulatory field" (2014), and wins praise for his "unparalleled abilities". In addition, he is described as "extremely knowledgeable" in insurance and regulatory matters, lauded for his "business oriented approach" (2016) and it is further noted that "he is not only an expert on regulatory topics, but also has a very profound understanding of other legal areas". Moreover, he is praised for "his pragmatic approach to resolve legal issues" (2018). In IFLR1000, a client characterises him as "very knowledgeable, detail-oriented and very open to novel solutions and approaches".

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

National Leader

Switzerland - Banking 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Peter Hsu receives widespread recognition from peers as an “outstanding practitioner” who excels in regulatory proceedings.

Biography

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer's key contact for the practice area of banking and insurance. He has been a partner with Bär & Karrer since 2009 and works in the Zurich office.

Peter Hsu advises Swiss and foreign banks, securities firms, asset managers, money transfer providers, insurance companies and other financial institutions as well as fintech businesses on M&A, transactional, regulatory and contractual matters. Furthermore, he regularly represents clients in regulatory licensing and enforcement proceedings. Moreover, he advises clients on corporate/M&A and in complex financing transactions as well as in other industries.

Peter Hsu has published several books and articles on topics in banking, insurance and capital markets, and is regularly invited to speak on these topics.

Peter Hsu holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich (1999) and an LLM from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (2004). He is a member of the Zurich and the Swiss Bar Associations as well as of the International Bar Association. Moreover, he is a member of the organising committee of the Association Internationale de Droit des Assurances - AIDA Swiss Chapter. 

He speaks German and English.

Peter Hsu is ranked as a leading individual in the practice areas of banking and finance as well as insurance and reinsurance, and listed as a "most highly regarded" practitioner in insurance and reinsurance and as a Thought Leader in Switzerland (WWL 2019 and 2018). The Legal 500 2014 refers to him as a "key individual within the banking and insurance sector" and recommends him for insurance advice. In WWL, he is quoted as "the 'go-to guy' for clients in need of insurance and reinsurance regulatory advice" (2013, 2018) and a "key player in the Swiss insurance and reinsurance regulatory field" (2014), and wins praise for his "unparalleled abilities". In addition, he is described as "extremely knowledgeable" in insurance and regulatory matters, lauded for his "business oriented approach" (2016) and it is further noted that "he is not only an expert on regulatory topics, but also has a very profound understanding of other legal areas". Moreover, he is praised for "his pragmatic approach to resolve legal issues" (2018). In IFLR1000, a client characterises him as "very knowledgeable, detail-oriented and very open to novel solutions and approaches".

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Peter Hsu is an “outstanding insurance lawyer” and “definitely one of the big names”. He has become “well established” and “very well known”, applauded for his excellent knowledge of the market.

Biography

Peter Hsu is Bär & Karrer's key contact for the practice area of banking and insurance and heads the insurance team. He has been a partner with Bär & Karrer since 2009 and works in the Zurich office.

Peter Hsu advises Swiss and foreign insurance and reinsurance companies, insurance intermediaries, banks, security firms, asset managers and other financial institutions as well as fintech businesses on M&A, transactional, regulatory and contractual matters. Furthermore, he regularly represents clients in regulatory licensing and enforcement proceedings. Moreover, he advises clients on corporate/M&A and in complex financing transactions as well as in other industries.

Peter Hsu has published several books and articles on topics in banking, insurance and capital markets, and is regularly invited to speak on these topics.

Peter Hsu holds a Dr iur from the University of Zurich (1999) and an LLM from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (2004). He is a member of the Zurich and the Swiss Bar Associations as well as of the International Bar Association. Moreover, he is a member of the organising committee of the Association Internationale de Droit des Assurances - AIDA Swiss Chapter. 

He speaks German and English.

Peter Hsu is ranked as a leading individual in the practice areas of banking and finance as well as insurance and reinsurance, and listed as a "most highly regarded" practitioner in insurance and reinsurance and as a Thought Leader in Switzerland (WWL 2019 and 2018). The Legal 500 2014 refers to him as a "key individual within the banking and insurance sector" and recommends him for insurance advice. In WWL, he is quoted as "the 'go-to guy' for clients in need of insurance and reinsurance regulatory advice" (2013, 2018) and a "key player in the Swiss insurance and reinsurance regulatory field" (2014), and wins praise for his "unparalleled abilities". In addition, he is described as "extremely knowledgeable" in insurance and regulatory matters, lauded for his "business oriented approach" (2016) and it is further noted that "he is not only an expert on regulatory topics, but also has a very profound understanding of other legal areas". Moreover, he is praised for "his pragmatic approach to resolve legal issues" (2018). In IFLR1000, a client characterises him as "very knowledgeable, detail-oriented and very open to novel solutions and approaches".

Bär & Karrer is a renowned Swiss law firm with more than 170 lawyers in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Its core business is advising clients on innovative and complex transactions and representing them in litigation, arbitration and regulatory proceedings. The firm's clients range from multinational corporations to private individuals in Switzerland and around the world.

Bär & Karrer has been repeatedly awarded Switzerland's "Law Firm of the Year" by the most prestigious international legal ranking agencies.

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