What lies at the core of a bank’s investment philosophy? In fact, what is a bank’s investment philosophy and why should you care? We interviewed Victor Cianni, Chief Investment Officer at Alpian to learn more about Alpian’s investment philosophy and why constructive and clear conversations are vital to guide people on their journey towards financial wellness.
As the Chief Investment Officer at Alpian, how would you describe your role? How does it relate to building a bank?
Chief Investment Officer is a rather pompous title to describe a simple reality: My role is to supervise the development of all the investment solutions that Alpian will offer. And behind me, there is an entire ecosystem. First, a team of talents that I am proud to work with. Second, a vast series of tools we have developed internally that help us make better decisions. And third, a network of asset managers that we partner with. Investments are a key part of a banking relationship, and they need to be done in a way that clients are comfortable with at all times.
Could you tell us how your journey into the world of investment began?
In a terrible way (laughs)! I started my career in 2007, a few months before one of the most violent financial crises in the history of financial markets. I landed there from a different world. At that time the financial industry was looking for young engineers with a background in computer science and I was attracted by the complex systems of financial markets.
What I lived through shortly after was brutal. The market’s reactions, people’s reactions, everything was exacerbated. But you learn soon that the economy is not something as schematic as what is described in economic books: it is a living process.
And this lesson was priceless. I got to learn how a real estate boom in the US can cause the failure of a financial system in Iceland. This has shaped my vision of the world of investment. In hindsight, I would not trade that first experience for anything.
Too often we start financial discussions with products. Clients ask investment professionals “what should I buy?” and investment professionals promote the latest financial products they have in stock.
What compelled you to join Alpian?
A great project carried on by great people. And it transpired during my first interview. The first question I got was basically: “How would you
I didn’t know it yet, but I already had started working for Alpian on that day. We have a real opportunity here to do things differently, every day. I love it, it is like learning my job all over again.
What makes Alpian different from other conventional banking offerings?
The care that we put into aligning our interests with the ones of our clients. I sometimes feel like I am building the bank I’d like to have for myself, and it is a feeling shared by many of my colleagues. A bank that cares and that conveniently sits in my pocket.
What’s your journey at Alpian been like since you first joined?
An enjoyable one. There are good and less good days like in every company, but each day is different and makes a difference. That’s all I can wish for now.
What went into the creation of Alpian’s investment philosophy? Could you tell us more about what it is, and why it’s important for a bank to have an investment philosophy?
Too often we start financial discussions with products. Clients ask investment professionals “what should I buy?” and investment professionals promote the latest financial products they have in stock. Nothing good usually comes out of it down the road. The banking industry is probably one of the only industries where discussions happen this way. I mean, imagine going to a drugstore and asking the pharmacist: “what should I buy?”.
A better way to start financial conversations is to lay foundations for constructive dialogues. Our investment philosophy is our way to see the investment world. It is a set of principles that guide our thinking and actions. We are happy to share it, debate it and compare it with our clients’ own philosophies. Once we come to an agreement, we can start discussing opportunities.
We have also designed this philosophy so that people who are new to the world of investment or in the process of forming their own philosophy can borrow from it. These principles are time-tested and should help you avoid a couple of costly financial mistakes.
The rise of crypto or NFTs has brought younger people to the world of investing. What would you want to share with people whose first introduction to the world of investing has been cryptos and NFTs?
Every financial journey has to start somewhere. It varies from one person to another, and also from one generation to another. For some, the starting point is equity (companies), for others real estate. And for many today, it’s been crypto and NFTs.
With time, some gain specialized knowledge while others broaden their investment horizons. I consider myself a macro investor and I love to discover new assets.
I don’t think the entry point matters but if there is one piece of advice I would like to give, it is the following: Whatever path you choose, look beneath the surface. Either by gaining a deep understanding of the assets you are investing in or by expanding your knowledge to other asset classes. For example, there are a lot of similarities between financial instruments. What is happening today in the crypto/NFT space has happened before to some extent in other asset classes. In any case, the surface is the worst place to be over the long term.
Most of the content provided today is either paid content or free but biased (for example, brokerage houses that want you to trade).
You’ve been enthusiastic about sharing your knowledge of the financial world with people with all levels of expertise. As a core contributor to i-vest, what motivates you to give people free access to investment knowledge?
When I started my career 15 years ago, I came from a different industry. I am a bioinformatician by training. I really learned about the financial world on the job. I had to rely on various sources of information to become knowledgeable: books (I may have read hundreds of them), discussions with professionals, newspapers, and financial shows and conferences. However, in 2007 the content available was not really written for the average person. I wish I had a single educational platform when I started. Today I believe it is my turn to share what I have learned, although I still have a lot to learn.
I would also like to add two things: First, investing is something you learn by doing, but practical tips can help you get started. Second, most of the content provided today is either paid content or free but biased (for example, brokerage houses that want you to trade).
It is time to have free quality content that doesn’t come with a catch. That’s what motivates me today.
Did you enjoy this reading? Then head to: “Building a Bank: Part I with Schuyler Weiss” and “Building a bank: Part III with Roman Balzan“.
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