«Great achievements are only possible with the most talented individuals.»
Vontobel Asset Management
Patrick Sege is Head of Swiss Intermediary and Sustainable & Thematic Sales at Vontobel Asset Management AG in Zurich. Before joining Vontobel, Patrick gained a doctorate in economics and worked at the US asset management firm Affiliated Managers Group (AMG) as Country Head for Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein with responsibility for business development and client relationship management.
Patrick Sege, what drove you to do what you do today?
Working in sales management at an asset management firm allows me to combine the clear structure of financial theory models with human, behavioural aspects. Having opted to study economics, I’ve always felt at home with numbers, but financial market theory can’t ignore the human psyche. It has a huge influence on markets, and this is investigated, for example, in the field of behavioural finance. Without the human factor, economic models are problematic. This was made clear most recently during the 2008 financial crisis, when many financial market players and managers doggedly kept faith in the absolute accuracy of statistical models, even though human behaviour had already begun to undermine them. On top of this, we in asset management can play a part in addressing the financial needs of an aging population. Pension funds depend on strong and sustainable management of their assets to help their members achieve their aim of a comfortable retirement. We can genuinely add value in this respect.
What does success mean to you?
For me, career success is measured in terms of achieving ambitious goals. I’m a big fan of targets that are easy to understand and measure as they leave little scope for interpretation and are unambiguous in their purpose. If you set your targets clearly enough, it’s easy to tell the difference between success and failure. This means that you can’t hide from failure, but it also means that success is indisputable and demands a just reward. I take a slightly different view when it comes to personal success. The key thing for me here is not attaching too much importance to individual days, which can naturally vary a lot in terms of how happy you feel. Instead, I strive to be fundamentally happy and comfortable with myself in every phase of my life.
What is it that motivates you?
As a performance-oriented person, what really motivates me is continually mastering challenges and achieving goals. One of my biggest motivational factors is delivering results that are equally satisfying for us as a company and for our team members.
What are your guiding/leadership principles?
I’ve read quite a few books on leadership and management over the course of my career, but many of them are superficial and littered with generalisations. They lack any idea of practical implementation. That’s why I was so impressed with “Lessons in Leadership” by Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military. I think the principles he lays down stand out through their practicability. Three in particular remain etched in my mind: 1. The day your troops stop confiding in you is the day you stop being their leader. 2. Listen to the people who “bring in the beans”, not those who merely count them. 3. Organisation alone achieves nothing, and neither do plans. Any endeavour succeeds or fails because of the people involved. Great achievements are only possible with the most talented individuals. In the end, you need to be able to put your strategies into practice in the real world. Colin Powell was head of the US Army, so he can teach us a thing or two here.
What would you ask Warren Buffett over dinner?
Mr Buffett, you’ve been investing actively and with a great deal of success for 50 years, but there are still people who say it’s just luck – after all, a roulette ball in a casino could theoretically land on the same colour 50 times in a row. What do you have to say to them?
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
I’m a passionate golfer, even though I don’t exactly rank among the best with my handicap of 20. Focusing on the ball helps me to live in the moment rather than thinking about the future like I usually do.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today?
I often get asked this question by junior colleagues. My answer is derived from Colin Powell’s principles: get yourself a solid grounding and “bring in the beans”, i.e. concentrate on the core business of an asset manager, for example in portfolio management or distribution. In other words, develop skills that have a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line – that’s where you can add the most value and earn good rewards.
What are you thankful for?
Living in Switzerland. This isn’t just patriotism, it’s also because this country provides an excellent framework for self-determination in my career and my life generally.
What was your favourite subject at school?
This might sound a little stuffy, but it was Latin. It’s often ridiculed as being a useless “dead language”, but it actually combines linguistic creativity with systematic logic. It’s also the linguistic, historical and cultural bedrock of our continent, and there are plenty of valuable things you can learn from it.
What background image do you have on your phone?
My wife and our two children. When work stress threatens to get the better of me, I just look at the picture, and it puts everything in perspective for me.