Sibylle Salzmann Ciarrocchi - Guiding entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey

Sibylle Salzmann Ciarrocchi - Guiding entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey

As a Senior Private Banker at Pictet Wealth Management, Sibylle Salzmann Ciarrocchi works closely with business owners, guiding them at each stage of their entrepreneurial journey, from growth to exit – and beyond.

Sibylle Salzmann Ciarrocchi has worked along- side entrepreneurs for most of her 17-year career in finance. Having grown up in Switzerland, in 2007, she joined HSBC’s Global Graduate Programme, before joining HSBC Private Bank in Zurich. Since then, she has worked as a relationship manager within the private banking divisions of multiple financial institutions, with a particular focus on Swiss entrepreneurs and executives. Today, as an Executive Director and Senior Private Banker at Pictet Wealth Management, she inter- acts with founders and investors based in Switzerland on a daily basis.

During this time, Sibylle has acquired a deep understanding of what being an entrepreneur means and just how challenging it can be to launch and run your own venture. “Being an entrepreneur is intense,” says the executive, sitting in an office in Pictet’s Zurich office. “You have so many responsibilities: for example, you need to make sure the business is running, that you bring clients in, and you get your next financing round. All of this takes a lot of attention.” Then there is the ever-present and enervating issue of talent, and trying to attract and retain the very best people for your business. And this is all before you consider the sacrifices that being an entrepreneur demands, the sheer level of commitment required. “Because you have skin in the game,” Sibylle explains. “It’s your money, but also your vision.”

You sell your company, and nobody calls on a Monday morning. That can be very difficult.

With all of this to contend with, it’s no surprise that many entrepreneurs think very little about their own wealth. “These questions are not at the top of the to-do list for an entrepreneur,” Sibylle says. For the most part, this is understandable and unproblematic, but at a certain point in time, it needs to become more of a priority. According to Sibylle, an entrepreneur goes through three stages in a life cycle: growth, maturity and diversification. “In the growth stage, if I’m honest, we aren’t going to add much value, because the entrepreneur will have a lot of questions around financing rounds and we’re not a corporate bank,” says Sibylle. During this phase, Pictet can provide access to an unrivalled network of experts, from lawyers and M&A specialists through to investors, who can, at various points, guide and support a founder. However, most of the work that Sibylle does, assisting entrepreneurs in their transition from business owner to institutional investor, comes later on in the life cycle: in the maturity stage, pre-sale or liquidity event; and the diversification stage, which begins after a company sale or liquidity event.

Despite what many people would expect, the time that immediately follows a sale is often challenging and confusing for entrepreneurs. “The moment you have a liquidity event, you have 10 banks writing you a letter saying that they want to sell you a discretionary mandate,” says Sibylle. “It’s very over- whelming.” She suggests that entrepreneurs therefore need to build a relationship with a trusted advisor before the sale. “One pitfall to avoid is simply taking a shortcut and choosing the cheapest of those 10 proposals, rather than going through the longer process.” She often works with entrepreneurs in the maturity stage of their business, when they’re starting to think about an exit, when she and her team can work with them to craft a tailored strategic plan for their wealth and their future.

When our Partners speak to our clients, it’s an entrepreneur talking to an entrepreneur.

Before and after a sale or liquidity event, every entrepreneur has to ask themselves some vital and fundamental questions, Sibylle notes: “What do you want to do with your wealth? What do you want to achieve? What is the purpose?” Some people, for instance, simply want to have a stable income to sustain their lifestyle; others want to make a difference through philanthropy and impact investing; while some people’s highest priority is preserving their wealth for their family and the next generation. Sibylle and her colleagues do a lot of probing and listening during these stages, before they use the answers to construct an investment strategy that is tailor-made to any given client.

There is also an emotional element that is often underappreciated, a side which Sibylle believes is actually more important than the financial and organisational side. “You’ve worked so hard, let’s say for 10, 15, maybe 20 years,” she says. “And then you sell your company, and nobody calls on a Monday morning. That can be very difficult.” In her experience of working with entrepreneurs who have sold their businesses, a lot of them initially take a break, but then come back and say, as Sibylle puts it: “‘This is so boring, I can’t stand it. I want to create my next company.’” These people rarely start again entirely from scratch, she notes, but they often become investors in their own right, supporting start-ups or moving into private equity.

Of course, for many entrepreneurs, an exit isn’t even their preferred outcome. Even within this edition of Pictet Report, we’ve spoken to entrepreneurs who have passed their businesses on to their children, and others who have evolved their businesses from being family-managed to being family-owned entities. “We’re talking a lot about liquidity events, but this is not taking into account the real economy,” Sibylle says, “because most companies stay private. They stay within the family and each generation hands it over to the next.”

This way of thinking is, of course, embedded within Pictet, a company that has remained privately owned for over 215 years and been passed down through the generations of its owning family. As Sibylle notes, this means that Pictet is perfectly placed to speak to entrepreneurs naturally and on their own level. “It’s about walking your talk,” she says. “When our Partners speak to our clients, it’s an entrepreneur talking to an entrepreneur. They’re aware of the challenges, of how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur.” This level of affinity that Pictet has for entrepreneurs exists across the board, whether the founder in question wants to exit and explore a new stage of life as an investor, or they want to continue the family business and pass it on to the next generation.

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