«By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.»
EFG Asset Management
Patrick Zbinden is Global Co-Head of EFG Asset Management and CEO of EFGAM Switzerland. The division operates across five jurisdictions and manages over CHF 22 billion of assets for both private and institutional clients through discretionary mandates and the New Capital funds franchise.
Patrick Zbinden, what does success mean to you?
Success doesn’t mean much when qualified by social or financial status. To me, success is a quest, and it’s multi-dimensional. It means engaging in activities a) that you are passionate about, b) where you excel, c) which are meaningful and add value to society and d) for which you can make a comfortable living. This is what the Japanese refer to as ikigai. Few people engage their career in activities that meet all those criteria; the ones that do can call themselves successful.
Do you regret any of your decisions?
I try not to. Few decisions are obviously wrong or obviously right – and those are in any case the easy ones to make. For all other decisions, you’ll only know their consequences after the fact, and you’ll never know what might have been if you’d chosen differently. I therefore favour self-determination over regret – if you’re unhappy with the outcome of a decision, simply take another one to change the course of action. Too often, people wait too long before taking a decision or don’t act after taking a bad one. A trial-and-error process allows you to move faster and eventually leads to a better outcome.
What are your guiding/leadership principles?
I believe in a culture of trust and empowerment, with clear organisational structures but limited hierarchy. Leadership should manifest itself by example rather than by authority. Quality of ideas should always prevail over politics, and strategic goals should always prevail over day-to-day issues. Work structures and processes should be agile, and innovation should be the driving consideration. Leaders should provide support to their teams to enable them to perform and should set their own focus on execution.
What would you ask Warren Buffett if you were to meet him for dinner?
There would be many things I’d like to ask! I recently read that, when asked what had been his best investment, he replied, “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself,” which I thought was a very good answer.
What problems should politicians and authorities tackle quickly?
Closing inequality gaps, addressing environmental issues and adapting to transformational technology changes will be the big challenges of this century, as these will be trigger causes for pretty much all other serious issues. This will require deep changes in our collective mindset and behaviours. Politicians and authorities can only do so much, and they certainly can’t do it quickly, but they should focus their efforts on setting up frameworks and taking measures that go in the direction of addressing these overarching challenges.
What is your favourite travel destination in Switzerland or abroad?
It would be too difficult to pick just one! My wife and I are active travellers and enjoy visiting new places. For nature and scenery, our favourite destinations would be Namibia, Greenland and the Galapagos Islands, for people it would be Cuba and Myanmar, for food it would be Southern Europe and Japan, for road trips it would be New Zealand, Hawaii and Canada, and to relax for a week our choice would set on a Greek island or the Maldives. For everything else and as an all-round place to live and be, Switzerland is definitely hard to beat.
What is more important to you as you get older, and what is less important?
Being grateful for what you have and for where you live, for people in your life and for being healthy, the importance of enjoying the moment, the importance of giving and sharing: all of these are things I didn’t understand as much as a young adult as I do now. As I grow older, I try to simplify my life by worrying less about the smaller things, my attention – and thankfully also my frustrations – become more selective, and I increasingly attach more importance to experiences than to possessions.
What can you not do without in your life?
Sadly, my smartphone! But I wish I could provide a different answer…I still need to work on this. On a more serious note, I could probably not live for very long without learning. Be it smaller or bigger things, learning is the engine of life.
What is your favourite anti-depressant?
Golf and wine. Preferably in that order!
What book are you currently reading?
I tend to buy my books at airports, so I haven’t bought a new one for a while! I took the opportunity to re-read a couple of books that I find brilliant and thought-provoking. “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling gives a very different perspective on the world through facts and numbers, and “You are the Universe” by Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos challenges the usual definitions of the origin and meaning of consciousness, at the intersection of science and spirituality.