“If you stop running, you have already lost.”
Head of Asset Management, Bellecapital, Zurich
Christian Kürsteiner heads up the asset management unit of Bellecapital, a wealth and asset manager with CHF 3.5 billion in assets under management and 41 employees in Zurich and London. He is also responsible for acquiring and serving institutional clients. He was previously in charge of building up portfolio management operations at Bellecapital’s SEC-registered unit and held various sales positions at Barclays Investment Bank in London and Zurich. To Christian, it is also important to commit time to young students by organizing an annual summer internship at Bellecapital and acting as a student mentor.
Christian Kürsteiner, what was the best decision you have taken in your career?
Always being open to change. If you stop running, you have already lost. The partners at Bellecapital, for example, have repeatedly offered me new challenges that I have gladly taken on. When I first joined the company, I built up and ran portfolio management operations at its SEC-registered unit for US clients. When Bellecapital bought GL Funds in 2016 and thus entered the asset management business, I was tasked with integrating and restructuring the acquired company together with the team. Now, I am responsible for running and growing this business. Being receptive to change has enabled me to learn a great deal in every phase of my career and continually develop my capabilities.
What is it that motivates you?
My passion for what I do and my ambition to make the best out of my life. I have to say that the meritocratic notion and self-responsibility are deeply rooted in me. I believe that we all create our own luck, so I try to make the best of every situation. For instance, when a redundancy round put my time at Barclays to an end in 2012, I consciously saw this as an opportunity to take stock of my life and recharge my batteries. I spent a month in Cadiz brushing up on my Spanish and did some temporary work on a few M&A projects for an alternative energy project developer in Germany. Then I joined Bellecapital at the start of 2014.
Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”?
People like Roger Federer and Warren Buffett immediately come to mind, but I firmly believe that success means giving your all to achieve the best possible results, whatever your situation. If you are certain that you have done your best, that gives you satisfaction, and you can be at ease with yourself – even if the outcome does not live up to all your expectations because of outside influences that are beyond your control. In my opinion, anyone who lives by this principle is successful.
What are your guiding/leadership principles?
As asset managers, it is our job to add value for our clients, which entails putting fresh ideas into practice and providing top-quality services. This means that all members of the team, from the portfolio managers to the middle office and sales staff, have to harness their full potential, take responsibility for their role, contribute ideas, listen to everyone else with an open mind, and be prepared to keep on learning. I think it is important to maintain a positive “can-do” attitude. Problems are there to be solved.
What drove you to do what you do today?
As a small boy, I collected Panini stickers for the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy and haggled with my classmates in the schoolyard to trade the players I had two of for the ones I was still missing. This sort of economic interaction has fascinated me ever since: how can I create a win-win situation and seal the deal?
Which problems should politicians and authorities urgently address?
General financial education needs to be drastically improved so that people are better equipped to make decisions about their finances. Topics like compound interest, filling out your tax return, drawing up a household budget and the system of retirement provisions should be firmly embedded in the curriculum, ideally starting in primary school. This knowledge would put young people in a much better position, for example, to engage in the debate on the sustainable setup of the state and occupational pension systems.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
I spend time with my family and friends, go jogging or play tennis, read books of all genres, and enjoying cooking and eating, together with the occasional glass of wine. I also like to travel, which will hopefully be possible again soon. That said, I think it is important to just do nothing from time to time and get lost in your thoughts.
What can you not do without?
Besides my health, social interaction with other people.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today?
Most of my advice would echo what I have already said. Follow your passion, always give your best, be ready to learn and open to change and opportunities – ideally where there is not much competition. You should also decide whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist. That said, I do not think either choice is necessarily better than the other, it rather depends on the individual.
What is your favorite travel destination?
I love traveling, and I enjoy discovering new places and coming into contact with people from different cultures. If I had to choose one favorite, it would be New York. This vibrant, multicultural city with its skyscrapers, vast Central Park, and highly diverse neighborhoods has captivated me ever since my first visit. A place I would really like to go to one day is the East Coast of Australia, partly just to see the amazing Sydney Opera House and watch some tennis at the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam event I have not yet attended.
Which childhood memory has left a lasting impression on you?
My year as an exchange student in Canada while I was in high school. It was an adventure that allowed me to find my way without my parents in a new country with a different culture and mentality, forge new friendships, and immerse myself in that country’s society. To this day, I still keep in touch with the family I stayed with and my best friends from back then, and I still benefit from the experience and insights I gained during that time.
What famous person would you like to meet?
I would love to have a chat with Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. I find his independent way of thinking inspiring, and I think we can learn a lot from his experience.