"Staying curious, never give up and always break new ground."
Adrian Nösberger is CEO of Schroder & Co Bank AG in Zurich, which looks after the assets of private clients. He was already active as an entrepreneur during his student days, among other things with a dating agency, a forerunner of today's popular online platforms.
Adrian Nösberger, 54, is a graduate engineer in business and production sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. Nösberger held management positions at Julius Baer, Clariden Leu and McKinsey & Co. before becoming CEO of Schroder & Co Bank AG, Zurich, in 2013.
The bank is part of the Schroders Group, a global asset management company founded in London in 1804, with 32 offices worldwide and over 5600 employees. Its clientele includes institutional and private investors as well as charitable organizations. In Switzerland, Schroders has been active since 1967 with over 500 employees in Zurich and Geneva and manages nearly CHF 100 billion in assets (12/31/2021).
"It takes almost a childlike attitude: go through life with bright eyes and open ears, and you'll see innovation opportunities everywhere."
Adrian, what do you think of when you think of growth?
For me, growth always has to do with entrepreneurship. And anyone who undertakes something takes risks. Even if it may sound a bit strange, the possibility of failure and growth are inextricably linked. Seen in this light, growth is always a question of character. Remaining curious, never giving up and breaking new ground are qualities that help you grow reliably - in every respect.
You have the entrepreneur gene in you. Was that always the case?
Before my career in the financial industry, I was already self-employed in my student years. I may even have launched the first Swiss dating app ...
... Swiss dating app – what was it called?
Happy Date. However, that was before the Internet age. To put it simply, people who wanted to flirt had to fill out a questionnaire, and from that we derived potential matches. I really enjoyed that, so I just tried it out.
"Trial and error". So that's how growth works. Change of perspective – what prevents innovation? Control is good and important. That should be clear. But anyone who wants to create something truly new is hindered by an environment in which the primary goal is to always maintain full control over all processes.
How do you model entrepreneurship in your current situation as CEO of a private bank?
I'm very committed to a culture of open discussion. Every management team needs to encourage employees to think new things. I hope to really listen to my employees and give new ideas a real chance. This also means providing the necessary resources and granting the appropriate competencies.
We find that companies get lost in too many ideas. Selecting and implementing the right idea is not easy. How do you do that?
Sure, the focus has to be right. But – and this is important to me – it's all about implementation. That's hard work. PowerPoint is of little help here.
Do you have any examples from your experience where the implementation was not optimal?
"MyPension" spontaneously comes to my mind. We had pursued the project together with you when I was working at Clariden Leu. "MyPension" was intended to encourage prospective retirees to invest their assets with us. We thought for a long time that retirees wanted to travel, enjoy their free time and not worry about their financial investments. However, our target group thought quite differently than we initially meant. Many were afraid of no longer being needed, of no longer really belonging. A totally different consumer insight. Only thanks to your support, the implementation worked right.
Even today, you see a lot of bank advertising that focuses on vacations and leisure. I am convinced that this is wrong. How do you see it?
To stay with the example of "MyPension", the target group has to be picked up in a completely different way. When it comes to something as important as managing one's own assets, it's wrong to say that customers shouldn't worry about it. We then thought about what added value we could offer as a private bank, and so one of the things we started to do was to learn to think of the target group in terms of scenarios. That was more than 15 years ago. These simulations led to new, much more fruitful advisory conversations. We wanted to send the message "you worked hard for your money. Now stick with it".
How did you perceive Vendbridge's role in this project?
You opened my eyes and the eyes of the team. It was about prospective retirees who were in a different life situation than me and my team. I will never forget that lesson.
Let's go back to the concept of growth. Growth is all about sales and profit, isn't it?
Our Western culture works that way. Growth is the driver, the elixir of our society. We want to grow, to get better. We usually associate growth with something positive. I certainly don't know anyone who wants to work for a company that is shrinking.
Exciting, Adrian. Your perspective on growth inspired us. You shed light on growth from a new perspective. We thank you for the interview.