«Capital markets reflect trends in society.»
Baloise Asset Management
Stephan Kamps has been Head of Portfolio Management in Baloise’s Asset Management division since 2017. He began his career in asset management with Winterthur Insurance and later ran his own asset management business. He now heads teams responsible for the Baloise insurance group’s own-account investments as well as all external clients’ investments in day-to-day business. Stephan also plays an active role in developing Baloise Asset Management as a member of its executive management. The division employs around 80 experienced investment experts and offers a wide range of products and services to help private and institutional investors and pension funds achieve their financial goals.
Stephan Kamps, what was the best decision you took in your career?
My career reached an important turning point in 2006, when my employer at the time was taken over by a French insurer. It quickly became clear that the asset management business in its original form would cease to exist. I took this opportunity to persuade the CIO that, rather than just letting the specialist asset management know-how we’d spent years building up go to waste, we should set up an independent asset management firm. We officially started in 2007 – right before the financial crisis. The broad experience I was able to amass during this time helps me today in my current task of turning Baloise Asset Management into a leading player in Switzerland.
What is it that motivates you?
I enjoy developing new concepts and building things, especially as part of a team. The financial markets – and asset management in particular – are fertile ground for me in this respect. The asset management industry is currently in the midst of sweeping changes, with the digital transformation gathering pace, automation on the rise, and new business models emerging. It gives me great satisfaction to play an active part in these change processes at Baloise.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career to date?
The biggest challenge was definitely starting an independent, fully regulated asset management business shortly before the financial crisis broke out. We built the company up from nothing and managed clients’ assets through one of the biggest economic crises in history. It was hard work, and I learned a great deal.
Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”?
I don’t think of a specific individual, I think of a type of person. Really successful people are the ones who have a passion for what they do, who don’t give up when setbacks happen but stay the course and reach a very high level in their field over time.
What are your guiding/leadership principles?
I don’t really like the term “leadership principles”. For me, it implies that staff always want or indeed need to be led, but that’s not the case in my experience. We work in a very knowledge-intensive industry with very highly qualified people. Our staff deserve to have a say in how things are done. It’s more about encouraging people to be responsible for themselves within a defined strategy than direct leadership on a day-to-day basis. I see it as my job to create an environment in which everyone takes as much responsibility as possible for their own contribution to implementing the strategy. This, in my opinion, means that everyone treats each other with respect in an atmosphere of mutual trust, creating a basis for open, honest cooperation in which each person can bring his or her abilities to bear as effectively as possible. That’s my guiding principle, and it’s how we work right across the Baloise Group.
What drove you to do what you do today?
My fascination for capital markets, particularly stock markets, started when I was still quite young. This interest eventually led me to opt for a degree in economics. I think capital markets reflect trends and shifts in society, and I’ve always found the task of identifying these trends and profiting from them via capital markets exciting. It became clear to me quite quickly that I wanted to turn my hobby into a career.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
Die Familie ist quasi immer ein Ausgleich. Family is almost always the key to that balance. I also enjoy getting plenty of exercise – that means swimming in the lake or jogging during the summer and mostly skiing in the winter.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or your younger self?
I don’t believe there’s just one route into asset management. That’s an advantage compared with other fields like medicine. You either become a doctor, or you don’t. However, I’ve met a lot of doctors who went on to work in asset management as analysts or portfolio managers... These days, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a grounding in natural sciences or technology and then complement this later on with specialist training. Our industry is becoming more and more mature, and technology is playing an ever greater role throughout the value chain. As a result, analysts and portfolio managers increasingly need to work with other links in that chain, so they have to be team players with good social skills.
What are you thankful for?
In terms of my career, I’ve been lucky enough so far to do exactly what I was interested in. I’ve also met a lot of fascinating people from whom I could learn. I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful that my children are growing up in a country like Switzerland, where so many opportunities are open to them.
What do you do on a short break?
I often work on presentations on the train because I’m less distracted there. Of course, I always have something to read, or I can just get lost in my thoughts. I’ve had one or two good ideas that way.
What was your favourite subject at school?
My favourite subject was social science. We discussed important issues in current affairs like disarmament treaties. While I was at school, there were demonstrations against Pershing II missiles being stationed in Germany. Social sciences helped me get to grips with topics like this and made them relatable.
If you could choose any country, where would you like to live and why?
If I could choose anywhere, it would have to be a country with a beautiful coastline. I generally enjoy being by, in or on the water. I’m a big fan of Europe, so it would have to be a European country on the Mediterranean.