«Being able to deliver what was promised to investors can be considered as a good gauge of success.»
Head Swiss Equties Team, Mirabaud Asset Management
Paul Schibli is an undeniable expert within the Swiss equities arena, having worked in portfolio management for a variety of renowned firms over his 30-years career. He is currently enjoying success as head of the Swiss Equities team at Mirabaud Asset Management. The division aims to provide investors with a focused range of actively managed investment solutions while attracting and retaining investment talent. In addition to his responsibility as Head of Swiss Equities, Paul is directly responsible for the management of one of Mirabaud Asset Management’s flagship investment solutions: Mirabaud – Equities Swiss Small and Mid. Prior to joining Mirabaud, he worked as an analyst, portfolio manager and Head of Swiss Equities at Zurich Insurance before becoming Head Equity Switzerland at Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management DWS in 2002. His previous experience includes UBS and Swiss Trust Company, where he started his career in 1986. Paul holds a degree in Law from the University of Zurich and is a member of both the AIMR and the SFAA.
Paul Schibli, how do you define success?
Our business is a relative game in which we are required to beat our benchmark! The trick is to manage to beat it systematically on a risk adjusted basis while staying true to an identified investment style. Being able to deliver what was promised to investors can be considered as a good gauge of success. Success also requires and implies a notion of happiness and luck facilitating the delivery of the promised results. I believe Mirabaud Asset Management has managed to maintain this positive spirit alive throughout the years.
Which was your biggest challenge at the beginning of your career?
When you are young, you are ambitious, hungry and eager to climb up the ladder. In that context, finding the right balance between career, friends and family is probably the biggest challenge one faces.
Which person comes to mind when you hear the word “successful / performant”?
Definitely “Roger Federer”. In sport he is inspired and is still one of the best players worldwide at the age of 37. Well done! He is a role model conveying the values of ambition, honesty, determination and hard work to which the new generation should identify. This perception and aura is present not only within the tennis and sport arena but also brought at an international level, propelling Switzerland at the forefront of the scene. Such an extraordinary character has become an ambassador for Switzerland and the values it promotes towards the international community. Hats off!
On which values/principles are based your daily actions decisions?
The principle I strive to comply with is to follow the “investment decision process” I have set-up over the years, I try, as much as possible, to ignore fashions and consensus and follow the approach that has proved successful over the years, while maintaining a clear focus on value preservation and client satisfaction. The Portfolio Manager that will emerge as winners will be the ones having managed to preserve investor capital and thus eliminate the so called “short-fall risk”.
Which main principles do you follow?
In my day to day, I try to manage money rationally and not emotionally. It is like it is! I can’t change it. The rule is to never fall in love with a stock or an idea. Investing means taking the responsibility of the risk until it can be offloaded onto a buyer that will have a different perception/appreciation of the stock and its specificities. I am a firm believer in momentum but, as mentioned earlier, such a positioning requires a very surgical approach to cutting losses. I love growth and as valuation often does not matter that much, I am willing to pay for quality.
Which question would you ask Warren Buffet over dinner?
Should I have the luck of meeting such a prominent figure of the investment world, I would be curious to get answers to the following questions: Frist, how can you hold on to an non performing investment for such an extended period of time without it hindering your conviction or becoming emotionally involved? And second, as you underperformed in the recent and longer investment cycle, do you consider that this is due to the information gap closing since the beginning of the millennial, spurred by the improvement in information technology and as a consequence of stocks being over researched, or are you awaiting a sizable market correction for your approach to outperform once more?
Where do you find balance within your free time?
I love practicing sport so as to keep me healthy and awake. In winter, I like taking advantage of the beautiful mountain environment that Switzerland offers and, as many of my fellow citizens, I like skiing. During the summer, I practice jogging and biking. Golfing is also an activity that I particularly enjoy as it requires patience and humility which are two key attributes to have within the portfolio management activity. I try, as much as possible to combine my interest in sports with my love of travelling that brings exposure to new cultures, people and generally contributes to having an open mindedness that is otherwise difficult to acquire.
What advice would you give to a junior portfolio manager or to your younger self in this position?
That’s a very tricky question as each and every person is different. I would recommend, that he should find and pursue his investment management style that, to some extent, can be assimilated to an art. There are today many different approaches to investing. Some will have a growth or a value bias, some will be momentum driven and some will choose to be contrarian. The truth is that there is no good or bad approach but simply different ones that will answer to the array of investor profiles and market perceptions that can be found in the market place. The key in any approach is to maintain its feet on the ground and be consistent while remaining humble.
What is the most important to you within old age and what is less important?
I have the luxury of evolving within a professional environment that is characterized by a strong entrepreneurial spirit and that provides a certain degree of freedom while advocating the benefits of active management. Health is also of course a key concern for all of us. What I am not concerned about is the perception that people can have about me.
Which book do you read at the moment?
I have read too much and I am still reading hours of analysts’ comments, e-mails, newspaper and professional articles about new investment trends and themes. As a consequence, I do not have much time to dedicate to reading “simple” books. I save all the good books that I want to read for my retirement.
What was your preferred subject at school?
That was quite awhile ago! At the time, I very much enjoyed geography and history lessons as I have always liked to listen and learn about our evolution, other cultures and events that shaped the world in which we evolve. Although more demanding from a learning perspective, I also enjoyed natural sciences lessons. All this is also and obviously a function of the quality of the teacher and the passion that he is capable of conveying as, as always, any exchange or business conducted involve people. We are in a people’s business.