Russian entrepreneurship is fascinating
As a partner in the opening ceremony of the new Swiss embassy in June 2019, Vontobel advocates strengthening Swiss-Russian relations further. Rolf P. Frehner talks to us about this long-standing relationship.
Mr. Frehner*, what is it about Eastern Europe that you find so fascinating?
Eastern Europe is a region of stark contrasts. I’ve been traveling these various countries for 20 years and still haven’t had enough. It’s an experience bounded by the endless landscape on the one hand and a rich cultural heritage on the other. Eastern Europe is always full of surprises. It connects continents and unites cultures, languages and nations. What impresses me personally the most is the warmth of the people. Eastern Europeans are extremely hospitable and far more spontaneous in their interactions than we Western Europeans usually are.
Dr. Hans Vontobel established business ties to Russia back in the 1990s. What was behind that?
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dr. Hans Vontobel was farsighted enough to realize that the economies of Central Europe, which were then satellite states, would grow rapidly. It was the perfect time to get our wealth management business off the ground. Dr. Hans Vontobel was awarded the Order of Friendship by the Russian government in 2006 in recognition of his work.
What can you say about Russia’s development today?
Russia has gone through immense changes since it opened up. As a supraregional economic power, its success is no longer solely based on vast deposits of raw materials but is also driven by its highly developed technology sector. Russian entrepreneurship is fascinating; new industries spring up constantly.
What differentiates Vontobel as a Swiss bank from other banks that serve clients from Eastern Europe?
Bank Vontobel has extremely wide and deep experience in serving clients from Eastern Europe. Our experts are well versed in regional circumstances, and this conveys a sense of security to our clients. As a fourth-generation family business, we embody tradition, reliability and security – all important values in Eastern Europe.
Are there cultural differences that need to be considered?
Cross-cultural collaboration is a basic skill in wealth management – not just in Eastern Europe but in all international relationships. Eastern European spontaneity requires some flexibility in how we present and schedule ourselves, which can be very refreshing. And it is obviously important to know and respect the political conditions, tradition and history of Eastern European nations.
Vontobel is actively involved in the reopening of the Swiss embassy in Moscow. Why?
As I mentioned before, Bank Vontobel has a very good relationship with Russia. The same goes for the embassies in the countries where we are present. We see the mutual exchange of information as essential for constructive collaboration. Ties have been especially strong between Bank Vontobel and Russia since Dr. Vontobel’s decoration. We want to build on these relationships and continue to serve a region that is extremely important to Switzerland’s foreign policy.
*Rolf P. Frehner is Head of Wealth Management in Eastern Europe.