Ever talked with the Head of Investments of a private bank about their true definition of wealth? We did, and the answers surprised us.
Victor Cianni, who holds the title at Alpian, has certainly explored the topic deeply: With more than 13 years of experience in wealth management, he has assisted many individuals, families, and institutions in their financial journey throughout his career, either by providing tailored advice on their investments or by managing assets on their behalf.
He occupied a number of key positions within the investment divisions of CA Indosuez, Lombard Odier, and Citi Private Bank. He also holds an Engineer’s degree in Bioinformatics and Modeling from the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées of Lyon.
Thank you so much for taking the time! We look forward to connecting with you about this fascinating topic.
When we hear “wealth”, most people’s minds immediately go to finances. From your perspective, how important are your finances when it comes to your wealth?
Ah, the role of money in happiness… If there is a topic that triggers people, I reckon it is this one! I’ve always tried to escape it, as it sounds to me a bit like the chicken and egg problem. Instead, I assume that wealth and finances are equally important and they both are part of a broader scheme. I see wealth as a sort of trajectory, something that changes slowly as we learn new things about life, through our interaction with others in the economic fabric. Finances should be more dynamic. There are inflows and outflows that create interaction with others and help shape our wealth.
My two grandfathers defined true wealth as being able to enjoy what you have and I quite subscribe to this view. I am frugalist in a sense. Being wealthy enough to be confident in the future but without ever crossing that line where you start to be distracted from what matters.
What is your own personal definition of true wealth?
My two grandfathers defined true wealth as being able to enjoy what you have and I quite subscribe to this view. I am frugal in a sense. Being wealthy enough to be confident in the future but without ever crossing that line where you start to be distracted from what matters. It is hard to stay at the thin border that separates necessity and luxury, but the view from there is an enjoyable one.
What is the best thing you ever bought?
Aha, interesting question! But I don’t know the answer to it yet! A good purchase for me is either something that gave me so much pleasure when I bought it that I will remember it my entire life – or something that has accompanied me for such a long period of time that the benefits it brought me for the price paid is just incommensurate… So I have many candidates in mind, from the first book we offered to my daughter to this Italian espresso machine I bought second-hand years ago and that has never failed me…but it is only on my death bed when I will reflect on their faithful services and the memories they brought me that I will crown one of them “the best thing I ever bought”!
If someone handed you 50 CHF right now, for no reason at all – what would you do?
No reason at all? Usually, people expect returns from me when they hand me money! 😊
But if it is a selfless gift, I would probably try to make good use of it. I would share it with someone who needs it more than me. Maybe go to a local shop, buy groceries for someone who is in need, and a keep 5 CHF to buy a little chocolate at the cashier that I will eat on the spot with that person, just to celebrate life and that 50 CHF that came from nowhere!
If you lost all your money tomorrow, what would you do?
That’s a tough one. Well, I guess like 735’000 people living below the poverty line in Switzerland, I’ll put my efforts into ensuring the bare necessities for my family. With a bit of luck, I would still be able to leverage my education and experience and take some risks to try to recreate some wealth.
In your opinion, is there something like a Swiss understanding of wealth? If so, do you believe it is a good one or one that needs to be redefined?
Well, I can’t speak for 8.6 million people, especially when we see the diversity of cultures in Switzerland, but I will share my observation that is very biased by a few years in the private banking sector. The Swiss touch to wealth is to have the openness to welcome any discussion around wealth – to talk about money like any other topic in a frank and relaxed way but to have the decency not to bring that topic on the table for no reason. I think it is a good one and I hope it will remain relevant.
What is something that irritates you about the conversation around wealth?
I genuinely enjoy discussions around wealth and I like to understand people’s motives and aspirations, whatever these are, without judging. I love when the discussion is supported by data and I am a firm believer that we all play a role in the economic machine, and thus have a share of the responsibility. When both are denied, I find the conversations less enjoyable, but it happens rarely.
What do you wish you knew about money and wealth 10 years ago?
I have always been more excited by what I didn’t know than by what I knew. So in a sense, I am glad I cannot go back in time. Having said that, there is probably a couple of tips I could give to my former self, especially around the management of emotions: be more relaxed about wealth in general, but less energy in some part of the financial markets and more in others, dare to consider more exotic asset classes…
What do you wish every child learned in school about wealth?
The ABC of economics! It is a subject that often comes up too late at school. We teach our children to think “wealth beyond money” very early, which is great, but it can also create some discrepancies later if the money part has never been discussed. Don’t get me wrong, my goal is not to turn our children into an army of financiers, but to teach them some basic lessons: “What happens to that coin you gave to the baker after you bought some bread?”, “How to share toys efficiently?”… these are some interesting topics to discuss with a 5-year-old. And the earlier you start these conversations, the better they will get overtime.
Thank you very much!
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