We must have the courage to have more dreams than reality can destroy
Welcome to my New Year thoughts, and to an update on what’s going on in our family business.
My goodness, what a year. Corona, turbulent US elections, Brexit, climate change – a year when the state banned children from singing and the “Black Lives Matter” movement gained serious visibility. 2020 will leave a deep footprint in the history books. And 2021 had barely begun before we witnessed the storming of the Capitol in Washington on 6 January.
Covid-19 is another black swan event which – like Google, 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis – has come unexpectedly and is causing great change. The pandemic has had terrible and lasting consequences all over the world. Around 96 million people have fallen ill so far, and more than 2 million have died.
Politicians have passed emergency laws to put us all under house arrest for months, and parts of the economy have simply been ordered to stop. A previously unthinkable global scenario has become reality. Aircraft remain grounded all over the world. The Olympic Games are canceled. Sports is taking place without spectators. Restaurants are closed. The pandemic has brutally attacked our personal freedom, our society and the economy. Long established companies and whole industries are facing an uncertain future, and many people fear for their jobs. Meanwhile, companies with innovative, modern business formats focused on sustainability are performing impressively. The coronavirus pandemic will take a prominent place in the hall of fame of the big digitalizers.
Equity markets are on the up despite Corona. Tesla has been the shareholders’ darling, reflecting the fact that investors are currently buying hope. The technology company, just 17 years old, had a market value of over US$ 800 billion at the start of January 2021. In other words, with a market share of just under 2% by sales, it is worth more on the stock market than the whole of the western car industry, including firms like Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, FCA, General Motors, Ford, etc. And Tesla is now worth more than Facebook. This has put Elon Musk at number 1 in the club of the world’s richest individuals. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. Social tensions caused by inequality are increasing.
So where is the center for chaos research?
While traditional companies are having to reinvent themselves fast, politics is dominated by crisis management. Britain and the EU came to a Brexit deal at the very last moment. With a healthy portion of British irony the Financial Times published a 2020 pandemic version of the famous Monty Python song by Eric Idle: “Always look on the bright side of life”. Donald Trump has brought lasting change to the role and reputation of America as a superpower in the world. Despite winning 74 million votes he must now leave “his” deeply divided nation – unwillingly and after a disgraceful departure – to 78-year-old Joe Biden. What can we expect from America in the years to come? The storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters was predictable – a black elephant – and made possible by an unbelievable misjudgment of security requirements. It may well have been a blessing in disguise for the USA. Imagine if real terrorists had exploited the moment and infiltrated the demonstrators at the Capitol. It makes the Netflix series House of Cards seem rather boring. Satirists around the globe have had a field day – they will miss Donald Trump.
While democracy is under threat in some places, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are leading their giant empires with a firm hand. In China, the popular internet billionaire Jack Ma has not been seen for months after making critical remarks – Ma and his Alibaba empire have become to too powerful for the Chinese Communist Party. All these major events have made it easy to miss that 2020 was Europe’s warmest year since records began. The Copernicus climate change service tells us that it was also as warm worldwide as the previous record year of 2016. With the climate changing this much, will our zero-emission targets be sufficient?
Time once again for an outbreak of courage
We face many challenges and we are all having to rethink a lot in both our personal and business lives. The pandemic is and remains a major driver of change. Home-offices, digital conferences and delivery services are driving out the familiar and the tried-and-trusted. In many places we are likely to see state institutions, airlines, hotels, clubs and shops refusing entry to anyone without a digital health passport with an immunization certificate. Our working lives and our general lifestyles will not be as they once were, and the kind of privacy we have known in the past will no longer exist. And somehow we will have to repay the trillions that governments are spending for us to combat the pandemic. “There is no such thing as a free lunch”. We could now do with a magic wand right now.
The moment when it all starts to make sense
The world has been turned upside down and it’s natural to ask what this means for us and for our responsibility to customers, employees and the general public. Our philosophy, which is based on foresight, prudence and sustainable, responsible thought and action, helps us deal with fundamental questions and strengthens our self-confidence.
Within the Fritz Kaiser Group (www.fkg.org) we employ 250 people in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Poland, and we engage in private banking, asset management, real estate business, renewable energy, digital services and classic cars. Thanks to our diversity we can offer our partners and clients unique added value and so will continue to grow profitably in 2021.
We’re doing well and over the last year we have tried to put Churchill’s phrase “never let a good crisis go to waste” into practice, and have used this time for housekeeping, innovation, business development and new partnerships. We believe in our dreams and in our values; we invest in them and work hard for them. In our company, outstanding people with expertise, positive energy and a lot of heart work to ensure that we can earn the trust of our partners and clients every single day.
A brief update on our businesses and initiatives
Kaiser Partner Privatbank is a pioneer of responsible, sustainable investing. Especially in these times of uncertainty, this is paying off for our clients. We are up among the leaders in terms of comparative investment performance. Assets entrusted to the bank have grown by 6% and revenue is up 2%. Profit was halved in 2020 owing to the coronavirus. The bank’s prospects are good by any measure.
Kaiser Partner Wealth Advisors advise and support entrepreneurs and families, using forward-looking structures to help them navigate their assets smartly on the right side of change in a complex world, and secure them for future generations. This part of the business, the roots of which go back to 1931, employs very well connected, proven experts from 13 countries.
In recent years, our company Seawind Holding has worked with partners and experts to develop off-shore wind projects off the coast of Poland with the potential to generate up to 7.3 gigawatts of renewable energy. In December 2020 we established a partnership with IBERDROLA and sold it a 50% stake in our portfolio so we could take these projects forward together. The Spanish group is one of the world’s leading energy companies and the number 1 for production of wind energy.
21iLab, our own digital business, helps us and our clients to use the internet effectively and to successfully master the digital transformation. The company is performing very well with its own teams in Liechtenstein and Italy, making us fit for the digital challenges to come.
In December, TCCT The Classic Car Trust brought out its annual publication “The Key 2020”, which included a ranking of the top 100 collectors in the world, a market cockpit, a study on women and classic cars and many more unique stories. The main focus for TCCT in 2020, however, was the development of the eClassic initiative in partnership with design superstars Pininfarina and Zagato and with Racing Unleashed. The first digitally networked simulators are being delivered to clients in Switzerland and Italy in the second quarter of 2021. This is creating a new community and launching a new future for this global market. Classic cars go eSports with the best.
Through our private aid program Smile our family is providing up to a million francs to help those hit hard by the coronavirus. The initiative, which started last spring, has so far helped 100 families, self-employed people and small businesses in Liechtenstein.
Life is beautiful. But nobody said it was easy.
Corona has reminded us that you can’t always predict what happens in life and that you can’t underestimate how important our health is. My family are all doing well, thank God, and we’ve been disciplined about corona precautions.
I continue to love the scent of opportunities and look forward very much to discussing and developing these soon – not just on video calls but in person.
All the best for a better 2021.
January 2021, Fritz Kaiser