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The Dutchman who manages the fortunes of the Belgians

17 May 2012, Trends-Tendances

Written by Guy Legrand

His father founded an asset management company in 1971. Thirty-seven years on, Victor Zwart followed in his footsteps, this time choosing Belgium.

Blood will out, as they say. Like his father Peter, Victor S. Zwart chose asset management as his trade. Not by taking over the family business, which had been sold in the interim, but by setting up a new company: Wealtheon. And it was to be based in Brussels, where its founder has been living since early in 2005. He knew Belgium well, having spent twelve years at school there, in Limburg. “My wife and I chose Belgium for its educational system, which offers more discipline, while Brussels is a city full of intense human relationships, but with more politeness and respect than others.” Before that, Victor Zwart had added to his professional experience, first in the USA, later with ING. Another three years were spent in his father’s business, then in a bank in Amsterdam and later in Geneva. It was in February 2008 that Wealtheon received the seal of approval of the Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA), later succeeded by the FSMA. Based in Uccle, the management company also opened an office in the Netherlands in November 2008.

So, was Belgium another good professional choice? “There is less competition than elsewhere, at least when it comes to independent firms. Here, the large-scale asset management business is in the hands of the banks.” Which is not the case with Wealtheon; the company is an external asset manager. It handles its client’s portfolios on a discretionary basis, but the client retains direct ownership of it with the custodian bank. Wealtheon adapts each client’s portfolio to their needs and preferences, particularly as regards risk. However, management is uniform: when an operation has been decided upon, it is applied to all clients.  The company has also elected to make direct investments, rather than choosing investment funds and trusts. “A portfolio typically includes 35 different equities, for good diversification, and six to twelve bonds,” explains Zwart. “That is why we do not handle any portfolios worth less than a million euros.” There is no shortage of potential clients “There are plenty of high net worth individuals in Belgium, and many entrepreneurs.”

Victor Zwart admits that most of his reading material is financial, while he is unable to spend too much time on the golf course. Skiing holidays are a family priority, though, a habit acquired while living in Geneva. And with four young children, bike rides around the Forêt de Soignes at the weekend are a must.

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