Citywealth spoke to Ariane Slinger, CEO of ACE International SA to discuss special assignments, hand-holding clients and her love for vinyl records.
Tell me about your role.
For the past 11 years, I have been the main shareholder and CEO of ACE International SA, one of the larger independent trust companies in Geneva.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Days can be very different but, when no travelling is involved, I start preparing for my workday at breakfast by discussing the news with my husband. I arrive at the office at 9am, read and distribute the mail around as soon as possible, have several client and staff meetings during the day and a lot of phone calls. Most days, I have a quick lunch behind my desk, a signatory session with the management team in the early afternoon and I leave the office around 6.30pm – 7pm, after my staff have left, and after having handled lots of emails, reviewed offers to clients, legal documentation and meeting notes. Sounds very boring doesn’t it? But I love it.
Tell us about interesting client instructions.
There is never a dull day at ACE and requests can be very diverse, there are a lot of funny and also special stories to tell. One request I feel particularly honored by was the wish of a client to set up a charitable trust with his rather important assets since he did not have any heirs. Now, several years after his passing, we continue working very hard on selecting the most meaningful projects in order to support them financially. This has given a special dimension to my job as a trustee. In this respect we have created a website to receive requests for donations from projects which meet the criteria of our mission statement.
What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?
The challenges of our clients cannot be summarized in a few lines, but one of the main challenges is to always stay informed of all the latest changes in legislation be it regarding taxes or corporate rules. The international business rules are changing at a very fast pace and consequently it is very difficult to always stay tax, legal and accounting compliant. Look at the exchange of information rules (FATCA - CRS), everyone has been impacted internationally, and clients do not know how to handle this and what it really means for them. With our team of well trained professionals we are able to assist our clients with all these issues and take these problems out of their hands on a multi-jurisdictional level.
Then of course we have a lot of cases concerning problems with succession planning, conflicts in the families or with business partners, fragile persons needing assistance and protection. Our role in such situations is to do real hand holding, to adapt our services to each particular situation and be the trusted advisor to the client and his family. We are able to manage conflicting situations and actively bring solutions by defining the right strategy in any circumstances, we have seen so many different cases that we can relate to most problems that clients expose to us. And we have also become very skilled negotiators over the years. Finally more recently we have seen the results of significant political issues in different parts of the World making clients look actively to protect their assets and families because of elections, the fear of crime and of social unrest. As a consequence more clients have requested our advice in terms of asset protection or relocation to Switzerland.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Becoming a true entrepreneur after the Management Buy Out that permitted me to acquire this business. It represents a lot of hard work but also freedom in a certain sense.
What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?
For me a leader is simply someone with a vision who is able to convince a group of people to follow him in order to materialize his dream/project. So a leader needs to be convincing and to be able to communicate his passion and vision to others and to set his rules.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. When offering a good paycheck plus bonus system and a nice working environment you have more chances that people accept to follow you for the longer run. But even that is not a guarantee, since some people simply prefer to follow their own dreams.
Who do you most admire and why?
No one in particular actually. Yes of course I could mention Mother Teresa and Bill Gates who are very admirable people, but I am mainly impressed and attracted to people who are authentic, who have a genuine interest in what they do, who have a real passion in life, for the mission that drives them and who try to change the world in a better place, with their own possibilities, be it big or small.
Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?
Travelling to beautiful Italy and to the South of France (Cote d’Azur) is a regular trip. My husband and I have our families over there and also some clients to visit. We also love spending time by the Mediterranean Sea.
If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?
I would have loved to work in the music industry. My father was the founder of a vinyl records factory in the Netherlands in the late 50s and a real jazz fan and unhappily he had to sell it in the 70s for health reasons. I still dream that I could have been his successor in his venture. I have even created a blog in order to share his extraordinary story in the world of vinyl. Here is the link: www.ariane-slinger.com
How do you relax after a long day?
That depends on the day. I like a good fitness workout or swimming, which helps to relieve the stresses of the day, but I also very much appreciate enjoying a glass of red wine with my husband while listening to some good jazz music from our vinyl collection. We listen to vinyl every evening; it has become a way of living.