«What I especially like about data management is the mix of technology, data and a broad range of different market players.»
Swiss Fund Data AG
Erika Kessler acts as CEO of Swiss Fund Data AG in Zurich since 2011. She was previously in charge of the “Transparency in the Fund Market” (TIF) project at SIX Group. Erika has over 20 years’ experience in the fund business. Swiss Fund Data is a non-profit company providing the Swiss fund industry with a wide range of services supported by its extensive database. It supplies data, announcements and all kinds of documents about investment funds to investors free of charge, thus increasing market transparency.
Erika Kessler, what was the best decision you took in your career?
Staying true to my product and my company. Over the course of 20 years and with three different firms, I’ve always remained dedicated to the same product and continually honed my expertise. I’ve worked my way through all functions from helpdesk operator to executive manager. Had I given in to the spontaneous urge to try something different in the past two decades, I’d never have gained the breadth and depth of knowledge that I now enjoy thanks to Swiss Fund Data and our product. Being in the job for so long also means that I have lots of colleagues I’ve known for years, and I love working with people I see as friends.
Have you ever regretted a career decision?
Generally speaking, there isn’t much I regret because I’m the kind of person who always makes decisions after considering all possible outcomes, and I prefer to look forward rather than back. There’s perhaps one thing I could mention: I’ve never worked abroad. In retrospect, I’d change that if I could. That said, I make up for it these days by travelling all over the world.
Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”?
It might sound clichéd, but Roger Federer. I grew up in Basel, and I remember well how a talented and precocious young player would frequently throw his racket into the net, against the wall or onto the floor at the Old Boys Tennis Club. His energy was immense but almost uncontrollable, and it fizzled out without bringing any success on court. He was assigned a mental coach, who helped him to focus that energy and put it all into his game. That’s when his career really got going. The rest, as they say, is history. I’m still astonished not only by his sporting achievements, but also by the fact that he’s kept some of that young lad’s enjoyment of the game in him, how charitable he is and how he remains dedicated to his family and friends amid all the success. For me, he’s a true role model.
Which values underlie your day-to-day actions, decisions, plans?
Respect, empathy, honesty and authenticity are paramount in both my private life and my work. I’m a people person, and I try to treat everyone the way I’d like to be treated myself. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Even in a conflict situation, we can be respectful and honest with each other. I also believe that “we” comes before “I”. How sad would the world be if we were all just out for ourselves? Collectively, we’re stronger, more inventive and happier.
If you were having dinner with Warren Buffett, what question would you ask him?
Only one? I’d have so many, Mr Buffett would be lucky to get a word in... Why did he become an investor in the first place? How has his investment style developed/changed through the decades? Were there times when he doubted his strategy or even lost his motivation and thought about doing something else? It would also be fascinating to learn a thing or two about what makes him tick.
What importance do you attach to social media?
In private, virtually none. I’m not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I don’t feel the need to communicate where I am and what I’m up to all the time. I’d rather just enjoy the moment. I prefer to talk about my life with my family and friends in person. I only use LinkedIn to manage my business contacts. As regards my job, we get a lot of traffic on the website www.swissfunddata.ch, and we post on social media in parallel with this where appropriate.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
I’m not the sort of person who has one main hobby and gets obsessive about it. I like doing lots of different things: skiing, hiking, jogging, driving classic cars, travelling, watching films, having a cosy glass of wine with friends at home, spending time with my family and cooking for them.
What is your favourite travel destination?
As far as Switzerland’s concerned, I really enjoy spending time in the Upper Engadin. I love being up in the mountains, and I often hit the ski slopes on the Corviglia. When it comes to foreign destinations, I’m particularly fascinated by landscapes that can’t be found in Switzerland. Off the top of my head, I can name two must-see places: Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the world’s largest salt flat, and Sossusvlei in Namibia, a salt and clay pan surrounded by vast red sand dunes. Both have something unreal and magical about them, and their beauty took my breath away.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for many things: the fact that I was born in Switzerland and have been able to lead such a privileged life here; that my parents let me choose my own path and always supported me; that I can afford to go on amazing trips; that I have such a wonderful husband, family, friends and colleagues; and – given the current situation – that I’m in good health, something I wish for everyone right now. Stay safe and healthy!
What is your favourite food?
I basically love food, and I enjoy eating anything from a humble sausage salad to a 12-course gourmet dinner. My favourite cuisine is from Piedmont in Italy. We make a short “pilgrimage” there every year, and even at home we often eat a carne cruda of Fassone beef with truffles, followed by tajarin al ragù with a glass or two of fine Barbera or Barolo. I like the simplicity of Piedmont dishes and the top-quality ingredients they use.
Do you play a musical instrument?
I used to... I played keyboards in a band in my late teens. We grew apart, and I stopped playing. Since then, I’ve been more of a listener than a performer.
What background picture do you have on your phone?
My husband wearing an old-fashioned mechanic’s overall. We’re big fans of classic cars and have one of our own. Two years ago, we drove at the Goodwood Revival, one of the biggest and best known events on the classic racing calendar. Everyone turns up in period costume from the golden age of motoring – my husband in his overalls and me in a petticoat. It was great fun, and that’s where I took the picture.