„Neunundvierzig allows me to spend a lot of time with the people I work for. We don't just manage our clients' money, we improve their quality of life.“
At the age of 37 I had pretty much made it at major bank. Having survived two selection rounds, I was about to be promoted from Branch Manager to Head of Sales Region. That meant an increase in salary, a smart office and a company car. But professionally I felt I had reached a dead end. I was dissatisfied – no, I was unhappy. The idea of trying to get as many of our branches as possible to sell as many of our financial products as feasible seemed to me like a nightmare.
At about the same time, a banking startup offered me the opportunity to set up their Munich office. The company had a business model which at the time was revolutionary within the industry: fair, transparent fees for providing clients with financial advice, with no working on commission. Fee-only investment advice was little more than a theoretical concept at the time, at least in Germany. There were no customers, no infrastructure and initially a lot less money to be earned. And I had two children and a pregnant wife to support. I wrote down a list of all the pros and cons of taking the job – and still had no idea what I should do. Some things are impossible to decide on a purely rational basis.
So I imagined where I would be in three to four years. Would it be worse to fail at the fee-only advice company and have to start all over again from scratch, or never to have tried it and watch while somebody else did it instead of me? That question was easier to answer.
I thought back to when I was a young man studying at university almost twenty years earlier. I had decided to do a History degree because I knew then that you're only good at the things you really believe in. What would the young Nikolaus think of me now if I stayed in my current job, just because it offered security? Wouldn't he think that I was a coward, a traitor to my principles? I realized that if I wanted to be at peace with myself, I had to have the courage to try to create something new, something better.
Looking back on it now I can see that I was right to follow my convictions. Not only that, it proved to be a good financial decision. In less than ten years we were able to create a fair alternative to traditional banks for a large number of people in Munich and the surrounding area.
For me – still married and now with four children – setting up Neunundvierzig was the next logical step. It allows me to implement fully my idea of what wealth counseling should be, and finally gives me the opportunity to work as an entrepreneur. Stefan Heringer, who has worked at my side for many years, is the ideal partner in this undertaking.
Being part of a smaller company allows me to spend more time with the people I work for. We don't just manage our clients' money, we improve their quality of life. As owner of the company, l can also allow myself the luxury of only working for people I care about. And I am willing to put myself on the line personally for any of our team members, strategies or recommendations.*