A Perfect Blend: North German Charm and Swiss Reserve
In 2008, Vontobel made an anticyclical investment in a new location: Hamburg. Today, the North German branch is celebrating its 10th anniversary. A good time to review some challenging, but nevertheless successful years!
Mr. Rötheli, you are responsible for various markets in northern Switzerland. What comes to your mind when you think of these regions?
On the business side, I think of our successes, but also of some of the difficulties that we have encountered. Over the past years, Vontobel has grown continually in Germany, the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries. This has demanded quite a bit of foresight and perseverance. 2008 was not an easy year for expansion in the financial industry. Nevertheless, 2008 was the year in which Vontobel established its branch in Hamburg.
Mr. Schwarz, are the North German clients different from those in South Germany?
A great many North German clients are rather reserved, in the Hanseatic style. This involves a certain amount of constraint, and not only in the financial domain. It takes some time for people to warm up. But once this has been achieved, people here are very loyal. It is hard for me to say whether and to what extent clients in South Germany are different.
Vontobel holds a full banking license for Germany. What does this mean for you Mr. Rötheli?
For our clients, this means that investor protection is comprehensively ensured. Furthermore, this license makes Germany Vontobel’s second “home market” besides Switzerland. We do not have any full banking licenses in any other country. Back then, the application was submitted in view of the security that the regulations associated with the license provide for our clients. In fact, all our processes are in compliance with the European MiFID framework. Vontobel sees the new regulations as an opportunity. This is something our clients benefit from as well.
What does Vontobel as a Swiss bank do better than the Germans, Mr. Schwarz?
I would like to rephrase the question: What makes us different? The Vontobel Group is a unique player in the German private banking arena. It is predominantly family-owned and thus guarantees stability and a long-term perspective. At the same time, it is listed on the stock exchange. This guarantees maximum transparency. This blend of financial security and transparency is what makes Vontobel so unique and attractive for investors. Another aspect that is especially important nowadays: We focus exclusively on the subject of investments in all facets and business areas. This specialization is a great advantage.
Mr. Rötheli, how has the Hamburg branch developed over the past 10 years?
Very well, although things were not so easy initially, as I already mentioned. Today, our clients in North Germany are supported by five employees. The team is small, but very effective, and we are in the process of expanding our capacity. However, I want to make sure that we have a solid business basis before further expansion.
How will the anniversary be celebrated, Mr. Schwarz?
With a combination of North German Charm and Swiss Reserve. The anniversary year started with an event on the topic of “Insights & Trends”. Furthermore, we plan to hold an art exhibition and a golf tournament. I am especially happy that we will hold the “Vontobel Impact” event, one that is already established in other countries, in Hamburg this year.
What are the plans for Germany in the coming years, Mr. Rötehli?
In 2002, we started the expansion in German from out of Munich. We now have three additional locations: Frankfurt, Cologne, and Hamburg. Depending on the focus, we supervise private clients, family offices, institutional investors, or outsourcing mandates. Over the years, we have grown organically. In view of the importance of the German market to Vontobel, this development will certainly continue.
About the interviewees
Head Wealth Management Germany, Austria, UK & Nordics, Managing Director
Roland Rötheli has been with Vontobel since 2004. Since then, he has been responsible for the German market. Before that, he worked for a large Swiss bank for 23 years.
Head of the Hamburg Branch Office, Executive Director
Volker Schwarz has been Head of the Hamburg Branch Office at Vontobel Europe AG since 2010. Before that, Mr. Schwarz spent more than 27 years in total working for a major German bank and a German private bank.