Combining the independent sector's close client relationships with the systematic approach to client acquisition found at the big banks lies at the heart of René Marty's strategic plan.
Marty joined Zurich- and Lugano-based adviser LFA as CEO in June 2017, having previously risen through the ranks of the banking world to become head of UBS Swiss Financial Advisers.
Part of his vision for LFA is maintaining physical presence in the US, where the target clientele of the firm is based.
‘While today's communication enables real-time conversations at the press of a button, nothing replaces a handshake, a face-to-face discussion and an open ear,’ Marty said.
LFA is also establishing a social media presence, which is a must for dealing with the new generation of investors.
Creating awareness of the firm is one of the biggest challenges the CEO faces at the moment. He said the US is a big market, which makes it is very important to focus on specific hubs and reach out to specific banks and law offices through networks of existing clients.
Offering something different
Once contact is established, the next step is to demonstrating the value added of a Swiss wealth manager in the US, be it multi-currency investment management or an international view of investment diversification.
‘American clients like that we have a different perspective on what is happening in Europe. They often hear that Europe is going to fall apart, but being based in the heart of the region we understand the political situation better.'
Marty added that his US client base is typically rather conservative when it comes to asset allocation, in contrast with US-based pure equity, aggressive, highly volatile investment portfolios.
‘In Switzerland an investment strategy is often chosen for long-term growth and low volatility, especially as the country with its long-term political and economic stability is viewed as a safe haven.’
Independent managers vs banks
Marty, who worked in the banking indutry for 25 years, said the proximity to clients and ability to work with them day in and day out is what distinguishes independent advisers from private banks.
‘The US client in particular is very welcoming and they are quick to invite you to a BBQ, for example. You get to meet their family and friends and you easily become part of the community.’
He said another advantage of smaller independent companies is that they are much more flexible when it comes to customised solutions.
‘Banks are much more focused on shareholder value and are trying to separate customers in groups with a "this is what we offer, take it or leave it" attitude.’
Marty said big banks often have a more systematic and streamlined approach, which is their advantage over smaller firms. This is where he is planning to leverage his private banking experience.
‘I intend to implement a more systematic approach in acquiring new clients, but with a personal touch,’ Marty added.