Unigestion, the race of my life
Group Deputy CEO, Unigestion, Geneva
Régis Martin is Group Deputy CEO at Unigestion, an independent asset manager offering investors around the world innovative, bespoke solutions for private equity, equities, and liquid alternative investments. The company currently has more than CHF 20 billion in assets under management. With its head office in Geneva, Unigestion’s global reach encompasses Europe, North America, and Asia. Régis has also been Chairman of the Asset Management Association Switzerland’s Alternative Investment Council since 2018. The expert committee aims to promote alternative investments in Switzerland, e.g. through conferences, media presence, and discussions with authorities and foreign associations.
Régis Martin, what was the best decision you have taken in your career?
Never leaving Unigestion! It’s only now, answering this question, that I realize how true this is. I can’t remember ever thinking about leaving this company that I’ve now been with for 27 years.
What is it that motivates you?
I like making things happen, playing a part in bringing projects to fruition or solving problems, sometimes complex ones. I like dealing with multiple situations at the same time, switching between different topics while remaining available to everyone who needs me as much as I can. I enjoy listening to people, sharing my views, experience, and ideas – ideally within a group. That’s the case, for example, at our regular Alternative Investment Council meetings. There’s always something new to learn if you’re trying to achieve a shared goal.
What was the biggest challenge you faced at the start of your career?
It was probably living up to the responsibility I was given as a very young CFO with little experience in the fund business. I didn’t really know how to delegate at the start because, up to then, I’d always had a good idea of what needed to be done, so I tended just to do it myself. It seemed easier that way – at least until the day it dawned on me that I needed to surround myself with people who are even better than me. That would allow me to grow and learn about more areas of asset management.
Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”?
Speaking personally, I don’t believe in individual success in the world of business. Experience, know-how or hard work can make you very successful at performing tasks, but real success comes more often as part of a team or working together with someone you can bounce ideas off to make the most informed decisions possible. I always say that you’re much better at thinking and making the right decisions with others, especially people you’ve been working with for decades as I have with Bernard Sabrier and Fiona Frick.
Which values underlie your day-to-day actions, decisions, plans?
Hard work, perseverance, trust, and loyalty. I rely heavily on experience and common sense, and I always try to ask myself whether a particular action or decision is good for the company. If I have any doubts, I don’t hesitate to seek advice.
What drove you to do what you do today?
It’s all about circumstances. I was lucky enough to join a company that has weathered successive financial crises and upheavals in asset management by evolving and reinventing itself. I very quickly won the founder’s trust, so I was able to be involved in most of these changes and even led some of them. It’s always been highly motivating to keep moving. It’s a bit like running a marathon: it should go well if you’ve trained properly, but there are always unforeseen circumstances you have to deal with.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
Sports. For a start, I was an avid golfer for over 20 years and got my handicap down to six. Then I got into endurance sports, which I’ve trained for four to five times a week for more than six years now. I’ve run eight marathons so far, and I have been training for triathlon in the past two years. I can tell you that learning to swim at the age of 50 wasn’t easy!
What can you not do without?
My family. I have a wife and two children, and they motivate me to come home every evening and to switch off at weekends and on vacation. Challenging myself physically through sports is also important to me. People tend to fear this “little” stress on a race starting line, but it’s a reminder that nothing comes easily and that you have to keep at it, especially if you’ve been training hard. Getting to the 18th hole with a good score or crossing the finish line with a good time feels very rewarding indeed.
What are you thankful for?
The fact that my loved ones and I are in good health. Aside from a few injuries (sports-related, of course), I’ve kept in pretty decent shape on the whole. I’m also very lucky to have made lasting friendships at university that are still going strong to this day. We’ve never lost touch, and that closeness is something money can’t buy.
Which childhood memory has left a lasting impression on you?
When I was 14, my father came home one day with a personal computer. It was a Commodore VIC-20, which had to be hooked up to the TV. I have no idea how many nights I spent coding from that day until I was about 18. It was a great passion of mine, but one that took up vast amounts of time. I almost flunked high school because of it, and my parents were very concerned. After a few years, it stopped of its own accord when I chose to attend the University of Lausanne’s Faculty of Business and Economics rather than study IT at EPFL. I won’t tell you why I changed my mind at the last minute, but the reason turned out to be rather inconsequential...
What is your favorite anti-depressant?
Taking in the landscape, especially when it’s spectacularly beautiful. I love looking out into the distance, and I always try to capture what I see in photos. Unfortunately, I often find the results disappointing because it’s hard to convey how a beautiful landscape makes you feel. That said, it’s always a very relaxing process.
What do you do on a short journey?
Once I’ve read my work e-mails and made a few phone calls, I dive into Twitter, Instagram, and Strava J. I mainly follow sportspeople and media covering the sports I practice myself. I don’t usually spend much time on professional websites when I’m traveling. I might take a quick look at LinkedIn, but that’s a lot less interesting.