Lionel Aeschlimann, CEO of Mirabaud Asset Management, shares his concerns around diversity and inclusion and the initiative that can move us forward.
What or who inspired you to work in investing?
Initially, I became a lawyer, motivated by my conviction that defending the rule of law was probably the most important mission one could accomplish in life, as it prevents all forms of arbitrary power and supports equality among citizens.
While working as a partner at a Swiss law firm, I was approached by Mirabaud. The opportunity appealed to my entrepreneurial spirit and to my deep respect for trusting human relations. Law and investment are actually quite similar – we are here to support our clients to the very best of our ability.
What do you think the future looks like for women in investing? What would you like to see?
According to recent studies, women now account for close to 60% of all university and college students, but we still have only around 10% of women working as investment managers. More generally, the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services is around 25%. For many reasons, historical, structural, cultural and political, among others, women are still under-represented in the finance and investment world.
The current situation is not only shocking, it is also absurd: why would any society ‘waste’ so much human intellectual and emotional capital? Making change happen is our collective and individual responsibility. Whether this is, for example, promoting a fair and inclusive recruitment process or ensuring your employees recognise unconscious bias – there are many initiatives that can help move us forward.
What is your attitude to investment risk?
It is key to understand the kind and nature of risk that we are taking as investors and to take steps to manage those risks. The golden rule is never to invest if you do not understand the risk/reward profile of an investment or asset class. There are no miracles: the level of return that one can achieve with a particular investment typically correlates with the level of risks that one takes.
I take this opportunity to highlight the fact that I believe the investment world in developed markets might currently be subject to an underestimated risk: the lack of diversity (in all forms) may well lead to a certain degree of “herd effect”, with fund managers from similar backgrounds, who went to the same universities, passed the same exams and joined the same professional bodies potentially all thinking about the world in the same way.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I would actually love several superpowers, such as being able to speak all languages and play all musical instruments. I also wish I had the extraordinary artistic vision of some of the world’s ground-breaking contemporary artists. I have always thought that showing and supporting contemporary art opens up our horizons: it helps us think differently, see the world differently, question our convictions and gets us out of our comfort zone.
Tell us your motto or if you don’t live by one, why not?
More than 10 years ago, I met someone who has since become a friend, Scott Weber, director general of Interpeace. This international organisation aims to prevent violence and build lasting peace by empowering communities to solve their own issues. Their approach is very much built around re-establishing trust and fostering the inclusion of all communities involved. We recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of our partnership with Interpeace. Our decision to support them was based not only on their exceptional work but also on our own conviction that without peace, there can be no economic growth, and without inclusive economic development, there can be no lasting peace.
While describing Interpeace’s work, Scott shared a favourite quote from President Harry S. Truman, who said, “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who takes the credit”. I immediately understood that Mirabaud and Interpeace shared the same values, and so I would personally adopt that same motto.