Comprehensive financial advice for SMEs. Business and private.
Entrepreneurs want one thing above all: for their business to flourish. Achieving this takes precedence over many other things such as building up private wealth, but also questions about topics such as pension provision and succession. Andreas Gerber, Head of SME Business Switzerland at Credit Suisse, talks about how the bank provides strategic support for companies while keeping sight of what's important.
Credit Suisse has positioned itself as the "Bank for Entrepreneurs" for some time now. Was that not always the case?
Andreas Gerber: Credit Suisse was founded in the year 1856 by Alfred Escher, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of his time. Entrepreneurship has therefore always been part of our bank's DNA. However, what we now call Bank for Entrepreneurs goes much further. A company owner is always a private individual as well. With our Bank for Entrepreneurs strategy, we are taking a holistic approach to supporting entrepreneurs. In other words, alongside typical SME solutions our additional services now cover general topics such as retirement provision and succession management too.
Do you have a clear example of the holistic approach to financial advice?
Succession management is a good way to illustrate it. Let's say a business owner decides to pass the company on to his daughter. Before doing so, he wants to release part of the company's assets to keep for himself. So his daughter, as the new majority shareholder, will need financing to acquire the equities. We cover this with the corporate client business. Her father receives a certain amount that is paid out and helps his daughter to finance the equities through retainage. So this has automatically taken us to the private level already. He receives the money. What does he do with it now? How does he approach his pension provision? How can he optimize his taxes – for the company and for himself privately?
How does the Credit Suisse strategy help in this situation?
Our unique advisory approach enables us to meet our clients' needs in the case of such complex transactions holistically – and indeed from a single source. Fact is, we have all the resources available internally. Ultimately, our new advisory strategy is about having a dialogue on an equal footing. We want to understand the entrepreneur and the challenges they face. Only then can we bring the right solution to the table in every situation, be it for the company's requirements or for any private wealth requirements.
In which phase of a company does holistic banking support ideally start?
This may be when the company is founded, or not until a later date. However, it always depends on the size and growth of the company. It's important to bear in mind that most owners are not solvent. Profits are often invested again immediately. But often we see managers who don't have time to give it much thought, since the day-to-day business takes precedence. However, it's important to review your own asset strategy and go over it with an expert in order to identify risks for the company and the family at an early stage.
What are the most important points about that risk?
In addition to well-planned succession management, they are certainly tax matters and retirement provision. Entrepreneurs like to keep their pension capital in the company. That is understandable, but the risk cannot be explained away. Every business involves risks that are not always predictable. The entrepreneur must be aware of this and check whether there are other pension solutions that are not subject to the same risk cycles as his company.
Every business involves risks that are not always predictable.
You previously mentioned additional services that your clients enjoy. What did you mean by that?
Take our network, for example. As a regional bank that also operates internationally, we have a significant network that can be very helpful for many companies. One of the best examples is the Swiss Venture Club (SVC), with which we award entrepreneurs for their achievement every two years in seven regions of Switzerland in front of a big audience and with substantial media coverage. In Zurich alone, we have 2,500 guests at the Prix SVC, including investors. The network is used and valuable.
We also maintain an active entrepreneur community that enables business owners to attend numerous events, make new contacts, and exchange feedback. To my knowledge, we are also the only bank that does something for the Boards of Directors. At what we call the Chairman's Table, we regularly give SME Boards of Directors the opportunity to discuss their experiences.
Are there also networks for start-ups?
Absolutely. Experienced entrepreneurs are invited to our fundraising events for young company founders. It is a real win-win situation. The start-up receives financing and know-how, and the entrepreneur has the opportunity to invest in something he believes in. We also support start-ups with our involvement in the TOP 100 Swiss Startup Award, which is where 100 of the most promising start-ups that are less than five years old are recognized.
Do you provide other network opportunities for entrepreneurs?
Credit Suisse also operates an internal company exchange. for clients without a successor. Here, our client advisors can search for a suitable match for their succession. A platform such as this is crucial, since changes in framework conditions require agility, adaptability, and client orientation. If the entrepreneur acts strategically in good time, his company can survive for many generations. Credit Suisse, founded by Alfred Escher, is the best example of this.