On September 30, 2020, CEE Legal Matters reported that Dentons had assisted the Austrian insurance group UNIQA and CHERRISK – UNIQA's Hungarian InsurTech subsidiary – enter the German market. CEEIHM spoke with the legal team of CHERRISK – consisting of Head of Legal Petra Turi, International Legal Counsel Mate Lapis, Legal Counsel Judit Reich, and Junior Lawyer Viktoria Tari – to learn more about the matter.
CEEIHM: To provide our readers with a bit of background, please tell us a few words about UNIQA and CherryHub.
CHERRISK: The UNIQA Group is one of the leading insurance groups in its core markets of Austria and Central and Eastern Europe. The group has approximately 40 companies in 18 countries and serves about 15.5 million customers. We believe that digitalization is leading to fundamental changes in customer expectations and behavior and we must meet these challenges and we must embrace them as big opportunities. We help people adapting to the world, so they can live a better life. We support charities, so they can build a better future. Life’s still unpredictable, and that’s why we started our journey by making better insurances. As a result of this idea, we created the CHERRISK by UNIQA, which is a Budapest based online platform. It is a self-service platform where users can manage their insurances absolutely (and solely) online. The users are guided through the different processes by Emma, the digital assistant of CHERRISK. The main investor behind the InsurTech start-up is the Austrian UNIQA Insurance Group AG. The active development of the platform has started in 2017, based on Krisztian Kurtisz’ “Insurance 2.0” model. In 2019 CHERRISK has launched its first application – CHERRISK GO, in which we inspire and reward our users to create better habits for a sustainable future.
In terms of the legal team behind the project, Petra Turi, who leads the legal function, had to focus on the requirements of two legal systems in parallel (Hungarian and German), from a prudential, and consumer protection point of view, while Mate Lapis was responsible for the coordination of the international external experts involved.
CEEIHM: What does a "digital entrance" into a market mean precisely and why was this the route you took to enter the German one?
CHERRISK: In this digital world, we believe that we do not need to build skyscrapers to enter a new market. After a 1.5-year-long Hungarian pilot, CHERRISK started its international expansion in May 2020, with Germany being the first market we looked at. We carried out thorough market research and interviews with experts, before the final decision as to which market to enter first. The German insurance market is very colorful and diversified, so we thought we can take it as a stepping-stone to start our international expansion.
CEEIHM: What were the specific legal checkboxes you had to tick in order to ensure a smooth entering into the German market using this approach?
CHERRISK: First, we had to build up the regulatory set-up. Also at the beginning, we decided to “design” the contracts under the German law to create and inspire trust immediately for our new German customers. We had to deal with the market-specific special German customer needs. Last but not least, the biggest challenge was that this whole thing had to be managed while working in a home-office set-up during the total lockdown of our home country.
CEEIHM: What was Dentons' mandate exactly? What specific aspects was the firm retained to advise on?
CHERRISK: Dentons provided full-scale legal support for us in terms of market entry, especially in insurance law when it came to product development, in tax and marketing matters, and in GDPR related topics as well. Our key contact Kai Goretzky who has been advising international insurers and intermediaries on entering the German insurance market for more than twenty years. Before joining Dentons he was the in-house counsel of a German InsurTech company, so we knew that he has a very strong focus and experience in the digitization of the insurance industry. And, it must be said, Goretzky and his associate Catharina von Berg both had a project owner attitude from the very beginning and supported us from their heart until our “go live moment”.
CEEIHM: And why did you opt to turn to them over other firms for this matter?
CHERRISK: The selection process was a long one. We wanted to find the ones who will believe in our future goals and business model and to find the best law firm that had a good fit with our team and with whom we can build up a long-term relationship. Dentons was the one who came up with a vision regarding our ecosystem and products. They stated that they will aim to build the bridge between technology, customer usability, and law and will do their utmost to ensure compliance, a consistent product structure, and a high level of digital usability of our portal.