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In his role as CEO of the Swiss Training Centre for Investment Professionals AZEK and the Swiss Financial Analysts Association SFAA, Andreas Jacobs is responsible for aligning the organisation with the changing financial market. Andreas has been in charge of AZEK/SFAA since the start of 2017 and has been operating as Chairman of the independent asset and wealth manager OLZ since 2010. Before that, he was Managing Partner and CFO at Aravis, a Swiss private equity firm. He held various management positions in UBS Switzerland’s asset management, wealth management and business banking units with the rank of Managing Director from 1995 to 2009.
Andreas Jacobs, what does success mean to you?
For me, success is attracting a growing number of students to AZEK’s range of courses and helping them to enhance their long-term career prospects. There has been an explosion in the number of financial education providers and courses over the past few years, so things have got much more competitive. We can only succeed in this environment if we offer exactly what our customers are looking for. This means working as a team and putting every effort into ensuring that we keep pace with changes in the industry.
What is it that motivates you?
Satisfied customers are my most important motivation. It’s my job to motivate financial professionals who want to expand their skills to choose our courses as their springboard to the next stage of their career. Constantly keeping track of the latest developments in the field so that we can offer high-quality courses that reflect the state of the art is a real privilege.
Which values underlie your day-to-day actions, decisions, plans?
There are two values or principles I hold particularly dear. The first is a conviction that we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions. When it comes to solving problems, I believe in involving everyone so that all can play a part in shaping the solution. I think this co-determination is one of the key motivating factors, both at work and in life generally. The second principle is “work, work and more work”, meaning that I demand a high level of dedication and responsibility from myself as well as from my staff.
What drove you to do what you do today?
I care a great deal about educating young people and helping them to grow. I love lecturing, and I’ve worked hard at it for more than two decades at various universities and colleges in addition to AZEK. When the opportunity arose to take charge of AZEK alongside my teaching duties, I didn’t hesitate. The fast pace of change in banking and finance has a significant impact on educational institutions like AZEK. We need to identify the relevant topics of interest, new forms of learning and the student needs and incorporate them into our course offering. At the start of this year, for instance, we launched a new course in Financial Data Science. We seem to have struck a chord with this course as it was booked out within just a few weeks. We’re already planning to run it again before the end of the year.
What importance do you attach to social media?
I see social media as a means to an end. I use them in a strategic and pragmatic way – more professionally than privately. Given the many question marks over data ownership, I take a fairly critical view of social media and approach them with a certain amount of caution.
What do you enjoy most in your job, what least?
What I find most exciting is when we have something new to get up and running, be it a business idea, a learning platform or a training partnership with a financial services provider. It could even be something small like a short tutorial video covering a complex topic in a concise, easy-to-understand and engaging way so that students’ motivation to keep learning is maintained or even increased. I’m less keen, meanwhile, on repetitive and administrative tasks. Thankfully, there aren’t too many of them in our relatively small organisation.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or your younger self?
Most asset management functions are liable to change quite quickly in the current culture of reorganisation, and the methods we’re now grouping together under the “data science” label are set to speed up the pace of change in the sector even further. With this in mind, I would advise someone starting out in their career to be as flexible as possible as regards adapting to change and to keep their eyes open all the time for the opportunities that arise in this kind of situation. On top of this, I would tell them to start fostering a network of contacts from day one.
What famous person would you like to meet?
Many of my favourites are sadly no longer with us. I think this is because it can take some time before the real relevance of a person’s achievements is fully revealed. At any rate, I’m impressed by people who have brought about lasting changes in the world through their knowledge and discoveries. Off the top of my head, I can name Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci or Leonard Euler, but if I had to choose just one person, it would probably be Sir Isaac Newton.
What is your favourite travel destination in Switzerland or abroad?
I don’t have a favourite as such, but for me it has to be in the North and/or cold. That’s why my family and I tend to spend our holidays in Scandinavia, Alaska or on islands like the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands or Iceland. Having said that, there are two places that stand out. In Switzerland, the Alps are generally where I like to go hiking or do some light climbing. Internationally, a recent trip to Greenland really left its mark on me. Life there is very different and hard, but the island’s incredibly beautiful during the brief summer.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Definitely sport, even though people kept telling me I had no talent. Sitting still in class wasn’t exactly my forte. Aside from that, I was always fascinated by maths. These days, I’m most interested in didactics. The central question in my teaching is always how I can impart some enthusiasm for financial management and financial issues in general to my students.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
I get a moderate amount of exercise, for example riding my racing bike, hiking or climbing up easy routes. I’m also interested in strategy games – partly because they’re good exercise for the brain and partly because I’m amazed how much time and energy people are willing to invest in games. From a professional standpoint, I often wonder how we can harness this energy that people expend so willingly without a second thought to create a more effective learning experience.
What is more important to you as you get older, and what is less important?
Personally, I’m not prepared to describe myself as “getting older” just yet, but I can of course compare myself now with how I was 25 years ago. These days, I wonder what the point of things is much more than I used to. I need to be persuaded that I’m doing something worthwhile. Also, I’ve endured so many setbacks over the years that I don’t let them stress me out very easily any more.