20 years of Marcuard Heritage: A retrospective
In early September, we’ll be gathering in Zurich to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It will be a special moment to reflect on two decades of service to our loyal clients, pay tribute to our dedicated team, and express gratitude to our valued partners.
Twenty years ago, our founders started with a vision to build an independent wealth management company fully focused on the client’s best interests. That entrepreneurial spirit is still alive today. To mark this special milestone, we sat down with two of our founders, Sinan Bodmer and Adrian Guldener, to look back on the past and forward to the future.
“The idea of professional independence often comes to those who feel somewhat constrained by overly hierarchical structures. That’s how I felt.”
The right decision
Leaving the stability of a large financial institution for the uncertainty of independent wealth management isn’t a decision many would take lightly. It’s a risky move. Something substantial has to drive you to take that step. Twenty years ago, Sinan Bodmer and Adrian Guldener were two colleagues with a similar outlook: They both liked their employer but felt the bank was holding them back – and that there was a better way.
“The idea of professional independence often comes to those who feel somewhat constrained by overly hierarchical structures. That’s how I felt,” says Adrian. “I wouldn’t have missed my years at the bank, but looking back now, I’m glad I made that decision.”
“The bank was great, but it was only one bank,” adds Sinan. “You can only work with that bank’s products, but they aren’t always the right fit for the client. I felt I wasn’t able to provide the best services – I couldn’t access the best solutions to meet their needs. As an independent wealth manager, I could look at the bigger picture – understand each client’s unique situation and long-term objectives, and act accordingly. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Believing in yourself
Together with Hans-Joerg Rudloff, the three Swiss bankers founded Marcuard Heritage in 2003. They believed in their business model, but the move wasn’t an immediate success. There were challenges to overcome.
“We had to convince our clients that we were in this for the long haul,” says Sinan. “There was a lot of wavering, which was understandable. A bank feels firm and dependable. The idea of independence sounded shaky to some of them.”
“On top of that, the bank we left refused to work with us,” adds Adrian. “Which wasn’t a big surprise, but it meant that we not only had to convince clients of our approach to asset management but also get them to move their assets away from what was the number one bank in the world at the time.”
Despite facing this uphill battle, they trusted their instincts and believed in themselves.
“We believed in what we were doing and in doing the best we could,” says Sinan. “We stuck to our values of honesty, integrity, and trust – and, ultimately, it paid off.”
“After about three years, we knew our model was the right one and that our company would thrive,” says Adrian. “Our clients increasingly entrusted us with their private wealth, and we saw a huge increase in assets under management.”
The recipe for success
People often compare business partnerships to marriages. That’s because success frequently rests on relationships. So, what exactly was the secret of our founders’ success?
“Having a partner whom you trust and respect makes all the difference,” says Adrian. “With that foundation, we could always debate important issues, thrash out problems, and find solutions together.”
Sinan agrees. “That was a big part of our success,” he says. “We also believed in being open, honest, and fair – and we always saw the glass as half full and not half empty. One of Adrian’s strengths is open communication, which invites new perspectives and approaches. My advice to others would be to stay positive, listen to your partner, and don’t be afraid to try new things.”
A compliment now and then also doesn’t hurt. “Sinan is fair and loyal – and, last but not least, he’s a very charming guy,” adds Adrian with a smile.
An enterprising mindset
Having a vision is one thing, but possessing the innovative drive to implement new ideas and solutions is another. What are the lessons learned after 20 years of entrepreneurial life?
“We just talked about it,” says Sinan. “Keeping an open mind is so important – and trying new things. You will make mistakes. Running a business is often about trial and error and not being devastated if something doesn’t work out. You also have to trust in your people and empower them to realize their potential.”
“Entrepreneurs are also employers,” adds Adrian. “Most of our management team has been with the company for over a decade, and the reasons for that are quite simple: the working environment and competitive salaries.”
“And that environment is about being fair to our employees in all respects,” says Sinan. “And being driven to succeed. We attract and retain a lot of top talent because they want to work for a company they can be proud of.”
A holistic approach
Our founders decided early on to take a holistic approach to wealth management. They believed this was the best approach for clients with a substantial net worth and complicated portfolios.
“Our value proposition was actually quite simple,” says Adrian. “Many of our clients did not want to deal with a multitude of lawyers, advisors, and other service providers around the world. They appreciated the comfort of one point of contact – one family office that breaks down the complexity, coordinates the services, and structures their wealth in a clear and easily understandable way. It’s still that way today.”
“Relationship managers at banks are just can’t do that,” says Sinan. “They are servicing multiple clients and don’t have time, nor are they allowed to talk to the client about structuring, tax, or other issues that are just as important as pure asset management. As independent wealth managers with a holistic approach, we can analyze each client’s unique situation, family dynamics, and long-term objectives. When we left the bank, we just knew that was going to lead to a better service.”
Making a mark
Marcuard Heritage has become one of Switzerland’s leading independent wealth management companies. Looking back over the past twenty years, what helped us rise above the norm?
“We stand out because we never stood still,” says Sinan. “We pushed into new markets, such as the B2B business, when we set up Alpinum Investment Management (AIM), our asset management arm. And we invested in our company rather than maximizing payouts to partners and shareholders. This allowed us to establish a network and offices across multiple jurisdictions.”
“AIM stands out to me as well,” says Adrian. “Our very own professional money manager with an impressive track record has given us a competitive edge. What also stands out is the depth of our services. We limited the geography of our client markets, but that means we know them better than anyone else.”
Although Switzerland is renowned for its private banking institutions and recognized as the world’s premier wealth management center, the Swiss financial sector is under increasing scrutiny. What challenges do our industry and our business face?
“The Swiss financial industry must stay competitive and safeguard its international reputation,” says Adrian. “Wealthy clients are moving their assets elsewhere, so as an industry, we must learn from past mistakes.”
“I agree. And I believe the industry has to concentrate on what it does best,” says Sinan. “And that’s service quality. The quality of service in Switzerland remains, without a doubt, among the best in the world. We need to keep it that way. The current situation has allowed other private banking centers to thrive and new ones to emerge. We have to navigate this changing landscape, continue delivering exceptional service, and not forget our roots and values.”
Leaving a legacy
At Marcuard Heritage, client relationships come first. The challenge is maintaining them over the long term and from generation to generation. Sinan and Adrian agree that you must lay the groundwork for generational change early – that a lasting legacy requires a solid foundation.
“Handing over our business to new leadership is just as important as preparing our clients’ wealth for the next generation,” says Sinan. “Our successors ensure we understand the next generation of clients. So far, we’re managing the transition well because we integrated it into our planning and thinking very early on.”
“It’s no coincidence that the word ‘heritage’ is right in our name,” says Adrian. “We set up and structured our business to safeguard each client’s legacy for future generations. That includes a proactive approach to creating connections among generations because a close and trusting client relationship is still the best differentiator. When we understand the preferences of each generation, we can effectively cater to them and meet their needs.”
“We’re also gradually handing over responsibility and empowering our management to lead the company forward,” adds Sinan. “We have been transitioning for several years now – it’s not something that happens overnight.”
A digital future?
The digital transformation is underway in our industry. Our founders see risks and opportunities but caution that wealth management should always be based on people and personal relationships.
“I’m quite happy to hand this responsibility over to the next generation, who are more digitally savvy than me,” says Sinan with a smile. “Technology is certainly opening up new possibilities like working more efficiently, running better analytics, and reducing human errors. But I’m a people person, and I believe the best way to manage wealth is to sit down together, establish trust, and gain an intimate understanding of each unique situation. The danger I see is younger generations relying too much on technology and less on personal interaction with clients and colleagues.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” says Adrian. “So far, and in our experience, most people want to speak with a real person, especially individuals or families with substantial net worth. Trust is essential, and building it can only happen in person, in my opinion. The future may be digital, but I believe the most successful client relationships will be analog and in person.”
If your future outlook aligns with ours, you value trust and personal relationships, and you want to serve your clients better, please get in touch. We’re always looking to connect with like-minded relationship managers.