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Building Bridges and Strengthening Ties: Interview with Nicola Gerwig

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From building a new business function to transferring knowledge: vestr is a technology company driven by ambitious individuals.

vestr – the engine behind actively managed investment – has grown rapidly since its founding in 2017. With so many talented quants and engineers among us, we could share any number of facts and figures to illustrate this. Such as the platform’s rebalancing volume or the number of lines in the codebase. But sometimes it is just as important to look at the people behind the engine. From three co-founders in Zug to a team spanning four countries (and two continents). We’ve experienced the thrills and challenges that come with nurturing an ever-expanding international company.

In our last interview, we caught up with Thomas Laich, Senior Software Engineer and Team Lead of our Office in Ukraine, to learn more about his experience nearshoring vestr in Lviv. Following our chat, we wanted to better understand firstly, the challenges that arise when establishing new teams in a young organisation. Secondly, learn more about successful cross-border collaboration. As such, who better to speak with than Client Integration Manager, Nicola Gerwig? Based in Zug, Nicola joined in February 2021 to help shape the newly created Clients team and spent some time last September in our office in Lviv to help onboard the new Client Support Manager, Alina Sushytska.

“We are digitising the active investment industry, but we make sure to build meaningful connections within the team to deliver the best results.”

Nicola Gerwig, Client Integration Manager

 

First things first, Nicola, what exactly is a Client Integration Manager?

As is typical for the start-up world, the role extends far beyond the job title. However, to put it simply, my role is to support our clients on their journey with vestr. When a prospective client requests a Proof of Concept, the Clients team steps in to help integrate our product with their internal IT infrastructure. We support them in any way we can. This includes answering questions and updating our clients on integration status. In fact, we are acting as an intermediary between the client and our in-house developers. We effectively translate client requirements into technical expertise. 

In fact, before vestr, I worked on the trading floor of a large Swiss bank. As a trader I developed an interest in all kinds of investment strategies and their corresponding products. As such, I not only have a solid understanding of my clients’ requirements, but also feel confident assisting them in adapting our product to work for them.

Sounds like a natural switch: from the practical trading world to joining the team streamlining trading processes! What prompted you to join vestr?

Nicola: Honestly, I was looking for a fresh challenge. When I joined in February, there was no formal Client integration team, but a strong business need for one. Mischa Weise (VP Clients) and I were incredibly fortunate to take ownership of and develop this business area. In those first few months, we busied ourselves with establishing client onboarding processes, creating key documentation and consolidating existing information – all while dedicating ourselves to supporting existing and new clients. Of course, that hard work is paying off now as we have been able to streamline our onboarding process. That is not to say it is a “one size fits all” approach. We still cultivate individual client relationships and integrations and, for me, that’s always an incredibly interesting and insightful journey. Indeed, our clients encourage us to be even more innovative – suggesting ideas we never would have considered. 

Would you say you’ve learned a lot very quickly?

Nicola: Certainly, but not just from the clients. As I mentioned, I previously worked more than 6 years in an investment banking environment,  whereas Mischa has a strong consulting background. In the beginning, it was hard to adapt to project management: both shifting my mindset and learning to manage multiple projects concurrently. However, I’m grateful to Mischa for acting as a de facto mentor and guiding me through this process.  At the same time, it was great to share my financial expertise with him.

What a Dream Team! So, what led you to bring in Alina?

Nicola: The more clients we gain, the greater the client support needs – both business and technical – and, naturally, meeting our clients’ needs is our highest priority. By Summer 2021, we noticed an increase in support requests from our “live” clients. Despite originally offering this support ourselves, we knew it was not feasible in the long-term. Following discussions, the natural progression to meet this sustained growth seemed to be the creation of a Client Support Manager role with potential to hire additional specialist support in the future. This idea came into fruition in September with the addition of Alina in Ukraine.

Which brings us to your visit to Lviv to train Alina. How did you find this experience?

Nicola: In a word…incredible! My time in Lviv is perhaps the highlight of my vestr journey so far. After months of virtual meetings and emails, it was great to meet the Lviv team in person and get to know them better. From devouring some of the biggest pizzas I’d ever seen at a team dinner, to watching a football match, to just soaking up the culture in Lviv, it was not only meaningful to share these experiences, but also to truly understand another’s sense of humour. So much can be lost in translation when writing emails or instant messages – humour falls flat. Since returning to Zurich, I have already felt the positive impact of my trip. Messages are more relaxed and friendlier, with some humour and personality behind them. 

For Alina in particular, it was valuable to build a better connection to the rest of the Clients team (based in Zurich). Alina is yet another puzzle piece to round out the Clients team and I really enjoyed learning more about her personality and expertise, while teaching her about the financial market and the processes within. This collaborative team spirit was further cemented in October when Alina visited us in Zug. 

Looking forward, any ambitious plans for 2022?

It would be great to meet our growing team based in Singapore (hint hint!). Otherwise, my greatest ambition is that our processes will evolve into perfection, although this can’t happen overnight. Therefore, 2022 will be about supporting that continual steady growth of the vestr platform, improving upon existing processes and cultivating sustainable client relationships.

Thank you for these great insights, Nicola. If you enjoyed this glimpse into our work at vestr, we invite you to follow us on LinkedIn for receiving updates about our team and product!

Should you be curious about joining our team, please reach out and check our open positions in the Ukraine and Switzerland.