Frank Walenta and Wim Ritz (ZEDRA): Back in the family
ZEDRA Luxembourg Managing Director, Frank Walenta says the recruitment of Wim Ritz as Global Head of Funds demonstrates the group’s ambitions, both in alternative asset management services and more broadly as part of ZEDRA’s global presence. They see the pandemic as an opportunity to embrace new working methods and models as well as opening up a range of possibilities for ZEDRA’s clients.
How did you decide to work together?
Frank Walenta (FW): It was just a matter of time, since we’ve known each other for many years, and we have worked together in the same firm before. Given the pace at which ZEDRA is growing, it was a natural move to hire a professional like Wim. He is very able, well connected and shares our entrepreneurial culture. He is simply back in the family.
Wim Ritz (WR): I have joined ZEDRA as Global Head of Funds with a very ambitious growth target: to be among the top five firms globally in our sector. Given our characters, common history and shared commitment, I feel it’s a natural fit. Something unique to ZEDRA is that we don’t need lengthy discussions to understand each other - many things don’t need any explanation at all. We all love our work, and we know what it takes to achieve success.
“We act as adaptors, making solutions work across borders, and accelerators of business growth.”
How are your clients’ needs evolving?
FW: Quickly and dramatically! Clients are increasingly prioritising ad hoc solutions they can implement on the spot, and avoiding long, drawn-out inquiries and procurement processes. When they come to us, our clients know where they want to go, how, and what they need. Our work today is very technical and subject to very demanding time constraints. On one hand, it’s just-in-time delivery; on the other we are part of a bigger picture. We need to cover new areas, co-ordinating, monitoring and putting the pieces together. Asset classes are expanding from traditional areas such as real estate, debt, infrastructure and renewable energy to clients launching their own apps or investing in pharmaceutical cannabis. What used to be marginal fields are becoming mainstream. As open-minded entrepreneurs, we are fully engaged with these innovative businesses and understand they require a different type of risk management and monitoring.
WR: We have a double role today. The first is like an electric power adaptor. Our clients invest in many asset classes all over the world, and they need a trusted partner who can put things together so that the solution works across borders, in all jurisdictions. Secondly, we act as accelerators. The leadership at ZEDRA – Ivo Hemelraad our CEO, Bart Deconinck our Executive Chairman, Frank, myself and many others – have all set up their own companies. We’ve been in the shoes of our clients, so we understand their needs well and how to cater to them. A new generation of investors has arrived who, in funds for example, are starting to guide their investment managers, to ensure their choices comply with the investor’s philosophy. That’s something we respect and are closely involved with, for example in adhering to new sustainability standards, impact and ESG investing.
How has Covid-19 impacted your own and your clients’ business?
FW: Our business has not been impaired at all – in fact some months we saw double-digit growth as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, accelerating our digital transformation. As a company, we chose to lean into these challenging times and use it as an opportunity to revisit our way of working, giving further impetus to our growth and modernisation.
WR: For our generation, this is just the latest in a series of crises. It is not good from a human point of view, however, challenging situations can be accelerators of growth – people show resilience, stand together and make things happen more quickly. A lot of developments that were slow to catch on have been forced upon us. For our clients, it represents a wealth of possibilities. There are huge amounts of dry powder available, and countless opportunities to build promising companies, bring them to market and help them grow rapidly.