The world of Swiss asset management can seem like a foreign topic because it is for most Americans. Using Swiss financial services can even carry a controversial stigma. So we thought it was high time to deepen the topic with the head of our Legal and Compliance, Dr. iur. Daniel Koller, to share his legal perspective on Swiss-registered investment advisors. Daniel has been with WHVP for more than seven years and has a long working history of serving international clients with Europe-based financial solutions. Our executive assistant, Jess Roberson, sat down with Daniel to talk about Swiss asset management for Americans from a legal perspective.
Jess: We are very excited to be speaking with you today. Let's start the interview with you giving us a bit of the background of how you became interested in studying law and what eventually brought you to be working with WHVP?
Daniel: The pleasure is on my side. Many thanks for this opportunity. Having a bilingual background (German & English native), I was willing to challenge my poor French skills after my school career while doing a bilingual degree in law (German & French) with the additional option of European law at the famous Swiss University in Fribourg. There are rumors going around that one typically chooses to study law if one has no other predominant passions. I personally have always been fascinated by the big legal battles on television and in the newspaper. But before kicking off my studies, I took a year off to earn some money and travel for several months around the world. That was absolutely the right thing to do, and I returned rich in experience and eager to start university fully motivated. Having obtained my graduate degree in law in the shortest time possible, I decided to continue the academic path with a doctorate in a very interesting pioneer domain of cyber-criminality at the University of Zurich. If you look me up on the internet, you can find the exact title of my Ph.D., a very provocative topic, but it does come to an interesting conclusion. It would be a fascinating topic for an after-work interview. After various years working in the domain of financial services for insurance companies and with a leading insurance broker, the former generation of WHVP asked me to complete the team with my expertise in legal and compliance. I have never regretted this step a single moment, and I am thankful to be part of this great company.
What is it like dealing with U.S. regulations in combination with Swiss requirements as a Swiss asset manager?
The combination is amazing and enormously fruitful. Combining the clear and stable legal framework of the U.S. with top-quality Swiss banking makes a great mix. According to me, the set-up for an asset manager such as WHVP could not be better. Both countries have a long-standing historical track record in the financial world. The set-up of WHVP as a U.S. RIA in Switzerland is unique and outstanding, as there are hardly any other asset managers with decades of experience working in that area and servicing U.S. clients in Switzerland. On the downside, I would like to point out that dealing with U.S. clients means completing a whole load of additional forms and documents. This is not the case in other jurisdictions to this extent. I must say, this formality jungle is quite dense and does not at all help to make our lives – the client's and WHVP's – easier. I am convinced that the good intention of consumer protection is not achieved, to the contrary, big administrative efforts occur, and increasing costs are finally passed on to clients.
From your perspective, what added value does working with an SEC-registered investment advisor bring to the client rather than a non-SEC-registered advisor in Switzerland, especially in reference to the Dodd-Frank Act?
Let me quickly explain the section you are referring to regarding Foreign Private Advisers. The Dodd-Frank Act also amended the Advisers Act to provide for an exemption from U.S. registration for foreign advisers that do not have a place of business in the United States and have: a) Less than USD 25 million in aggregate assets under management from U.S. clients and private fund investors; b) Fewer than 15 U.S. clients and private fund investors.
The reasons are obvious to us in dealing professionally with U.S. clients and remaining within the legal framework, as it allows us to provide the best services as asset managers for our clients in a completely legal and compliant manner. The framework makes sure that guidance is clear and that all clients are protected, dealt with, and taken care of in the same manner based on common rules. The magic is the same rules are for all U.S. RIA around the globe, wherever the headquarter of the company is, and not individual handling of the profession.
Being compliant with U.S. regulations is key in the long run. The costs are higher and administrative matters considerable to comply with applicable rules, laws, and regulations in comparison with competitors taking the shortcut without being licensed. However, the consequences can be dramatic, as the risk of intervention by either U.S. or Swiss authorities can lead to substantial fines or even the loss of license as an asset manager.
Could you give us a quick rundown of the Swiss financial jurisdiction and the benefits it offers?
Switzerland has a long history, officially going back to 1291 as the year of foundation, and has very stable values; the country has a long tradition in trading and banking and has always been outstanding with its top-quality service. The political democracy of Switzerland gives it a solid ground floor that has allowed innovation and creativity to be triggers for the success of the small but well-known country. One of the key factors of Switzerland in financial services is the extremely profound legal system, whereas asset protection in case of bankruptcy is a very strong argument to work with a Swiss-based asset manager. Switzerland is known for treating clients with high discretion, trust, and professionalism.
Finally, in your experience what do you enjoy about working and servicing Americans from a Swiss perspective?
I feel the combination is ideal where often extroverted U.S. people with big expectations and clear thoughts mix with the high quality of rather introverted nature of Swiss culture. WHVP offers the best solutions for investment solutions to U.S. clients abroad. I have learned while working with U.S. clients throughout my career that Americans are straightforward, transparent, and have no fear to share information and documents on Source of Fund and Source of Wealth. In our profession, this helps a lot, as we do not have to beat around the bush. As I am the person in the background, I usually do not deal directly with the clients, their needs, and their wishes. But, now and then, extraordinary demands land on my table, e.g. an intervention with a custodian bank when things are not running as they should.
Daniel, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and share your experience and expertise on the topic of asset management for Americans in Switzerland. It was truly a pleasure.
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