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Expat on the Market: Interview with Ana Radnev of CMS

Expat on the Market: Interview with Ana Radnev of CMS

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CMS Partner Ana Radnev has a unique profile. Born and educated in Romania, joined CMS in Bucharest, then moved first to the firm’s London office (during which time she became English law qualified), then to the firm’s office in Prague. Since 2013, when CMS opened its Istanbul office, Radnev has divided her time between the Czech Republic and Turkey.

Radnev works within CMS’s International Banking and Finance team, where she acts for sponsors and lenders on complex structured multi-jurisdictional financing transactions in Turkey, Central and South-eastern Europe, and the Baltic countries.

CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you ended up in your current role with CMS.     

A.R.: I am a CMS lifer, having joined the firm’s newly opened Bucharest office in my last year of university more than 15 years ago (not wanting to give away my age!). The late nineties and early 2000’s were a very exciting period, the time of privatizations and of the first private equity investments. It was a great learning experience and a great team. 

As CMS grew larger in Romania, I moved to the firm’s banking team in London for a few years. During this time I re-qualified as an English solicitor and focused on my banking practice. This was another interesting time, the boom of large leverage deals before the Lehman crisis. 

The move to London was always intended to be a preparation for my return to CEE so the next stop was Prague, from where I have been working on cross-border transactions across the region. At the time I was a bit of an unusual apparition – an expat from the East! However, my Czech colleagues quickly adopted me and I can now mountain bike, cross-country ski, and appreciate a good beer!  Unfortunately, despite growing up watching Czech TV programs (the unforgettable Arabela), I did not seem to have picked up much useful Czech and this remains a struggle – matched only by the difficulty of the Turkish language!  

I have been working on transactions in Turkey for quite a few years and the launch of the CMS Istanbul office was the opportunity to consolidate that. Since then I have shared my time between Prague and Istanbul. Helping building our brand in the Turkish market and working closely with our local banking team on cross-border finance deals has been really exciting thus far. 

CEELM: Was it always your goal to work abroad?  

A.R.: I never planned to emigrate. I have an older sister who left Romania before 1989 and I believe the family plan was to follow, however, as times changed I grew up in a very vibrant and changing country, and while I loved traveling I did not feel the urge to leave for good. It was all supposed to be temporary … and yet here I am. I have strong bonds to Romania and I still think of it as home. It is a great place and a place I belong and where I have roots. 

CEELM: Tell us briefly about your practice, and how you built it up over the years.  

A.R.: My practice focuses on international structured event-driven or sponsor-backed transactions and it is quite evenly split between borrower and lender work. I have been very fortunate to have great mentors from the day I started working, including Simon Dayes (now head of our Romanian banking team) whom I first started working for when I was 19 and whose mentoring and guidance in those formative years were essential and put me on my tracks, and then Paul Stallebrass, who involved me early on in transactions, mentored me, and supported me in developing further. My private equity colleagues have also been instrumental in their support and help in developing the leverage finance practice.   think a good practice is a team effort.

CEELM: What do your clients appreciate most about you?  

A.R.: Aside from knowing my stuff? My commercial and pragmatic approach and (I would like to think) being easy and fun to work with. 

CEELM: Do you find Turkish clients enthusiastic about working with foreign lawyers, or – all things considered – do they prefer working with local lawyers?

A.R.: Turkish clients appreciate the expertise and the ability to draw on experience built in other jurisdictions. As a foreign lawyer however I think one should also understand the times when it is best to step back. Again, it is a team effort.

CEELM: There are obviously many differences between the Turkish and Romanian judicial systems and legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?  

A.R.: I am each time surprised by the similarities. Both jurisdictions are codified and inspired on traditional systems and both can be quite formalistic. As Turkey started to update some if its laws it reminded me of similar times in Romania. What is absolutely admirable in Turkey is the development in PPP legislation which supports the development of PPP projects and bankable documentation. I wish I could see more leveraged transactions so we can have more fun with financial assistance provisions!

CEELM: How about the cultures? What differences strike you as most resonant and significant?

A.R.: I have always been fascinated by and in awe of Istanbul’s cultural and historical significance. At the same time it reminds me of home and I feel at home – there are so many words of Turkish origin in Romanian – many connected to food. I like the street sounds, the bustle, the people, and the food (a lot!). I still get asked about Hagi when I go through passport control.  My colleagues there are a great bunch; they have taken me under their wing and make me feel local.

CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds, both to a firm and to its clients? 

A.R.: I don’t think of myself as an expat particularly. One of CMS’s core values is being international. While a strong local practice is essential, it needs to function as part of an international operation mindful of what happens around to be able to guide our clients through a global business environment.

CEELM: Outside of Turkey, Romania, and the Czech Republic, which CEE country do you enjoy visiting the most, and why?    

A.R.: I am a true child of the Balkans (I am Romanian, I have a Bulgarian name, and I work in Turkey) and I like the diversity that CEE brings. I think one of the best parts of what I do is that I have the opportunity of working with people in so many jurisdictions, and I think that having this experience and being able to bring it all together to have a regional overview but also understand local subtleties and culture is what makes a difference.

CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Istanbul? 

A.R.: Hard to choose, I like Karakoy for both art and food.  I love the Contemporary Art Museum and I like Karakoy Lokantasi (but then again who doesn’t), and Mete and a couple of other places. Ortakoy is another favorite area, and now that the mosque restoration has been finished it is even more splendid. I like the fish restaurants on the Asian side, I am dreaming of a mountain of hamsii (it’s the season when they are nice and plump) and I like the historical part. I like modern Istanbul too, it’s fun and vibrant. I am a very keen skier and am planning a skiing trip (you can heli ski in Turkey)!  And did I mention that shopping is great?   

This Article was originally published in Issue 4.12 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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