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Christoph Schumacher has been Head of Global Real Estate at Credit Suisse Asset Management since June 2017. Before that, he held management positions at various real estate investment firms. He has amassed over 23 years’ experience in the real estate, finance, legal and consulting fields since studying law in Freiburg, Geneva and Bonn and gaining his doctorate from the University of Münster.
Christoph Schumacher, what is it that motivates you?
In a word, curiosity. That’s what drives me to seek out new experiences, take on new challenges and learn new things. I’m happy to say that life has been very kind to me in this respect. I’ve been lucky enough to assume many exciting roles in various parts of the world – as a student at boarding school, a politician, a lawyer and an investment manager. My current function as Head of Global Real Estate also offers a great deal of variety. No two days are the same – every market situation and every client preference calls for a new solution. That motivates me to find the best approach in each case. On top of that, there’s a certain amount of personal and professional ambition and the desire to keep pushing ahead on my chosen path while making small adjustments from time to time and hoping to find success at the end of it. These are the values I’m passing on to my three boys.
What does success mean to you?
The classic definition is achieving a goal. This could be a goal you’ve set for yourself or one that was set for you. It’s also about reaching certain career milestones. That’s very important in the day-to-day work context. We set ourselves targets for the quarter, the year and the longer term. We aim for strong performance and growth and a high level of client satisfaction. As central as this approach is, however, it’s only one side of the coin. To find true success, you need to weigh up a range of different factors. The fastest route doesn’t always turn out to be the best one in the long term. You need to think about how your actions influence those around you, both at work and at home. Who have you been able to help and encourage? In my view, you’re successful if you can find a satisfactory answer to questions like that.
Who do you think of when you hear the word “successful”?
I’ve always had a fascination for great historical figures. There are plenty I could mention, but let’s take Otto von Bismarck as an example. Bismarck is best known for his outstanding political achievements. He was a dominant force in the State and the fabric of European hegemony, led by his principles and always able to find a good negotiating position, for instance vis-à-vis the King and other heads of state. I’m also impressed by his successes in other areas of life, such as managing the family estate together with his brother. He quickly became an expert in rational land use and steered the estate onto a successful course. He was also a caring family man, husband and father to three children – to the extent that was possible in those days. The letters he exchanged with his wife Johanna rank among the best of the 19th century epistolary literature.
What do you enjoy most in your job?
I really enjoy mixing with people from different cultures. I have an extremely diverse and interesting team behind me in my job, and being part of the broader Credit Suisse business is very rewarding. Through my work, I get to meet clients, business partners and other stakeholders from every conceivable country, engage in dialogue with them and find solutions with their help. With some of them I’ve been working in the real estate sector for decades.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
I’m a family man, the proud father of three boys – all still under ten – and husband to a wonderful wife. My boys have lots of energy, and family life can be hard work at times. We do lots of sports together and share adventures. That sort of thing can leave you physically exhausted, but it also helps you unwind. It’s essential to my work/life balance. I also try to satisfy my curiosity in my free time, in particular by spending time with friends, reading all sorts of different books and playing the piano.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today?
Real estate is a diverse and interesting part of the asset management industry. Credit Suisse Global Real Estate is the biggest real estate fund manager in Switzerland, number three in Europe and in the top 15 worldwide. We’ve been around as an institution for 80 years, and this tradition is just as important to our success as continual growth. To be successful, you have to keep learning all the time and stay up to date with all the latest developments and trends – it’s even better, of course, if you can actually anticipate them. At the same time, you need to follow tried-and-tested principles. The opportunities are all there, but you have to be clever and ethically minded and maintain a long-term view in taking advantage of them. With this in mind, my advice to someone starting out in their career is this: it’s vital to stay true to your values and principles, even if your goals and methods change. My personal value system has always helped me to get my bearings when I’ve had to face changes and challenges. Guiding principles ensure continuity and are of great importance in our industry.
What is your favourite travel destination?
I love taking my family into the Swiss mountains. Zermatt’s a particular favourite of mine. I learned to ski there at an early age in the shadow of the Matterhorn. We really like Engadin as well. For us, it’s all about being able to go for hikes, take part in sports and enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery. Besides the mountains, France and Israel have been close to my heart for many years now. I’ve visited great places and made wonderful memories in both countries, as part of my work and also with family and friends.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for everything I’ve achieved personally and professionally. I’m very much aware that none of it would have been possible without the invaluable support I’ve received from many people, not least my wife. Being a good father and a fair boss is important to me. Even when things get hectic, I can be sure that my team have got my back. That means a lot. Generally speaking, I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in my career thanks to my education and support network. I don’t take them for granted.
What book are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. It’s a best-selling non-fiction book by Yuval Noah Harari, a relatively young Israeli philosopher and historian, that looks at how humanity has evolved as the dominant species from the Stone Age to the present day. The author brings together findings from a very broad spectrum of disciplines and doesn’t shy away from the big questions like where we’re heading or whether humanity has been a blessing or a curse for the planet. It’s not always what you’d call light reading... Of course, I like to read a good thriller now and again for entertainment.
What was your favourite subject at school?
History and geography were my clear favourites. I felt that they had a whiff of adventure about them, and I still believe that today. History introduced me to the great figures and events, the idols and the moments that still endure. I learned about humanity’s big turning-points, about value systems and philosophies that have stayed with me all my life, only getting more important with age. My love of geography stems from my wanderlust. It’s another form of curiosity that I’ve had the pleasure of satisfying on many occasions, but I still feel like I’ve got a lot left to discover!