By Josep Sarlé Guiu, Founder
PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT: HOW IT BEGAN
Fimarge was founded in May 1988 in the Principality of Andorra, in a special setting:
- International stage. On the one hand, the USA, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and other similar countries had well developed financial markets but were geographically remote. An Andorran firm would need to get to know them and build professional bridges to gain access to them. In neighbouring Spain and France, on the other hand, financial systemregulation was relatively immature and savers were only just starting to consider investing in shares, bonds and investment funds, although privatizations of state enterprises were a regular occurrence in several European countries.
- Andorran stage. The financial sector, which was limited to Andorran banks, operated on a pre-constitutional basis and was unregulated. At that time, banks concentrated on deposit-taking and lending. Only a part of actual investor demand could be met.
The idea of helping investors who wanted to put their money to work so as to achieve better returns in that environment is what prompted me to start Fimarge. My knowledge and tools came from an education in business (ESADE) and economics (PhD from Grenoble-UAB) and my experience in research (IESE) and management (Andorran Hospital Centre, CHA), rather than from any banking experience.
For the first two years our activities centered around portfolio management, but our focus on the needs of the investor meant that we were already putting our financial knowledge in a range of other related areas at the investor’s disposal.
WEALTH MANAGEMENT: AN EXPANSION THAT MADE SENSE
Right from the outset, to invest in financial assets you need two things:
- An “intimate” knowledge of the investor’s personal and family wealth and, consequently, an understanding of the investor’s needs and opportunities
- Investment tools which can also be useful in other areas of wealth planning
Because of our client-oriented approach it soon became clear to us that we could add as much value, or more, by helping investors conserve and enhance their wealth as a whole.
So it was that in 1990 Fimarge entered the wealth management business, starting with international wealth planning. Since then, the offering has been filled out to include the various other components of a multi-family office.
From very early on, Fimarge aspired to offer the highest standards of service to investors, aiming to become one of the top wealth management firms in Andorra.
The following are some of the milestones in this ongoing effort:
- 1988 to 1995. Prominent role in IPO activity, particularly in Andorra, during the phase of European privatizations.
- Strict accounting control from the outset, while the industry was still unregulated. Already back then Fimarge was audited by world-class firms such as PWC and KPMG, and still is today.
- Early ’90s. International expertise and investment in international markets, at a time when this was still unusual in our environment.
- 1994 crisis. Excellent management, with good results for investors. Very good performance throughout the rest of the ’90s, taking advantage of the convergence towards the single European currency.
- Adaptation of our bylaws to international standards. Adaptation to the Andorran Financial Laws, which came into force in 1993 (with the new Constitution); central bank (INAF) supervision and control; qualified institution (QI) status in the USA; FIU and FATF supervision, etc.
- 1999. Unaffected by the dotcom and New Economy bubble.
- Gradual growth of activity, driven by word-of-mouth.
- 2008. Tough lessons learned after the onset of the financial crisis and the widespread fall in the markets, sparked by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, which had an adverse impact on the management of our portfolios.
- Investment in the development of proprietary IT systems: fundamental from the start (e.g., creation of original reports, designed from the investor’s point of view; development of improved management and control tools).
- 2010. Fimarge acquires Investment Company status, the only firm in Andorra to do so to date, with a leading market share in asset management.