With thirteen years between their graduation dates, how did they end up connecting as business partners? Read more in the following interview.
Which advice would you both give someone who is considering applying for an executive MBA? What convinced you to apply for the Rochester-Bern program?
Phil: Be clear on what you want to get out of it. To give you an example, I was extremely keen on finetuning my managerial skills when it comes to optimizing and capturing the potential of a business. That led me straight to RoBe. In addition, the course schedule and the Open Day convinced me that RoBe was the right choice for me.
Michael: The opportunity to learn from some of the best professors in Switzerland and in the US is unique. It will change the way someone thinks.
When you began your studies, you brought a strong background in client-facing management roles in the private banking industry to the classroom. What were some key learnings in the finance part of the EMBA that you could immediately apply to your role?
Phil: Company valuation taught by Claudio Loderer is the obvious answer followed by business analytics taught by José Parra-Moyano. Claudio has shown us more elements of what to consider when valuing a company that I had not seen before and that was helpful for me. José blew us away with what is possible if you understand the potential of your data in a company. Fascinating and extremely relevant these days!
Whilst I was happy with my position at my previous employer, it was quite clear to me that at some point I wanted to either run that business or found my own company.
Michael: Claudio Loderer’s financial valuation classes were key for my career in several leading private banks before I became a partner at Bodewise AG.
Overall, what were some of the highlights of your EMBA experience? What surprised you most?
Phil: My highlights were the following:
I had an amazing time; I learned a lot and the way I think was changed. So, I guess its not just some marketing gag. It was the tipping point for me to form my own business.
Michael: Especially the Summer in Rochester was great. It feels different to study in the US and several courses such as marketing, statistics and finance encouraged me to think more entrepreneurially.
One year after having completed your EMBA, you decided to found your own wealth management services company. Michael Mühlemann, a RoBe EMBA alumnus from class 13 joined a year later. How did this partnership come about?
Phil: Michael and I have known each other for almost ten years having worked together at HSBC in Zurich. Michael then went on to join another bank in 2016 but we stayed in touch ever since. When we went independent, he was one of the first to reach out and see if he could join us. That was worked out very quickly and he joined us a few months later.
Michael: Zurich is a relatively small town and people in the same industry usually know each other quite well. Julian and Philip, the founders of Bodewise AG were colleagues of mine at HSBC. I was considering a move towards a more independent way of advising clients and that opportunity presented itself with them: a team that I knew well and got on well with, more freedom to deliver as much value add as possible for clients and a fresh set of ideas. I am glad I took that step!
How have you split your competencies? What are the greatest challenges your business is facing and how are you addressing these?
Phil: My co-founder Julian and I manage the company on a day-to-day basis. Our aim is to spend as much time as possible with our clients and their wealth. So, we outsourced almost all “non-core” tasks such as legal, compliance, accounting, or IT security. The greatest challenge now is to strategize adequately around the growth of our company which is happening quicker than we thought it would. There are some important decisions to be taken around investments we are considering that will allow us to grow further and work more efficiently such as the creation of departments/competence centers for certain areas of our business for instance.
Michael: My responsibilities predominantly span around managing the portfolios of the clients I look after. The challenge for me right now is to settle in, make sure that our clients are well embedded in our framework and happy since I only just arrived.
How are you planning to grow your business in the coming years?
Philip: We are looking to stay a “boutique” wealth manager with a limited number of clients and thus it seems unlikely that we will grow beyond around 15 individuals in staff. Our growth in staff predominantly comes form individuals like Michael: currently working for a bank, managing a portfolio of clients, looking to become less dependent on their employer and their “journey to profit”. With us, there are no conflicts of interest. Nobody has a sale, or any type of target as such; our aim is to deliver a unique service and investment performance to our clients outside a direct client-bank relationship. Growth in our assets under management predominantly comes from stellar investment performance and personal recommendations from the network of our clients. We do have an engagement in sponsoring Switzerland’s top Golfer, Mr. Jeremy Freiburghaus, which gives us some media presence, puts our name and label out there which should help our brand. After all, we are only a 14-month-old wealth manager.
Michael: Funny enough, the clients I look after directly, now view me and my new employer differently. In the past, they would have different bank accounts and thus different advisors. Due to taking the step out of a bank towards an independent family office, we are able to increase our share of wallet in some cases.
Which words of wisdom would you share with our EMBA students who wish to start their own businesses?
Go for it. You are presently in the best preparatory environment you can be in during your studies for such a step. Don’t wait too long after completion!