One little black mark with the US authorities and you can end up… at Rockaway perhaps! Investment manager David Swaim, who has both Slovak and American blood in his veins, has an interesting career path behind…
Up to now, our regular Rockaway Insider newsletter has focused mainly on upper management. In the new year we would like to gradually also feature those whose work is frequently hidden behind the scenes, but is often key. Over time, Jakub Krůta has become one of the key members of Rockaway Capital’s legal team, and as senior legal counsel has, for example, taken part in negotiations on the acquisition of a share in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. How did he work his way up to this position and how does he come to terms which such great responsibility?
One learns from one’s mistakes. What mistake taught you the most, and what, specifically?
I often have a tendency to rely mainly on myself, which backfired on me the most in one specific case, when Rockaway was buying some assets from an unspecified third party. Because I was in a hurry, I decided to do the calculation myself without consulting anyone. When I wanted to give the calculation directly to the other party, a colleague from the finance department spoke up because he was freaked out by the huge number we’d come up with. It turned out that I was off by an amount corresponding to roughly a twenty-percent basis for a nice mortgage. This was an important experience for me, during which I realized how important it is to cooperate within the team, to not rely just on oneself, and on the contrary to be able to depend on my colleagues, who in many things are better than I am. No amount of urgency is worth making foolish errors.
What do you do so that the responsibilities you have don’t drive you crazy?
As far as coming to terms with responsibility as such, I always try to do what is in Rockaway’s best interests to the best of my knowledge and conscience. As soon as I’ve done that, I know I’ve done all I can do, and can sleep relatively soundly. For enthusiastic bearers of the impostor syndrome like me, it’s also good to realize that almost nobody is ever a hundred percent sure of their decisions – we’re all in the same boat, though it may not seem so at first glance. At the same time I try to maintain a life outside of work: those of us who work for Rockaway really put their heart into it, and that’s perhaps also why I constantly have to remind myself that it’s still only work, and I’m learning to say “no”. Another thing is to maintain your hobbies. For example, I go swimming two to three times a week, and try to do so under all circumstances.
What inspiring book influenced you most, and should we read it?
I’d split it into two groups: personal development and legal reading. In the first category I can recommend “No Rules Rules” by Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings. Reed Hastings is the founder and CEO of Netflix, while Erin Meyer has extensively studied differences between workers in various parts of the world. Together, they describe the success of Netflix and how it was influenced by an original company culture. It’s interesting to compare their arguments with my own work environment and try to put them into practice. In the second category, I’d definitely put anything from an English lawyer writing under the pseudonym “The Secret Barrister”. In his books, he describes the weaknesses of the English legal system in a witty and apt manner, and points out structural problems that we should start calling by their real name here in the Czech Republic as well.
What part of law do you consider the most important that is simultaneously forgotten by everyone?
The combination of human rights and standards related to privacy protection and technologies is constantly growing in importance. A nice specific case in Covid times was when some countries – luckily mostly non-European ones – ordered their citizens to use applications that excessively monitor the user’s location in the interests of easier tracing or adherence of quarantine, or applications that solely based on algorithms and without human input decide to order someone to go into quarantine or forbid them from using public services. People rarely realize that in such situations not only the much-discussed GDPR comes into play, but also basic human rights and freedoms, which we otherwise have a tendency to view as some sort of abstract notion. I think that with the development of artificial intelligence and “surveillance capitalism”, the linkage of the aforementioned legal areas will become increasingly important and lawyers should take an interest in them.
What is the number-one rule that you follow every day in your work?
Measure twice, cut once. Don’t rely just on yourself, and listen to those around you, because they’re the best in their fields and have something to say.
What do you consider to be Rockaway’s biggest success in recent years, and why?
I’m going to be very subjective now, but I’m extremely happy about our media branch, which was created through the acquisition of a share in the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and most recently has added the Arofilms movie distribution company. As the lawyer assigned to these projects, I worked on both transactions from start to finish, and especially the KVIFF was pet project of mine – it’s an experience, after years spent as a student drinking beer on the lawn in front of the Thermal Hotel, to suddenly be negotiating with Mr. Bartoška about making an investment. These “pet” projects are an illustration of the new face of what we’re trying to do at Rockaway.
Last but not least, I consider the progress made by our internal legal team to be a great success. Without exaggeration, I’m convinced that we’ve got the best in-house legal team in the Czech Republic.
What was your best investment in life?
Definitely education. The road I took was tortuous and actually very inefficient, but it gave me a whole lot. I started at a German high school in Prague, then spent a while at a school in the USA, then I flew to Scotland for university, but in my third year I decided to go to Germany through Erasmus. After returning to Britain, in fourth year I went to China for a half-year to study law. Well, and after completing five years of studying British law, I decided that I’d actually like being a Czech lawyer, and so I began taking conversion exams at the Faculty of Law in Prague. And on top of that, distance studies for a Master of Law in England once again. If I’d decided to study Czech law right at the start, everything would have been much more straightforward, quicker, and cheaper; but in the end I’m very glad I took that crazy road, because one gains a certain amount of perspective that one would otherwise lose out on.
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