"We consider strong positioning within a niche to be the key to success"
CEO at Solufonds
Andreea Stefanescu joined Solufonds in 2017 and became CEO in 2018. The economist has more than 17 years of experience in the financial sector and began her career in 2002 as a fund specialist at SwissRe Fondsleitung. Further stations were Swiss Finance & Property Fund in fund management and GAM, where she headed the private label business for institutional and real estate clients from 2007 to 2016 and was a member of the executive board of the Swiss fund management company. Andreea Stefanescu also acts as Managing Director of COPTIS.
Ms Stefanescu, Solufonds is a leader in Swiss asset management. But this is hardly noticed...
The reason for this is that Solufonds used to focus very strongly on Western Switzerland and was a niche player in the private label sector. Now, however, we have been able to record considerable growth, especially in the last 5 years, and expand our visibility to the whole of Switzerland thanks to the establishment of the branch office in Zurich. Since the beginning of 2017, we have been able to more than triple our assets under administration (AuA) and will have exceeded the CHF 4 billion mark by the end of 2021. We have thus only recently reached a relevant size as a Swiss fund management company, which gives us the necessary recognition within the very compact Swiss market.
Fund management or Administration: What is the attraction of this business for you personally?
Right from the start, I was fascinated by the breadth and diversity of the topics. I have worked for various Swiss fund management companies throughout my career, often with subsidiaries in Luxembourg and offshore locations. I have always found the fact that the fund management business covers all aspects, from legal to tax and financial market issues, and that I have also had the great fortune of being able to look after and accompany very active and dynamic clients over all these years, to be a very great enrichment. Moreover, the fund industry has evolved a lot, no two days are the same. Personally, I consider myself very lucky that even after 20 years I still learn something new every day.
A few years ago, you made a conscious decision to switch from a large fund management company to the "small" Solufonds. How did that come about?
After almost 10 years within one of the largest Swiss fund management companies, I wanted to take the opportunity to put the expertise I had built up over the years at the service of a smaller fund management company and, above all, to actively shape the development of this company. I have been able to do this within Solufonds over the last few years with great pleasure and enthusiasm. Solufonds has also enabled me to take on other mandates, such as operational management of the COPTIS association, which represents the interests of the real estate securitisation industry. Another concern that is very close to my heart is the sustainable promotion of the Swiss fund production location and ensuring that the existing jobs are maintained and, if possible, expanded.
What do you see as Solufonds' most important achievements during your time as CEO?
As mentioned at the beginning, the positioning of the fund management company and our brand throughout Switzerland is certainly a key point. At the same time, we were also able to move our headquarters to Morges last year to modern premises that meet the demands of a dynamic company and the young generation of employees. These now fully correspond to the philosophy and vision of our company and could also be designed according to sustainable aspects. Furthermore, we have also been able to set a number of benchmarks in the area of business policy, for example by launching Switzerland's first private debt fund last year and by establishing ourselves as the fund management company with the largest number of real estate funds and SICAV structures in the Swiss market.
Solufonds has focused, among other things, on fund management in the area of real estate securitisation. An opportunity in a strongly growing market?
This is absolutely correct. However, our goal from the beginning was to diversify the fund management as much as possible without neglecting our position as the leading real estate fund management company in Switzerland. By launching various securities funds as well as the first private debt fund under Swiss law mentioned above, we have successfully achieved this so far. Further products in this investment category are already being planned on our platform and will further demonstrate our competence in this area.
The Swiss as well as the global asset management industry is growing and at the same time margins and consolidation pressure are increasing. How do you see the developments in your business area?
We are also feeling this pressure on margins. However, with our competencies and expertise, on the basis of which we are able to build up all special structures for our clients, we operate in a niche. We are in a position to strongly incorporate the wishes of our clients within the framework of the fund set-up and thus grant our partners, for example, a high say in which other counterparties (custodian banks, etc.) they would like to cooperate with for the joint product. In addition, we are one of the few completely independent fund management companies that does not manage its own products as an investment manager and can therefore always act in the best interests of our clients, free of any conflicts of interest. In a highly competitive, almost even saturated market, we consider strong positioning within a niche to be the key to success.
Where do you work more: in your home office, in Morges, in Zurich - or on the train, since you have to commute a lot?
I like to mention that my office is wherever I and my laptop happen to be. In this sense, I am an example of the current mobility of the workplace and emblematic of the working culture at Solufonds. As personal contact and proximity to our employees is particularly important to me, I divide my week between the new offices in Morges and our branch office in Zurich, whereby the requirements of our clients naturally have the highest priority. Due to the positive experience with the home office within our newly established corporate culture, I also allow myself to be in the home office from time to time.
For career starters who are looking at your industry: What are the things to look out for in particular?
The Swiss fund management industry has developed very well in recent years and continues to offer interesting prospects for young professionals. I see this especially for versatile and flexible employees who enjoy working in an ever-evolving industry. If a career starter has no fear of continuous change and is even looking for it, he or she is in exactly the right place in our industry.