SWISS SEC-REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISOR
Interview with Daniel Zurbruegg, Managing Partner & CEO
Let’s start with a short description of yourself and your background.
I started working in the banking business at the age of 15 when I did my banking apprenticeship at a local bank in Zug. After several positions in banking and family offices, I finally started as an independent asset manager in 2007. Initially, my main marketing activity was speaking at several international investment conferences and that was also when I first got in touch with U.S. clients. Very quickly, that business was growing nicely and eventually led to the setup of Swiss Infinity, our SEC-registered investment company that recently merged with BFI Wealth Management to become BFI Infinity. I am 44 years old and live in Neuheim (Canton of Zug) with my wife Isabelle and our three children. I spend most of my free time doing all kinds of sports and spending time outdoors. I also run a soccer school for kids aged 5-7.
Switzerland is regarded as the world’s leading private wealth management centre. Why does Switzerland remain on top despite turbulences?
Well, maybe the answer to this is simple. Switzerland stays on top because of turbulences. While the banking business has been going through a lot of change in recent years, I believe that security and stability remain the top priority for a lot of investors worldwide. What better place could there be? Hong Kong? Singapore? Panama? Realistically, none of these options are real alternatives. The global banking business is also changing in terms of the priorities investors have. More and more, wealth protection rather than growth of wealth become the top priority and with this, asset protection is key priority. An integral part of asset protection is the question of jurisdictional diversification and the stability of the custodian of assets. Again, what better place could there be? Of course the global banking system becomes more and more transparent and banking secrecy is not what it used to be. But isn’t the increasing transparency exactly what makes wealth protection even more important?
As a Swiss wealth manager, why did you decide to register with the SEC in the United States?
Well, there was really not a choice in our case. The rules are clear and simple, once you grow to a certain size, the registration with the SEC becomes mandatory. We only had to consider the question of registration once and it was clear that we would do it. However, we saw our decision not only as a step to comply with the regulatory requirements but much more as a long-term commitment to the U.S. market and our existing clients. We believe there is great long-term potential in the U.S. market.
What particular needs does an American investor have?
This is very obvious. What makes the U.S. market unique is that a lot of people require strong asset protection. The chances of getting into a nasty lawsuit in the U.S. are pretty significant and typically the more money somebody has, the higher the risk becomes, so having strong asset protection is a key priority. Of course, global investment diversification is also important but I see asset protection as the single most important factor. We don’t want to provide what domestic U.S. advisors are already offering, the key areas where we can differentiate us is asset protection and global investments.
How do you address these needs?
I think our message is very clear. We see ourselves as “wealth protectors” rather than “just” investment managers. While investment management is an important part of our service, we have a more holistic view and want to provide clients with a turnkey solution for asset protection and investment management. Don’t get me wrong here, it is very important to generate competitive investment returns but whatever investment strategy that we select together with the client, wealth preservation is always key. So in that sense, we are certainly not very aggressive in terms of investments. Today as part of our turnkey solutions, our group offers not only investment management but also related services such as investment consulting, asset protection solutions (incl. insurance) and precious metals storage just to name a few. I think our setup and offering is very unique. Our business is based on building successful long-term relationship with our clients rather than selling products.
If you were to give one important piece of advice to American clients, what would it be?
Right now it would clearly be to get global investment diversification. In a time when the U.S. dollar is still reasonably strong and U.S. asset markets are trading at a very significant premium, global investment diversification for U.S. clients is a once in maybe two decades opportunity. The timing opportunity to do this is really great. History shows us that premium valuations like we have right now for U.S. assets will not hold for a long time, eventually there is a reversion to the mean again. The same goes for the U.S. dollar which is typically trading in long cycles. Over the last fifty years, periods of U.S. dollar strength typically lasted for about five years and were followed by long periods of decline that were around ten years. Between 2011, when the U.S. dollar was trading at an all-time low, and 2016, the U.S. dollar went up around 35% versus most major currencies, so we had a strong U.S. dollar for exactly five years. The U.S. dollar has now started to weaken…I think the rest is obvious.