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Interview with CEO and Managing Partner, Jamie Vrijhof-Droese Thumbnail

Interview with CEO and Managing Partner, Jamie Vrijhof-Droese

It is important to us at WHVP to be authentic when sharing an inside look at who we are as a company and the individuals that make up our team. In addition, as a Swiss-registered investment advisor working to help Americans bring proper diversification to their portfolios, we want to bridge the geographical gap by letting you get to know our team members both professionally and personally. In line with these efforts, Jess Roberson sat down with WHVP's CEO and Managing Partner, Jamie Vrijhof-Droese, to learn more about her and WHVP. She will share a bit about what she has learned throughout her career and what she does at WHVP. We hope you enjoy it. 

Jess: Hello Jamie, It is wonderful to speak with you today. As we prepare to dive into this interview, please share with the reader some background of who you are and what you do in the day-to-day at WHVP.

Jamie: I am one of the Managing Partners of WHVP. Besides managing a client base, I am responsible for the business development of the company. This entails speaking at financial conferences, meeting and speaking with prospects, and setting the communication strategy. I love the regular contact with my clients, but I also enjoy working with our Swiss business partners and talking about all the benefits Switzerland has to offer as a financial jurisdiction. I am fortunate to have a career that brings me joy, challenges me, and enables me to contribute my creativity and problem-solving skills.

When I am not working, I spend my time trail running in the Swiss Alps or walking our dog Henry along our home river Limmat. I also enjoy reading books and traveling to different parts of the world.

Thank you for giving us insight into who you are and what you do. Would you please share a bit about your journey to becoming a Managing Partner at such a young age? And did you think you would move so quickly in your career?

My father founded WHVP in 1991, so I grew up with the company. As a child, I did my homework in the office, had vivid discussions about finance and the economy at the family dinner table, and as a young teenager, my dad brought me to the office once a year. While I never felt pressure to join the family business, I knew from a very early age that I wanted to at least give it a try. That led to me starting a Young Talent program at the age of 15 with one of the largest universal banks in Switzerland. I learned the ropes of Swiss banking there for three years. Then I moved on to a smaller company where I worked with international high-net-worth private clients and finalized my studies. Eventually, I joined the company in early 2017, and we slowly started initiating the generational transfer, which was finalized at the end of 2020 when my husband and I bought the firm.

In the interview with Julia Fernandez (found here: Interview with Managing Partner and COO of WHVP, Julia Fernandez), she mentioned that one of the changing aspects of the finance world she has seen is the rise of women in the working place. Could you please share some of your experiences and how you have navigated the changing landscape of the financial industry? 

The financial industry has changed quite significantly during the past fifteen years. Not just with respect to more women in the industry but also with regard to how the regulatory framework has changed and all the opportunities the digital transformation brought. It is a healthy development that the industry is slowly becoming more appealing to women. However, we still have quite a way to go. When we look at it from a client's perspective, women are still one of the most underserved groups of clients despite their wealth outgrowing men's wealth now. More and more women have impressive careers, and many outlive their husbands. By having diverse teams–not just concerning gender–it is easier to make services appealing to a broader spectrum of clients. That is not just the right thing to do but also presents an economic opportunity. One of the biggest strengths of our company is our diverse team. We all have different backgrounds and interests, and we are really good at complementing each other and helping each other grow and move forward. 

Thank you for sharing your experience. I want to switch to asking more questions about WHVP. Since you stepped into the leadership role at WHVP, how has it been guiding the company in the vision you had for it when you took over? Were there any surprises or unique challenges that needed to be overcome that stood out to you? 

When we took over the company, we were amid the covid pandemic; once we were out of that, a war broke out in Europe, and now we are in the worst market environment since the financial crisis. On top of all those challenges, we are also in the middle of the application process with the Swiss financial market authorities, which requires quite a lot of time and resources. So it is fair to say we are not getting bored. While we faced challenges as new entrepreneurs, we also have to say that we were lucky that the company was in good shape and that we were able to profit from so much knowledge and experience from the founding generation. To this day, they are always just a phone call away. This means that we are in the fortunate position that we get to build on the foundation that has been set up over the past thirty years while at the same time being able to bring in our own ideas. The core of the business is still the same. We are a Swiss wealth manager that puts our U.S. clients' needs first. What has changed is that we have become more digital. We have lowered our minimum investment volume and implemented a content strategy online. Additionally, we also prioritize networking locally in Switzerland more. From my perspective, we combine the best of tradition and innovation.

Has your vision for the company changed significantly from when you planned to take over the company until now? 

I don't think so. Our vision was always to grow our company sustainably and to make Swiss wealth management as accessible as possible to our U.S. clients. That hasn't changed and is not going to change any time soon. What might change is how we are trying to accomplish that. As mentioned previously, the covid pandemic forced us outside our comfort zone and inspired us to try new things, which I see as something positive.

What are the most valuable lessons you have learned since you started your career in the financial service industry? And what about since you have taken over WHVP? 

Every crisis is a breeding ground for opportunities, as with many things, it is better to start and adjust along the way instead of waiting for perfection. Mistakes can and will always happen to a certain extent, but how we respond to them will make or break success.

How did your previous working experience help you build a skill set that prepared you for leading a company? 

I had the privilege of working for two phenomenal entrepreneurs before joining the company. I have learned so much from them and wouldn't be the leader that I am today if it wasn't for the opportunity to shadow them throughout their days for several years. On top of my working experience, I am, of course, grateful for my academic education, which has added to my skill set.

Do you have any advice for young women with high ambitions in the financial service industry? 

It may sound cliché, but believe in yourself and don't be afraid of putting yourself out there. Find like-minded peers as well as mentors that are a few years ahead of you. Also, don't try to mimic other people or their paths. Be true to your strengths, and don't be afraid to do things differently.

You certainly have given us a fascinating picture of who you are and a valuable snapshot of WHVP. I would like to go a bit more personal with the interview. Whom have you been able to gain motivation from to sustain you in your career goals? Or what are your most significant motivating factors? 

I am driven by the desire to become better, learn more, and have new experiences. I don't need motivating factors in that sense because I genuinely enjoy what I do and take great pleasure and pride in building my family's business.

On a more personal note, what do you do to keep a healthy work-life balance? 

I love being out in nature and enjoy endurance sports. I prioritize my physical well-being by sleeping enough and running regularly. I am aware that I can only excel at my job long-term if I stay healthy and take recovery seriously. I don't necessarily believe in work-life balance because a lot of my job spills into my private life and sometimes the other way around, but I wouldn't want to have it any other way.

If you could spend time with any person from history to learn more about who they are, whom would it be and why?

I would love to learn more from Alfred Escher. He was a Swiss politician, business leader, and entrepreneur from the 19th century. He founded several companies that are pillars of the Swiss economy today, like Credit Suisse, Swiss Life, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the first railway company in the country. He is known as the "founder" of modern Switzerland.

Jamie, thank you for sitting down with me to share a bit about who you are and more about WHVP. It was indeed a pleasure.

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