Chairing the Board of a charitable foundation with a significant financial endowment? Seeking to devote all or part of your wealth to serve a cause? In both cases, institutional or individual, these are challenging tasks. With whom can you share your strategic thinking, who can you trust to grasp and deal with the often-arcane world of banking and asset management? Perennium, a Swiss-based advisory firm established in 2013 by an investment expert, understands both the financial and ethical issues of charities, and stands up for their interests.
Goldman Sachs, Lombard Odier, Deutsche Bank: for more than 25 years, Arnaud Apffel worked in Investment Banking and Asset & Wealth Management, being in charge of various European or global business lines for leading organizations. Four years ago, he made a decision to redirect his career and to contribute his time and skills to causes dear to his heart. Perennium was founded to serve this exact purpose. Owing to an insider knowledge of banking and finance, coupled with a deep investment expertise, Perennium advises foundations on how best to manage their financial endowment (a.k.a. capital). By increasing their means of action, Perennium contributes, through them, to a better world.
So what is the role of this “financial architect” dedicated to non-profit organizations?
A TRUST BOND
« Very often, when a charitable Foundation is endowed with a capital it can invest, the persons tasked with its oversight are passionate and committed social or environmental specialists, rather than financial experts », explains Emmanuel Fourmann, member of the Board of Trustees of the Sangha Tri-national Foundation (FTNS). This charitable trust is a financing tool for three contiguous national parks in central Africa. The property represents a wide spectrum of the species-rich humid tropical forests in the Congo Basin, and provides protection for a range of endangered species. « Before we appointed Perennium, one half of the Foundation’s capital was sitting on a bank account, for fear of losing money in the financial markets. The other half was invested in a small number of low-yield vehicles, which we hadn’t chosen. Arnaud helped us understand the fundamentals of investing and the dynamics of financial markets. With his support, we elaborated a new Investment Policy. Perennium gives us various options for our development, helps us understand the risks and rewards of each, so that we can make our own choice! », adds Emmanuel Fourmann.
Range of asset classes, asset allocation, key performance and risk indicators, sustainable and responsible approach, costs cutting: on these issues and a number of other financial ones, Arnaud assists the decision makers of the foundations he collaborates with. With mutual trust as his watchword, his role is to defend the interests of his clients. « This privileged relationship that we have with Arnaud is absolutely critical. Every person who manages a significant amount of wealth has to have a few persons whom he can absolutely trust. With Perennium, we work in complete transparency, we share our views, and Arnaud helps us achieve our strategy, while also reducing our portfolio management costs », testifies Daniel Schmid, Chairman of the FERD-Aigues-Vertes foundation (FERD). The Aigues-Vertes village provides a living environment for the mentally disabled.
AN IMPARTIAL ADVICE
Willing to do good, having a significant wealth to commit, seeking to deploy capital in a responsible and ethical manner? Little of this is straightforward, and mistrust of banks is more ingrained than ever, especially due to their conflicts of interests. « The independence of Perennium shows its concern for our own interests. It is an important factor in the eyes of our donors, who can rest assured that the capital will be managed according to the ethical lines we set. Perennium also provides us with a transversal view of our industry which reassures us », explains Alice Gorge, head of strategic fundraising at the HEC Foundation (Fondation HEC). And she adds « The Foundation’s long-term endowment jumped from €3m in 2013 to nearly €50m at the end of 2016. As a consequence, we had to professionalize our portfolio management structure, and develop an appropriate strategic framework supporting our investment decisions. We have chosen Arnaud as he shares and defends our values. »
Indeed, when a foundation faces strategic choices, the ability to understand what its peers are doing, what the best practices are, and to get impartial and well-informed advice is key.
This is one of the mainstays of Perennium: providing its clients with the insight they need, sharing all its financial expertise, to ensure that the best possible decisions are made.