«Having a good product is a tiny part of the journey to success»
Mr. Hirschel, you are one of the well-known marketing specialists in the financial centre of Geneva and in the whole of French-speaking Switzerland. Can you say a few words about your career?
My entire professional life has been in the financial sector. Before creating my company, H-Ideas, I worked for banks and asset managers like Paribas, Société Générale and Unigestion. This is something my clients value a lot. Before being an advisor to them, I have been in their shoes. So, I am aware of their challenges, I know how their clients think and act, my recommendations are very close to their actual business life and are easily actionable. Diversity of backgrounds is also an edge: I have worked with banks, pure asset managers, independent houses, listed companies, institutional focused and retail-focused firms, traditional and alternative investments. At the end it all has to do with the huge responsibility to ensure a serene financial future for our society. The way to address this is, however, significantly different depending on the company’s structure, and above all depending on its culture.
Your agency serves many big names from the world of banking and asset management. What exactly do you offer them?
Using their competitive advantage at their best to win more business and keep the one they have for longer. There is an assumption that if you have a good product, you will be successful. This is a tiny part of the story. Having a good product is only the ticket that allows you to take part in the game. There are many other things to do if you want to win the game. For example, there are 130,000 funds available in the market out there. There are plenty of excellent products among these. Investors don’t need more choice. They need more clarity, orientation, and certainty about the choices they make. I believe each financial company, like each individual, is unique: it is the result of its history, of its culture. Identifying this, what makes them unique, and expressing it in a way which connects with investors needs is paramount for the company’s success. It is also a key ingredient for good alignment between investors and investment managers: a critical societal subject in a world whose demographic structure makes savings a backbone of future social stability.
One of your specialities is branding. A complex topic. What fascinates you so much about it?
Maybe that this is complex! Joke aside, it is rather that this is different for each and every client we work with. Identifying and expressing the culture of a company is really about diving deep into the soul of the firm. The ones who know the company innermost brand is the team itself. We are not there to tell them what their brand is, only they know. We are there to guide them to identify it, express it in an impactful manner, by applying a structured and tested methodology. One of my clients once told me he saw similarities between my job and an obstetrician. I never thought of it this way but am flattered by the comparison: what could be more beautiful than helping a hidden treasure emerge?
If a company wants to get better at this quickly, what is your most important advice?
Well, not do this quickly! The brand is the anchor of stability of the company. If you think about the many challenges out there, should they be economic, financial, social, environmental, or sanitary, this may well be the only anchor of stability for many years. This stability is important for the company itself and will be looked after by their clients. So better get it right and get it right for the long-term. The brand is the North Star. You will lose your employees, your clients, your stakeholders if you change directions often. Anyway four to eight months is not that long at the scale of a company’s lifetime.
Can you take on more clients? If so, what are you most interested in implementing?
We are always open to onboard new clients. However, it is a process of carefully evaluating whether we are a good fit for them. We partner with clients who view marketing as transformational for their company. If marketing is viewed as just getting a new logo or revising a brochure, as much as we believe this is important too and should be consistent with the rest of the culture, we are not the right guys. But if you would like to know who your audience is, whom you are relevant for, what makes you unique and how to express this in a way which connects with your clients and will make them act upon, then we are for you! And we do this at the corporate level and at product level.
Link to disclaimer
Jean-François Hirschel is the founder and CEO of H-Ideas S.A., a company which aims at re-establishing trust in the financial world. His professional expertise lies in strategically positioning financial services companies at brand and product level. Hirschel has held senior leadership positions at Paribas, Société Générale and Unigestion. He holds a MSc from EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland, and has profound knowledge and experience in Institutional, Private and Retail Banking & Asset Management.