"Peace is essential for sustainable development"
Managing Partner at Mirabaud Group, CEO Mirabaud Asset Management
Lionel Aeschlimann is Managing Partner at Mirabaud Group and CEO of Mirabaud Asset Management. The lawyer joined the Geneva-based private banking group at the beginning of 2010 and became Managing Partner one year later. Aeschlimann had previously been a partner at the law firm Schellenberg Wittmer in Geneva for around 15 years.
From being a partner in a large law firm to Managing Partner in a Geneva private bank: How did this happen? What was the appeal of Asset Management for you?
I had a slightly unconventional path into my current role. As you mentioned, before joining the Mirabaud Group as Managing Partner, I was heading up the banking and finance department at a law firm. While the company expanded rapidly, growing from six partners and nine lawyers to a firm with 240 people, moving to Mirabaud enabled me to harness my entrepreneurial spirit and control the direction of the business.Upon my arrival at Mirabaud, one of my first tasks was to split the organisation into business lines, away from the existing regional structure. It was at this point we set in motion the development of Mirabaud Asset Management. Mirabaud needed no introduction in the wealth management space, established in 1819 and with its dedication to client service renowned in the industry. We truly believed we could replicate this passion and commitment in creating a standalone pure play asset management business.As for the appeal of asset management, we understand the positive difference this industry has on people’s futures. Being entrusted with the responsibility to manage institutional and retirement money is not something we ever take lightly, which is why we are incredibly pleased to have built a business with so much exceptional and diverse talent over the past decade.
In those roughly ten years at Mirabaud Asset Management: What are the biggest changes in the industry you had to adapt to?
We had a blank sheet of paper when establishing Mirabaud Asset Management, which meant we could design our business with all eyes on the future. For example, being at the forefront of technology was a major focus, as evidenced by the fact we were one of the first asset managers to fully take advantage of cloud-based technology. As you can imagine, this was extremely beneficial when Covid-19 forced the whole world to work remotely. We also thought a lot about what kind of asset manager we wanted to be, and it is not surprising we decided to become true active managers, and fully embrace ESG – harnessing the Mirabaud Group’s longstanding history of sustainability. In addition to becoming one of the earliest signatories to the UN PRI, which has now become commonplace, from the outset of Mirabaud Asset Management we made the integration of non-financial criteria an integral part of our investment processes. It is extremely pleasing to note the industry has now moved more towards our thinking in this respect.
You share your passion for Asset Management with the one for contemporary art. Are there similarities of the two?
With a 200-year history of managing the wealth of clients, we know better than most that it is not just money that is passed down through the generations – it is culture. Art connects us to our emotions and spirituality and has the capacity to make us think deeper about humanity and the world. You require strong convictions when managing money, and you also need humility to be able to adapt if the variables change.A capacity for curiosity is at the heart of a good asset manager, and artists – contemporary artists, in particular – share the same quality. They have the ability to look at the world differently and provide unique perspectives. Contemporary artists remind us we need to keep our eyes open and be ready to be surprised and astonished by the ever-changing aspects of life.
The Mirabaud Contemporary Art Collection is outstanding: Is it also a strategic asset for Mirabaud for example for client loyalty?
For Mirabaud, our art collection is not a strategic asset as it is not something we will ever sell. It is essentially a statement of our values – it is a good reflection of who we are and what we care about. We are committed to supporting artists and promoting one of the aspects that truly enhances society.
Mirabaud is known for its Private Banking. What is the importance and benefit of the Asset Management for the strategy of the bank?
As I alluded to earlier, the establishment of an asset management division was a natural extension of our business. The two business lines have a natural synergy and collaborate with one another inherently. The expertise, knowledge and ideas of our investment specialists on the asset management side, directly feed into and inform our Wealth Management professionals. This in turn, reinforces our keen focus on client relationship and quality of service. This is particularly clear when you look to our Private Assets capabilities. This initiative has been spearheaded by experts within our Asset Management business but is also a clear strategic product for our Wealth Management arm.
Clients are demanding more and more responsible investments. How has Mirabaud integrated ESG in its investment processes?
We understood the power of incorporating ESG considerations in our investment processes at the outset of Mirabaud Asset Management. There is no longer a world of pure finance – where you can simply ignore environmental, social and governance risks. Traditional financial metrics and ESG considerations are two sides of the same coin. In addition to positive and negative screening, we have long understood the tremendous potential in engagement. By partnering with companies and stakeholders to improve ESG-related practices, we are convinced we can deliver better outcomes for investors over the long term. But we understand we are on a journey, there remains insufficient sustainability data in many areas, and we know there is a lot more work the industry as a whole must undertake over the next five or ten years.
Switzerland wants to be a leading hub for sustainable finance: Where does Switzerland in your opinion stand today?
Switzerland can play a major role in the expansion of sustainable finance. It is already a global financial hub, with a diverse multicultural workforce. It is also home to the International Red Cross and more than 150 other leading international development organisations and NGOs. These organisations are crucial in helping to promote a better world, so it makes sense for Switzerland to capitalise on its strong traditions and foundations in the financial space to also be a driving force for responsibility and sustainability. We also understand the role financial firms have in the wider community, which is why the Mirabaud Group has worked closely with international peacebuilding organisation Interpeace for the past 11 years. Peace is essential for sustainable development, and we are proud to support this organisation as it looks to further promote stability, growth and prosperity in many parts of the world.
ESG and Sustainability are global investment trends: How can Switzerland differentiate from the international competition?
It is not so much about differentiation, in my view, it is more about utilising the strong foundations Switzerland has established in finance and international development to be a leader in ESG and sustainability circles. Switzerland combines this world-renowned financial centre with its global hub for multilateralism, and thereby is the perfect ecosystem to connect finance and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Overall, it is essential that global capital flows to areas on the right side of change.