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Swiss WMs: how we built our brands

Independent asset managers talk about brand awareness and how they created identities to set them apart from their rivals.

The Swiss market of indpenedent asset managers is pretty fragmented, with more than 3,000 players competing for new money.

With the days of banking secrecy long gone, Switzerland is on the same playing field as the whole world when it comes to wealth management services. That is why getting noticed by potential clients and future employees is more important than ever.

Branding plays an important part in this process, as it allows each firm to highlight what it does best.

Here four wealth managers talk about their brand-building and why it matters.

These views were first published in the October 2017 issue of the Citywire Switzerland magazine.

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Egon Vorfeld

The Forum Finance Group
Geneva

Times have changed and we believe branding and communication have become essential. Indeed, independent asset managers must now renew their client base and attract a clientele that doesn’t yet know them.

In the not too distant past, not even the largest private banks were advertising. Many didn’t even have a clear name plaque on their door. Switzerland was all about absolute discretion.

The advent of transparency, compliance and increased competition has changed all that.

More recently, Swiss private banks have spent vast amounts on branding and communication. This should be no different for the largest Swiss independent asset managers. Investing in your brand is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

Communication is not only aimed at clients but at all stakeholders. Our existing and prospective clients expect us to be open, recognisable and communicative. Similarly, future employees want to know what differentiates us from our peers.

At the Forum Finance Group (FFG), we started a more visible campaign about eight years ago. This marketing effort has paid dividends! Our AUM has grown nearly threefold since then and we expect this trend to continue. We refreshed our logo and website three times over that period and we communicate regularly through our website, emails, press articles, TV interviews, LinkedIn, blogs and more.

However, you have to have a story to tell and be able to live up to it. We defined a clear position, with a strong vision and strategy for our company that helps to differentiate us from competitors. We invested heavily in our business and became authorised by Finma and registered with the SEC – no mean feat for a private client asset manager.

We are ready for more growth, and our efforts are paying off, because we have been attracting the attention of some high quality private bankers. For example, we were the only Geneva-based independent asset manager that was invited to be one of fourteen founding members of the Alliance of Swiss Wealth Managers (ASWM) last year.

Our greatest distinguishing feature may be that we are a partnership that offers an opportunity for entrepreneurial private bankers to be part of building a business. At FFG we have had three generational changes of partners already. Mutualisation and integration are our strengths.

Interestingly, as a result of our branding efforts, our existing and prospective clients can see and feel the positive momentum, the great ambiance and the vision that FFG has.

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Tom Stubbe Olsen

Mensarius
Zollikon

We recently changed our name from European Value Partners (EVP) to Mensarius, to avoid confusion with Switzerland’s Evangelische Volkspartei (EVP).

The inspiration for our new name came from the word for a trusted financial adviser during the Roman Empire. A mensarius was seen as someone to whom you could safely entrust your money, confident that he would fulfil his fiduciary obligations and serve your best interests. We share this devotion to our fiduciary duty, which is a guiding principle of our company.

Our philosophy is our brand. We have a long-term investment horizon and our investment approach focuses on companies with strong business models. Over time this has generated strong absolute returns to our investors.

Mensarius is a firm based on a strong belief in our responsibility to our investors and our contribution to society. Our name embodies these values, and we have the advantage of a track record of almost 20 years of solid investment returns from managing money this way.

Our clients are institutional investors, and branding our investment philosophy is helpful for creating awareness of Mensarius and what the client can expect from us.

However, our clients will select us because of our ability to generate attractive long-term investment returns based on our investment philosophy, our solid investment process and our stable ownership structure.

We have decided to work with a select number of leading journalists and to organise high-level events to position Mensarius in this very competitive market.

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Luca Farinella

V3 Capital Partners
Geneva

Growing up, we are told not to judge a book by its cover, that looks don’t matter and that it is what’s inside that counts. This is certainly true; the essence of a person, experience, product or service is most important in shaping their identity.

However, does our promotion of inner beauty over outward appearance truly reflect the way we assess the world around us? Appearances can be deceptive, but they can also be helpful communication aids. What we see has a transformative impact on our behaviour.

In spite of this, the visual identities of many financial services brands remain uninspiring. An online image search for ‘wealth management’ leads to pictures of piles of money. In reality, wealth is just as much about an individual’s goals and passions as it is about their financial assets.

This highlights why it is important for our industry to reconsider its visual identity. Wealth managers should do more to reflect their specific value proposition and differentiation through design.

When I created V3, a private office serving the wealth needs of global families, I wanted to offer clients a better way to engage with their wealth portfolio. We create a journey that simplifies wealth and enables clients to engage with it in a more meaningful way.

The solution we have built is different from the approach taken by most wealth managers, and we have invested a lot of effort in recreating that client experience online. We use imagery to reflect our ability to streamline the complexity of wealth for clients, to engage with them in a personal way and to leverage new technologies. Our branding reflects our actions.

Crucially, this is not about visibility. Given the unique audience for our services, the aspiration is not to become a recognisable household name. Where we seek to raise awareness for our capabilities, we do so through bespoke content tailored to different parts of our network.

My mission is to ensure that the strategic vision of V3 remains steadfast. While it is what’s inside that matters most, we believe our appearance is an important reflection of the quality of our proposition.

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Hakan Semiz

Swisspartners
Vaduz

While creating a brand is important, we like to focus on ensuring that each client’s needs are fully met by recognised experts.

Over the past few years, clients have started to want detailed advice on a broader range of topics. We recognised this development and now provide a holistic review. Our senior partners offer clients independent and comprehensive access to internal and external specialists in the fields of custody, portfolio management, tax, and legal and accountancy services.

To strengthen awareness of our brand we work very closely with each client’s existing advisers (typically accountants and solicitors) to gain their trust and understand the range of areas in which we can help the client plan for the future. We receive a steady flow of new referrals from existing clients because we have earned their trust over many years.

We have also recognised that some clients want to achieve relatively modest but consistent returns, so we launched a liquid Alternative Ucits fund of funds in June 2016. For clients with higher performance expectations we launched our own global equity fund – the Belinvest Equity fund – in April 2016.

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