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«Success is about more than just growth and good performance.»

 

Nicolas Campiche
Pictet Alternative Advisors

Nicolas Campiche joined Pictet Alternative Advisors in 2000 and was appointed CEO in 2003. He began his career in 1991 with the United Nations Pension Funds in New York before moving to Credit Suisse Group, where he rose to the rank of portfolio manager. Pictet & Cie hired him in the same function in 1994, and he later assumed responsibility for the bank’s UK private clients in London. As CEO of Pictet Alternative Advisors, Nicolas is in charge of 70 staff, including more than 40 investment experts. The firm advises private and institutional clients on the optimal allocation to alternative investments in their portfolios and offers a broad range of end-to-end solutions for private equity, hedge funds and real estate.

 

Nicolas Campiche, what does success mean to you?

In the financial world, success is measured in terms of performance, be it the development of a project, assets under management or the number of new clients we want to acquire every year. But I think that looking at this aspect alone is short-sighted. It’s more important to focus on the satisfaction of your existing clients. Acquisition relies on the ability to guarantee client satisfaction, and Pictet’s very good at that. Another indicator of success concerns staff. Motivated, enthusiastic employees who actively drive a plan forward are indispensable and just as hard to find as good performance.

What was the best decision you took in your career?

The best decisions were those where I seized an opportunity that was presented to me and stepped out of my comfort zone – but always with plenty of determination. If I had to pick out just one, it would be the decision not to leave Pictet. There was a point in my career when a rival firm contacted me with a highly tempting offer. I was torn, and I discussed it with my manager. He persuaded me to stay at Pictet. Looking back, it was a very good decision because the other company doesn’t even exist now.

Have you ever regretted a career decision?

I’d love to answer “no” to that question. I may well have made more than a few bad decisions, but I’ve always stood by them and made the best out of them.

What do you enjoy most in your job and what least?

There are many things I like a lot and a few I don’t love so much. The field I work in is certainly exciting, encompassing, as it does, hedge funds, private equity and real estate. I’m amazed by the dedication, passion and abilities of the people I meet in this job. I’m lucky enough to be working with the very best specialists in these areas. It’s a source of inspiration. I also enjoy interacting with clients. Many of them are business owners with fascinating life stories. It’s a pleasure to listen to them and offer solutions that help them. What I like least about alternative investments is that so many are just competing to achieve the best performance with no long-term vision. I believe that we should strike an ideal balance between the interests of our clients, those of our counterparties and those of society as a whole. With the right approach, for example, private equity can make a positive contribution for the public at large, create jobs and supply venture capital to companies that are just starting out.

Which problems should politicians and authorities urgently address?

There are two key social issues. The first is the distribution of wealth (or lack of it). Here in Switzerland, we’ve done a relatively good job in this respect by creating a tax system that results in less of a concentration of wealth than in other countries. I’m happy to pay taxes because I see them as a means of solving the problem, and I know that the money is put to good use in Switzerland. The second issue is protecting the environment.

What importance do you attach to social media?

My answer may seem a little reactionary. I’m the sort of person who believes that technological progress is largely a positive thing, but I think that social media pose a risk to society and should be strictly regulated. I’m concerned about their influence, impact and lack of transparency, as well as the fake news they propagate. They’ve become a scourge of our times. I suspect that their influence will wane over the long term, but today’s society probably doesn’t see it that way.

What do you do on a short journey?

I often travel between Geneva and Zurich or London, and I normally use the time in three ways: I can’t sleep on a plane, so I tend to work, read and sometimes indulge in a Netflix series.

What are you thankful for?

Of the many things I’m thankful for, the first that comes to mind might sound rather banal, but it’s the fact that I was in born in Switzerland and continue to live here. I travel a lot, both for work and privately, and I treasure every day I’m here. We enjoy an exceptionally high quality of life and the opportunity to flourish in a free country with minimal corruption.

How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?

There are four main things in my life these days: work, children, friends and sport. The trick is to find the right balance. First and foremost, I try to spend as much time as possible with my two boys. Thankfully, I work for a company that affords me a great deal of flexibility, so I can take them to school or pick them up, support them in their after-school activities and even help them with their homework. The second thing that helps me to balance out work and family commitments is sport. Paradoxically, I’m doing more sport now, at the age of 50, than ever before. Whether I’m ski touring high up in the mountains or cycling in the summer, I’ve noticed that sport has a positive effect on my state of mind.

What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or to your younger self?

I’d say two things. First of all, you need to start with the basics. Learn a trade before deciding whether you want to become a generalist or a manager. Getting your hands dirty, so to speak, modelling data, seeing transactions through to their conclusion and interpreting analysis; all of these are essential to a career in finance. They give you the credibility you need to get ahead. My second piece of advice is to get some experience of working abroad. A placement in the English-speaking world, for example, can broaden your horizons and open the door to an international career.

How often do you look at your mobile phone in a day?

Too often – probably all day long... I think you have to get used to people regularly checking their phones, even in meetings. Everyone’s trying to make the best possible use of their time nowadays. I think using phones is mostly positive in terms of productivity, but we do need to think about the level of stress permanent contactability can cause. Before smartphones came along, you could just disconnect the line, and you were effectively not there. That’s hardly an option now. We’ll probably have to accept it in future, but the stress resulting from constant availability shouldn’t be underestimated.

If you could choose any country, where would you like to live and why?

I’d like to live in lots of counties, but at the moment I’m fascinated by Asia from a professional viewpoint. I’ve always enjoyed travelling there as part of my job, and it gives me a lot of inspiration. When you get home from Asia, you want to do more, be more inventive, show more dedication to your work. If I had to choose one city, it would be one of three: Tokyo, a bustling city that functions perfectly despite its size, with people who have an extraordinary sense of civic responsibility; Singapore, a model city in terms of organisation; or perhaps Shanghai, having been impressed by its progress on environmental issues during a recent business trip.

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