"An asset manager has only two options: cheap beta or active quality management"
CEO Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management
Christophe Caspar joined the Edmond de Rothschild Group in November 2018 as Deputy CEO of Asset Management in charge of investment activities for the Group. He was appointed Head of Group's Asset Management in March 2019. Prior to joining the Edmond de Rothschild Group, Christophe was Head of Investments at Pictet Wealth Management. From 1999 to 2016, he held various positions at Russell Investments where he served as CIO for the Japan market, and later on CIO for the entire Asia Pacific region (including Japan, Singapore and Australia). In 2009, he was appointed Global CIO Multi-Assets. He also, simultaneously, held the role of CIO EMEA at Russell Investments, based in London.
Christophe Caspar is a CFA Charterholder and holds an Msc in Management from the ESC Reims and a post graduate degree from the Royal Holloway of the University of London.
Mr. Caspar, what in your view are the driving forces for a thriving asset management industry in Switzerland?
Switzerland has a long tradition in being home to sophisticated investors from across the world. To cater for their needs, the country has had to develop a high standard of expertise in managing assets and designing investment solutions. Favourable regulation also continues to anchor Switzerland as the preferred location for many asset managers. Ensuring its international reach will help the asset management industry in Switzerland to maintain its position in an increasingly competitive market. As Switzerland is also a leading location for private banking, this creates a strong synergy with asset management activities. I have been living in Switzerland for several years and I am always impressed by the dynamism of this market and its sophistication. Talent, expertise, innovation and favourable regulation are all assets for this market, which, alongside France & Germany, is one of our key markets.
Besides ESG and Sustainability: What are the major developments in Swiss asset management and offerings?
ESG has indeed become essential in recent years and I want to mention two important areas of development: private markets and active management. In Switzerland, but also more generally in Europe, we are seeing an increased appetite for private markets. Private markets allow investors to position themselves over a long-term horizon and to protect themselves against sudden reactions to market events. Our strength is that we have anticipated the importance of private markets and so been able to offer our clients solutions with substantial track-records that cover Private Equity, Real Estate (debt and equity) and Infra debt. Investments in private markets are part of the family’s DNA, which is reflected in the Group’s truly entrepreneurial spirit. This choice is not the result of inflation, a financial crisis or a recent trend, but is born from a desire to reconcile long-term performance and sustainability for over 10 years already. Furthermore, the complex environment and increased demand for sustainability strengthens active management. An asset manager only has two real options left; to do cheap beta, or true quality active management, with proprietary research and strong convictions. We have chosen the latter. Edmond de Rothschild’s investment offering specialises in conviction-driven investment themes that help address current environmental and social challenges, while achieving long-term value for our clients.
Where do you see the most room for improvement of the Swiss asset management industry as a whole to be more competitive?
Switzerland has always been a leading European hub for asset management. The country’s pragmatic approach to the challenges of the past two years that saw limited restrictions, at least compared to other European countries, has helped Switzerland strengthen its position as a business location, especially for asset managers. A key strength of the Swiss asset management industry has traditionally been private markets’ strategies. Going forward, a balanced offering across liquid and illiquid strategies will allow the industry to best respond to dynamic market conditions. Promoting expertise in sustainable investments and expanding these further presents a great opportunity for the Swiss asset management industry.
The term innovation covers a large area: How would you define innovation for your activities at Edmond de Rothschild?
Innovation is in our DNA. It is the cornerstone and the driving force of our Group. We always search for innovative solutions to answer the current and future challenges of investors. As far back as 1985, we launched our first thematic equity fund on the theme of health. We also launched various fixed income strategies more than 20 years ago, establishing us as a pioneer in high yield & convertible bonds. We are proving it again this year. Very soon, we will offer an innovative investment solution on Physical Gold and two new European equity strategies. We are also launching a fund on the Metaverse for the Spanish market. In Private Markets, we are also at the forefront of innovation. We constantly develop strategies that provide concrete solutions for a changing world: from food technology and security, investments in family SMEs in Africa, financing affordable housing, green infrastructure in Europe, soil remediation or the circular economy. Our offer is constantly renewed.
Do you see differences in asset management culture in Geneva from Zurich?
What drives the agenda in asset management is always the requirements of investors. The investor landscape typically covered from Zurich is dominated by some of the largest players in the country. On the wholesale side, this means that strategies need to be suitable for integration into retail products. Meanwhile, Geneva is characterised by a broad base of family offices and private banks. Ultimately, all investors - including pension funds - are looking for the same things: innovative solutions, strong convictions and value over the long term.
How do you deal with recruiting challenges in Switzerland?
We have a culture of excellence, openness, innovation and independence. These are essential criteria in attracting the best talent. The strength of our brand is also an undeniable asset. Our Swiss sales team has recently attracted several new joiners. Birgit Haas was appointed as Head of Distribution Switzerland one year ago. Previously she was at GSAM. She leads the Asset Management sales teams in Switzerland and is responsible for developing our business in the institutional, distribution and multi-family office segments. More recently, Dominik Horngacher and Laura Bourcier joined the sales team in Zurich and Geneva respectively. Their experience in the financial sector and their in-depth knowledge of investment strategies are key assets for strengthening client relations.
You are CEO of the Asset Management at Edmond de Rothschild: What is your focus in your daily activities?
As CEO of Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management, my role is to set us on a successful course and ensure everyone is working together towards that common goal. Every day, I meet with talented staff from different business lines and clients in different countries to understand their needs and to share the vision of the Group. It is important for me to meet with our employees regularly, to understand their daily lives and share my strategy with them. I am also a member of the Group Executive Committee, which gives me the opportunity to share my vision of Asset Management with the members of the Executive Committee.
Where do you find space to wind down after a period of working hard?
In the winter, I like to go to the little ski resort of La Tzoumaz in the Valais. In the summer, I love navigating different seas and oceans of the world.