fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Baldvin Bjorn Haraldsson, managing partner, BBA Fjeldco

Interview with… Baldvin Bjorn Haraldsson, managing partner, BBA Fjeldco

Has Iceland’s relied-upon tourism sector weathered the impacts of Covid-19? Have you seen or are you expecting a resurgence in Iceland’s tourism soon?

The tourism sector was likely the most hard-hit by the pandemic in term of revenue losses and the need for layoffs. Companies within the tourism industry were however the recipients of a fair proportion of the government assistance programs put in place over the course of the pandemic, mitigating the damage and hopefully paving the way for a swift recovery. There has been a visible resurgence in tourism numbers after the rules limiting access to the country were relaxed and businesses allowed once again to operate as they did previously. The recovery is reflected in the statistics regarding the number of arrivals to the international airport in Iceland, which has seen over a seven-fold increase in May of 2022 compared with May the year before.

Are you seeing a growth in foreign investment in the Icelandic market? Which area do you think will be most influenced?

There has been a steady growth in foreign investments here in Iceland over many years. The sectors which seem to be most influenced are fintech, biotech and tech more generally, for example with regard to data collection and mining and telecommunications. Controlant, Kerecis, Lucinity, Mila and more could be named as good examples of companies which have been the subject of such investments recently.

The firm stands out in the field of M&A, capital markets, banking and finance. Is the focus to consolidate these areas? Or are you looking to expand your expertise into other practice areas?

The focus is not to consolidate, but rather to increase our market share in all these areas, as well as in tax, competition and litigation. Furthermore, the firm has a significant practice in the field of renewable both in Iceland and abroad, which the aim is to expand even further.

In the next five years, which areas of practice are you anticipating will be the key area of focus?

As usual it will be financing, corporate restructuring, and renewable energy, which is growing to be an important part of the firm’s operations.

Will law firms in Iceland continue to embrace the changes to working patterns, which were originally impacted by Covid-19, such as remote working? In what instances will firms go back to the ‘normal’ methods of working, such as face-to-face meetings?

I think the preferred method of working and communicating will remain in person, due to its many advantages and firms will in most cases return to pre-covid methods when possible. The change primarily appears in the fact that both clients and those whom you are working opposite are more receptive to remote meetings, when necessary, which has the effect of mitigating the need the rescheduling of meetings and can increase the efficiency of firms’ operations. In other words, it is a very good option to fall back on but perhaps not the preferred method when given the choice.

What sets your firm apart from competitors?

What sets us apart from our competitors is firstly that we have buckets of experience in working with large international law firms. During the course of that work, we have drawn from their expertise and approach towards projects and clients. Secondly, our advice is consistently top-notch and delivered on time. Thirdly we are able to provide advice most all angles of corporate work to meet the requirements of our clients. We are also able to provide advice in Iceland, the UK and France, in all of which countries we have a base of operations and lawyers qualified to operate there and provide advice on the basis of the laws that apply there.

What does innovation mean to you? Can you tell us about any specific innovation initiatives at your firm?

Innovation means either a new approach towards existing market requirements and solutions or entering in to new markets which have not yet been penetrated by Icelandic law firms. We have been active since 2016 in providing advice on regulatory frameworks in renewable energy in foreign countries, both directly and through international development banks. This initiative has taken years to prepare and, as mentioned before, is becoming an important part of our operations.

Do you consider sustainability credentials important to your firm’s business?

Sustainability credentials are important for all firms, and we are no exception to that rule. Our sustainability credentials are reflected in our portfolio of projects and in particular our renewable energy work.

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