We are delighted and proud to announce that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has granted an asset management license to Weber Hartmann Vrijhof & Partners AG (WHVP) on February 20, 2023. FINMA is Switzerland’s independent financial-markets regulator with a mandate to supervise financial institutions, such as banks, asset managers, and portfolio managers.
For WHVP, as an SEC registered investment advisor, the authorization is an important milestone and the result of a significant effort of the whole team, but especially the months of hard work our Head of Legal & Compliance Dr. iur. Daniel Koller has put in. We are thrilled to now see this investment has paid off.
The granting of the license represents a turning point in the history of our company, which was founded in 1991. We are now, for the first time, regulated on a national legislative framework, which gives our profession significantly more weight. In order to receive FINMA's recognition, high standards had to be met. The approval process was very demanding and required over a year of preparation.
We are convinced that the new status will have a positive impact on our competitiveness and further strengthen the attractiveness of independent asset managers in Switzerland. We believe the new licensing requirements will improve the already excellent reputation of the Swiss wealth management industry, especially for those looking to use Switzerland as an offshore investing destination.
The regulatory Landscape in Switzerland
There are about 2’300 independent asset managers in Switzerland with approximately 8’000 people working in the sector. The majority of independent asset managers are small teams with less than five employees, often with a manageable client basis and not huge amounts of assets. In total, about 560 billion CHF are managed by the industry. In the past, those companies were supervised by self-regulatory organizations. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, discussions started in the spring of 2012 to better supervise the industry. The goal was for consistent client protection as well as a strengthening of the financial sector with the aim to align Swiss law with international regulations with a special focus on the European Union directive on Markets in Financial Instruments II (MiFID II). Specifically, two new laws were introduced in 2018:
Federal Act on Financial Services (FinSa) – transition ended at the end of 2021
- FinSA contains code of conduct provisions with which financial service providers must comply vis-à-vis their clients.
- Aims to protect clients
- Regulates the provision of financial services
- It includes client segmentation, rules of conduct, and mandatory affiliation with an ombudsman office
Federal Act on Financial Institutions (FinIA) – transition ended at the end of 2022
- FinIA essentially standardizes the authorization rules for certain financial institutions
- It requires a license from FINMA
While the laws aim for a higher quality of service for the client as well as a higher level of protection, they come at the price of a higher cost for administrative services as well as more paperwork for clients.
The obtained license allows WHVP to continue operating as an asset manager in Switzerland and serves as a seal of approval for our high standards of conduct. With this license, we will be able to continue making offshore banking and investing possible for our U.S. clients. We are proud of this achievement and are looking forward to showing that our company is set up to the highest of standards to appropriately be able to manage the assets of our clients.
The Process for WHVP
It was vital that we would timely comply with the FINMA license application process as it would ensure we could continue providing our high-level service to existing and new clients. Since we have already been registered with the SEC, our organization and business model would not have to be changed very much, as many of the new regulations were already a part of what we do in the day-to-day. This fact has given us a competitive advantage because compared to the Swiss asset managers who cater mostly to the domestic market daily opreations and processes had to be changed less severely.
Nevertheless, we have invested significant time and resources in order to make sure that our application will be handed in with the highest possible standard. Here we would like to make another special shout-out to our Head of Legal & Compliance Dr. iur. Daniel Koller who has done a tremendous job over the past twelve months guiding us through the whole journey. We do not take it for granted to have all the know how inhouse that is required for such a throurough registration process.