You are inevitably responsible, even for non-decisions

Insights, Sustainable Value
14.09.2017 Reading time: 3 minute(s)

An excerpt from the essay "Quand meme" by Dr. Hans Vontobel

Change can be unpleasant. But those who face up to it are not only demonstrating courage – they are also giving themselves an opportunity to find happiness by making a decision.

Dr. Hans Vontobel

Until his death in 2016, Dr. Hans Vontobel served as the Honorary Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vontobel. © Photo: Ursula Markus

Anyone is destined to fail who practices the art of trying to please all of the people all of the time. One has to make choices. The question is, what criteria do you use to make these decisions? These criteria are always defined by people, and always in the light of their own particular point of view. At the end of the day, someone is inevitably responsible, even for decisions that are left to chance, or for non-decisions.

You can learn decision making – but luck is essential

The ability to set the right course, reap success and learn from failures: this is an art. To a certain extent, this art can be acquired. But if you want to truly master it, you also need good fortune. To be able to look back on decisions and say that was the right thing to do and has led to a long and successful life, luck is essential. I was fortunate to emerge unscathed from situations in which good fortune seemed to have abandoned me. There was always a practicable solution, and in some cases this led to an outcome that turned out to be even better than the failure or disappointment originally envisaged.

"Quand meme" – now more than ever

"Quand même" is what I told myself, for example, when a syndicate of full-service and cantonal banks tried to deny us access to the bond issuance market at the end of the 1950s. Our response was to join forces with other institutions to set up the Zurich Private Bankers Group, which gave us a successful foothold in the issuance business. In this way, my credo – or to be more exact: my mindset – often became a recipe for success, my secret weapon.

"Quand meme" – even when it hurts

Change can be unpleasant. Taking leave of something that has grown dear to you can be painful. But by refusing to adapt, rejecting any impetus for new ideas and stifling the will to keep on reinventing oneself is the recipe for a downfall. My inherent curiosity has motivated me to see change a priori as something positive. There is a tremendous satisfaction that comes from being curious to learn more and acquire new knowledge. Indeed, a willingness and an ability to change have become qualities for which our bank is noted.

Money is a means to a good end

My attitude towards money is open and uninhibited. Money truly enriches your life when you can spend it in a way that benefits others or brings them joy. Here I would like to mention two charitable foundations set up by our family, allowing us to apply money to achieve good:

  • The Kreatives Alter foundation awards prizes to people who are no longer involved in the working life: people who are enriching society with creative achievements in literature, science, music and theater.
  • The Lyra foundation supports the training of highly talented young musicians, furthering their careers and enabling them to perform in public.

I am proud of the great social impact our family has had through these and many other different foundations we have established. We aim to carry the company forward into the next generation with this mindset and these values, and I am convinced that we shall succeed.

Read the complete article by Dr. Hans Vontobel in the Portrait 2015 on the theme "Art & Expertise".

About Dr. Hans Vontobel

Hans Vontobel lived and worked from 4th December 1916 to 3rd January 2016 in Zurich. He presided over numerous economic associations and boards, making a name for himself as a patron and founder of a number of foundations, and served until the end of his life as Honorary Chairman of the Board of Directors of Vontobel.

The above contribution is part of a Portrait series by and about socially committed personalities from around Vontobel’s network. With their expert opinions, they illuminate the role of art in our lives and social change from new, revealing perspectives. That is because nothing in our society should be as uncompromising as art. The Portrait 2015 underscores Vontobel’s willingness and curiosity to listen to others and learn from them.



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