For the next part in our series, we were curious to speak with someone who has thought a lot not only about what wealth means but how to talk about it in a meaningful way: Roman Balzan, CMO of Alpian, joined us for this interview and shared some of his thinking behind the narrative for Switzerland’s first digital private bank.
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?
Wealth is a slippery concept. Some people believe that wealth is all about having a lot of money, while others believe that it’s about having time to pursue life’s passions and spend time with family. These are just two of the many ways to define wealth—and both are valid. For me, money is a tool, not the end-all be-all of life. It’s dearly needed if you want to live a free and meaningful life – a wealthy life – but there are limits on how much that is.
So true wealth isn’t just about money — it’s about finding meaning in the world around you and living with purpose every day. True wealth comes from within, not without and that is why I joined Alpian.
What is your own personal definition of true wealth?
Wealth is a state of mind.
It’s about finding your purpose in life and then making that purpose your reality. It’s about being free to seize the day, and doing it joyfully. And it’s about knowing that you belong: to yourself, and to the people who love you most deeply.
So true wealth isn’t just about money — it’s about finding meaning in the world around you and living with purpose every day. True wealth comes from within, not without and that is why I joined Alpian. I was able to craft the mission statement which today is at our core and which incorporates my lifelong philosophy that True Wealth does not only sit on bank accounts but lies in purpose, freedom, and belonging.
What is the best thing you ever bought?
It might sound funny, but one of my favorite things I have bought in the past 3 years was an inflatable outdoor hot tub. It cost something like 450 CHF. I sit in it every morning before work to meditate and think. I sit in it with my wife to have great conversations. (It’s the place you cannot take your phone and get distracted). It’s the place where we have summer fun when I invite friends for a BBQ. In the summer it cools, in the winter it warms. A simple cheap plastic pool that enables me to have so much wealth – and the feeling of freedom, purpose, and belonging! Crazy.
If someone handed you 50 CHF right now, for no reason at all – what would you do?
I would not accept 50 CHF for no reason at all.
If you lost all your money tomorrow, what would you do?
I have lost a lot of money in my life, and I have gained a lot as well at times. I have learned that money is very fluid. It comes and goes. Treat money with respect but a certain arrogance – and it will follow you and come to you as if you were a money magnet. But the one rule to follow – that is valid for me at least: Do not let money take control over your life – it will eat you alive and then spit you out, worthless and broken.
So back to your question – if I lost all my money tomorrow, I would shrug it off and move on. The day, week, year after – it will decide to come back and find me again.
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?
For the Swiss, wealth is still mostly defined by money, and it is a serious matter. So, I will investigate that angle.
You may have heard that we are kind of good with money – we’re rich, after all. But the truth is that the Swiss do not just know how to handle their finances—they think about it in a variety of ways, depending on the situation and where they grew up. One is the prestige and power attitude, which means that people simply want to be rich for their own sake. The second is the money management attitude, which means that people want to save as much money as possible so they can live comfortably. And finally, here’s the goal-oriented attitude, which means that people want to make sure their money goes toward something specific—like paying off debt or funding a dream project.
Different parts of Switzerland speak different languages, and so the attitudes are very different in each region. I can give you an example with the sentence about how you get your salary – which in every Swiss language region is perceived differently:
In German, it’s “Geld verdienen” – meaning you EARN your money.
In French, it’s “Gagner de l’argent” – meaning you WIN your money.
In Italian, it’s “Fare soldi” – meaning you MAKE your money.
So, you see the way we understand money – is different in each region.
But looking at Switzerland as its whole – we did a good job keeping the three attitudes in balance. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world economically. Digging deeper into the micro-level of things – I think a more relaxed and less serious approach towards money and towards wealth would help us to be a happier society.
The definition of wealth is still too narrow. Wealth is such a rich word, and we use it far too less in all its true beauty. Wealth equals money is the normal definition – but as I have mentioned – wealth goes beyond money.
What is something that irritates you about the conversation around wealth?
It’s the above. The definition of wealth is still too narrow. Wealth is such a rich word, and we use it far too less in all its true beauty. Wealth equals money is the normal definition – but as I have mentioned – wealth goes beyond money. There is still a lot of room for improvement regarding this mindset.
What do you wish you knew about money and wealth 10 years ago?
I wish I had followed my own advice above. Treat money with respect and it will follow you. I never really cared about money, ignored its tries to flirt with me, and so I did not give it the home it deserved. Concrete: I did not understand the concept of investing 10 years ago. If we talk about wealth in its broader sense, I think I did a good job. I consider myself as being wealthy beyond money today!
What do you wish every child learned in school about wealth?
I wish that children would be better educated on the whole spectrum of the topic. Money, personal finances, the pursuit of happiness, etc. It’s still a topic that is totally neglected in the early years – but it could have so much impact on how a society lives and is shaped and lives a life of wealth beyond money!
Thank you very much!
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Alpian will launch its products and services shortly after its banking license enters into full force and will be available to the public in the third quarter of 2022.