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Wealth management

5 to Top 50: Lakefield Partners about Speeding up the WealthTech Revolution

As the proud sponsor of Citywire‘s award recognizing the top 50 IAMs across Switzerland (details here), we would like to give you an insight into the daily work of the winning companies. Arleta Więch asked 5 questions to selected top 50 IAMs to learn more about their success factors as well as the future of wealth management and the role of wealthtech in the upcoming years. Here’s what she found out.

Bruno Verstraete is a part of Lakefield Partners AG. The company specializes in dynamic asset management based on its proprietary quantitative investment model successfully introduced in 2002. Today, it’s a leading Swiss EAM based in Zurich.

What is your role at Lakefield Partners AG? What differentiates your company from other EAMs?

I am one of the 5 partners at Lakefield (to be more precise, one of 3 Managing Partners). I am responsible for the client side of our business with all the different aspects it entails (media contacts and public relations as well). As an economist, I also contribute to the research we carry out.

Our company is a quantitatively-driven wealth manager. It means that our investment decision process is very systematic and disciplined, void of emotions. We look at things top-down: a good economy means good earnings and good markets consequently. This makes us different and less correlated to other asset managers or portfolio components.

We have a very institutional approach to things. One can see in everything we do from the presentations all the way to the client reports. At the same time, we give our clients direct access to their portfolio managers, and our relationship managers have a high intimacy with what is going on within portfolios.

How has wealth management changed since you started working in the industry?

The exclusivity of data and research has vanished almost completely. The internet offers our clients a window to the world and access to trading from their homes. The business of independent asset managers has professionalized, also due to more strict legislation.

The impact of the relationship factor has been diminishing a bit in favour of more rational aspects: volatility, reporting quality, costs and return.

You are one of the top 50 IAMs across Switzerland and Liechtenstein. What do you believe to be your success factors?

This is clearly a team effort. It is comforting to know that tasks such as operations, legal and compliance or portfolio management are in good hands. Our business is a people’s business as everyone plays their role in providing better client experience each day. It is only possible by making sure that everyone can make the best use of their strengths, insourcing at the same time what they are less good at. Thanks to that, everyone like their job and leverage their strengths to the maximum.

Growing pains are an inevitable part of the process, but scaling should not come at the cost of being less personal. Knowing your clients and making sure they have a direct line to you is crucial.

What were your major challenges in 2020? Were they rather strategic or operational?

For us, just like for everyone else, COVID was a new challenge. I think everyone was a bit taken by speed in this crisis, although our industry might have been one of those less impacted because many processes were already digitalized.

The biggest challenge was to keep close contact with our clients without face-to-face meetings. Given the nature of this crisis, it was even more important than before. The worst thing would be to get stuck in the lockdown without being able to communicate with others. We were fortunate enough to already have all the tools necessary to get through this situation.

It was important to support our clients beyond portfolio management. Because of that, we sent them masks when they were difficult to obtain.

Operationally, we quickly made our office COVID-compliant. Protecting our clients and employees is as important as risk-managing portfolios. We already set up home offices before the lockdown, and we were fortunate to have enough space in the office to keep safe distance between employees.

What do you think about the importance of technology in asset management? Is it going to rise in 2021?

There is a constant rise in technology and its applications in the asset management industry, both in portfolio management and client relationship management. COVID might have sped this evolution up.

Reporting and transparency upon client request is now almost a necessity. For legislative purposes such as risk control, it is necessary to have a consolidated view on portfolios and the mandates of the client.

It takes time and effort to get there, but once in place, the quality of our job clearly improves.

5 to Top 50 is a series of interviews where we ask 5 questions to selected top 50 IAMs across Switzerland. For live updates on the rest of the interviews, follow our LinkedIn profile.

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