“Blended skills will be vital in asset management going forward to master the challenges of the digital transformation.”
Dr. René Nicolodi
Head of Equities & Themes and Deputy Head of Asset Management at Swisscanto Invest
Together with his team, René Nicolodi is responsible for all fundamental and rule-based liquid equity strategies as well as the private equity business. He has held a number of positions in research and asset management over more than 20 years. René is also Vice-President of Swiss Sustainable Finance and gives lectures on asset management and sustainable finance at various Swiss and foreign universities.
René Nicolodi, what is it that motivates you?
I inherited a keen interest in learning and experiencing new things that was evident from a very young age. This comes with an urge to use what I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained to push the envelope and actively bring about change. I wouldn’t say that I’m only happy when everything’s in flux, but I’m not a fan of maintaining the status quo in the medium to long term. There’s a certain positive tension inherent in the everyday business of financial markets, which makes asset management an environment in which inquisitive people can flourish.
Which values underlie your day-to-day actions, decisions, plans?
I pay particular attention to behaving day to day in a way that’s consistent with my own convictions and what I tell others. I believe it’s essential for leaders to be very consistent and authentic. My colleagues should be able to understand what kind of person I am. For me personally, credibility, respect, and fairness toward others are paramount. People say I have a very analytical decision-making style, but these days I rely more on my intuition, my gut feeling – especially when it comes to HR decisions.
What was the best decision you have taken in your career?
Straight after leaving grammar school and quite by chance, I landed a job in finance. This gave me an early opportunity to amass practical experience in the financial sector throughout my studies. It was an important period that left a lasting impression on me. After I graduated, I chose to specialize in the niche area of sustainable finance and complete a dissertation on the subject in parallel with my job. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this set the tone for my later career. I haven’t regretted it for a single day.
What are your goals – professionally and personally?
I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to concern myself with specific career goals or milestones. I see life as a series of stages, more like a chain of coincidences than a path that can be planned out. It’s much more important to be happy in the here and now. If you try to give your best and put your heart and soul into making things happen along the way, it’s very probable that you’ll grow as a person and move your career forward. This often gives rise to new opportunities that you might never have even thought about before.
What importance do you attach to social media?
Probably too much! I favor LinkedIn over Instagram. Facebook has definitely faded into the background, and TikTok means nothing more to me than the sound a clock makes.
What do you enjoy most in your job, what least?
At its heart, asset management is a people business that involves a lot of specialist knowledge and systematic thought processes. I enjoy this combination, but I enjoy interacting with clients and experts and working with my colleagues even more. It’s fair to say that I’m less enthusiastic about the constraints of bureaucracy and people who aren’t prepared to cooperate.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
My boys aged 11, eight, and six show me what’s important in life every day. They’re more than a balance, they’re my pride and joy. On top of that, I can’t live without regular exercise. It helps me to clear my head after a hard day’s work and gives me time to think about specific ideas in peace. I used to practice traditional team sports, but these days I’m more likely to be found in the woods or the mountains doing endurance training. I’ve been very keen on extreme trail running for the past few years. It sometimes feels like there’s an element of masochism to it. The mix of physical and mental exertion and the natural setting really appeal to me.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or your younger self?
I think a passion for financial markets, a great deal of curiosity, and an intrinsic motivation are what’s needed to build a successful career in asset management, and I’m convinced that that’s not going to change. More specifically, looking to the future, I’d invest in “blended skills” that bridge the gap between financial know-how, an understanding of markets, and technology. The interplay between different skills is increasingly a success factor when it comes to mastering the complex challenges that the industrialization and digitalization of asset management entail.
Who would you like to have lunch or dinner with?
I’d like to invite my grandfather to an indulgent dinner. He was born in Italy in 1892 and died before I was born in the 1970s. He lived through the industrial transformation, survived one world war as a soldier and another as a father, and experienced incredible changes in society, business, and technology. I’m sure it would be an exciting and informative evening with the family over a glass or two of fine wine and a plate of freshly made pasta.
What is more important to you as you get older, and what is less important?
I think that I’m able to say “no” a little more quickly nowadays because I’m a busy man, and I value my time more. At the same time, you get more relaxed with age. You no longer feel the need to chase every new trend, and you don’t fly into a panic at the first sign of a crisis. I suppose you can call it resilience. On the other hand, I sometimes fear that my creativity and flair for innovation are waning as I get older. I see continuing education as a vital tool for actively fighting that, staying mentally fit, and understanding the world of tomorrow better or at least for a little longer.
Which childhood memory has left a lasting impression on you?
I grew up in Wiedikon, a neighborhood in the city of Zurich. It’s not quite a melting pot to the same extent as Berlin’s Kreuzberg, but my own cultural roots and the multicultural backdrop of District 3 certainly helped to shape me – and not just my devotion to the local football club at the nearby Letzigrund stadium. Even now, my closest friends are people I knew growing up. That makes me appreciate diversity in all its aspects, both privately and in my work.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been a fan of the travelogue genre for many years. At the moment, I’m re-reading “The Soccer War” by Richard Kapuscinski. It’s a short but powerful account of the events surrounding the brief conflict between Honduras and El Salvador in the aftermath of a qualifying match for the 1970 World Cup. Also sitting on my bedside table, as yet unread, is “Deep Adaptation” by Jem Bendell. I’m not expecting that to be a fun read.