Founded in 1948 by members of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, Industrie- und Finanzkontor has been majority owned and managed by family members ever since. Originally run as a family office, the company is now one of the leading providers in the field of cross-border asset structuring and long-term preservation of family and entrepreneurial wealth. In 2020, H.S.H. Gisela Bergmann, Princess of Liechtenstein, was elected to the Board of Directors. She was appointed CEO at the beginning of this year.
Princess Gisela received a degree in engineering from ETH Zurich. This was followed by positions in investment banking and engineering in England, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland. She is the daughter of H.S.H. Prince Michael of Liechtenstein, who chairs the Board of Directors of Industrie- und Finanzkontor as Executive Chairman.
Princess Gisela, you have gained experience in many different companies. How does a family-owned and managed company, such as Industrie- und Finanzkontor, differ from others?
The main difference lies in our mind-set, and in the strong ties between the family and the management team, and between employees and clients. This leads to high levels of identification and above-average commitment. And this also means that family businesses are usually oriented towards the long-term.
So, the family acts as a role model?
Yes. In a family business, family members are prepared to invest their own time and money in the company, and to take personal responsibility for the success of the business. This
mind-set has a positive impact on the business, providing security and stability to both employees and clients, allowing the entrepreneurial spirit to thrive.
To what extent?
The family vouches for the company with its own surname. This creates a fundamental incentive within the company to perform at the highest level. Our family values form the basis
on which the entire governance of Industrie- und Finanzkontor is built. We are proud of our strong, diversified management and the motivated, well-trained workforce that stand behind those family values. The strong family ties mean that everyone feels the same compulsion to pull together. Our employees are fully aware of their responsibilities and are committed to the company. And our clients benefit from this.
Industrie- und Finanzkontor has an unusual origin. How is this reflected in the company?
We have our roots in the Princely House of Liechtenstein, which has existed for almost a thousand years. The Princely House has always stood out thanks to an exceptional willingness
to perform, a flair for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the pursuit of independence. These powerful traits run like a thread through our family history, and through Industrie- und Finanzkontor. We look at wealth and family from a holistic perspective, always thinking in terms of generations.
Industrie- und Finanzkontor focuses on the long-term preservation of wealth and values for clients, and structures wealth via legal instruments. How does the awareness of family and wealth play into this?
Each client’s situation is different, as every family is different. Private wealth, and family wealth in particular, are as diverse as the people to whom they belong. Our awareness of family and wealth is expressed in our entrepreneurial thinking, and reflected in each individual solution we craft for our clients. We view wealth from an objective and comprehensive perspective, focussing not only on tangible assets, but on intangible ones as well.
Why is this intangible approach significant for asset structuring?
Values, needs, expectations and goals, as well as the framework conditions in which assets are embedded, are all factors that influence wealth and assets in the long term. That’s why we pay special attention to this side of the business. We also support entrepreneurial families in formulating their own wealth and family culture and to strengthen the family´s understanding of their own legacy.
At some point the time comes when succession in a family business needs to be planned for. What should be taken into account in order to ensure a smooth succession plan?
Apart from the formal succession planning, clear communication and a leading by example on the part of the previous generation form the basis for successful succession planning. Other factors to be considered are that the family members are professionally and financially independent; that they gain experience; show an interest in the family business and have the appropriate willingness to perform. My sister and I were involved in strategic decisions and discussions about the company’s development from an early stage. However, it was always up to us to decide whether we wanted to take over the family business one day.
The world is now in the midst of a transformation: advancing digitalisation, changing client demands, upheavals in the regulatory structure, geopolitical realignment, and so forth. What do you see as the main responsibility of the next generation?
First of all, taking over a business should be seen as a privilege rather than a right. The entrusted company should be further developed for the benefit of future generations, both on a family level and with regard to employees and clients. Economic and social responsibility must also be ensured. The current times are challenging, especially in view of the erosion of private wealth by politics and society. Increasing bureaucracy inhibits productivity and endangers healthy pragmatism. It is important to consciously counteract unproductive bureaucracy. At the same time, there is also enormous potential for new business areas.
What priorities should one set in order to remain viable in the current and future environment?
As a matter of principle, we approach change with an open mind-set, focussing not only on the risks, but on the opportunities presented by new trends and developments, which we evaluate on a regular basis. An organisational structure must be prepared for the future, and employee expertise must be constantly strengthened. As far as the geopolitical realignment is concerned, we are convinced that it further highlights the importance of wealth preservation. In politically and economically unstable times, there is a growing desire for protection and security for wealth and assets, as well as for an environment in which property ownership rights are respected.
While at Industrie- und Finanzkontor we describe ourselves as «Wealth Preservation Experts», sustainability is the most common buzzword in the business world. How do wealth preservation and the quest for sustainability intertwine?
We focus on the long-term and multi-generational preservation of wealth in line with the will of the founder. Our claim «Wealth Preservation Experts» describes what we do in a nutshell. By setting up, implementing and managing asset structures via legal entities such as foundations, trusts or other corporate forms, we create a starting point for achieving positive social, ecological and economic effects in the long term, through those assets. From a governance perspective, we build fiduciary asset structures in such a way that they meet the current framework of conditions, while still being flexible enough to adapt to future changes. This is a basic prerequisite if an asset structure is to be preserved and continued across generations.
In the financial sector, banks in particular are focussing on the issue of sustainability. The fiduciary sector is cautious around this issue. Is the topic not yet ripe for discussion?
The banking industry is probably most directly affected by the current definition of sustainable investments. Accordingly, it is addressing the issue hastily. In the field of foundations and trusts however, the concept of sustainability has always been the guiding principle. Wealth structuring through legal entities lays the groundwork for a long-term alignment of assets. Wealth structures require sustainable asset management; longterm, viable asset investment; and the use of assets, all in line with the purpose of the foundation or trust statutes, which usually includes a time scale of several generations.
Allow me to conclude by asking you what your vision of the future of Industrie- und Finanzkontor looks like?
«Wealth Preservation» is a core value that does not change. The management of asset structures must always be carried out with a long-term view and follow an overall strategy. We, as experts, must anticipate the future, always think a few steps ahead and pave the way for the sake of our clients. This way, we support our clients in their intention to secure the future of their families, assets and values in the long term. At Industrie- und Finanzkontor we develop customised solutions to protect wealth and values and to safeguard them in the long term. Accordingly, our primary goals include to expand the opportunities for wealth structuring and wealth preservation with foresight, and to further develop our products and services.
Gisela Bergmann, Princess of Liechtenstein . Chief Executive Officer
Interview by Susanna Gopp
Recently I was asked how entrepreneurship has changed over time? My answer may not have been the one my counterpart was supposed to get. After all, entrepreneurship has not changed much. It is still concerned with identifying a market demand, examining opportunities, and producing suitable products and services through innovation and courage. That someone becomes an entrepreneur out of «greed for profit» is a fallacy. Entrepreneurs invest capital and time to build and develop a business. They are not afraid of competition with others. And through their personal commitment, they are interested in long-term success, not short-term profit.
What has changed over time, however, are the framework conditions in which entrepreneurship can take place. Today, the regulatory, centralisation and harmonisation structure is so tightly knit that it hinders entrepreneurial competition and makes innovation more difficult. However, competition is essential for improvement and innovation, and a large number of small- and medium-sized enterprises are the basis for a flourishing economy. Unfortunately, this is not understood by political and supranational organisations. And thus, entrepreneurs and citizens are degraded to mere tax substrates.
But entrepreneurs are also characterised by a positive attitude and long-term thinking. They defy many adversities, and family businesses in particular are increasing their productivity, supported by digitalisation. But there are limits to this, too. Western democracies, therefore, should be careful not to slaughter the goose that lays the golden eggs by destroying entrepreneurial freedom.
Conscious succession planning is a core element of long-term entrepreneurship. On the one hand, it strengthens the younger generation’s sense of belonging and responsibility, and on the other hand, it identifies the future for assets and the business. Find out more on how succession planning works in the article: «Gouverner, c’est prévoir».
I am very pleased to announce with this issue that we at Industrie- und Finanzkontor have arranged the company’s succession and Princess Gisela has taken over the operational management as of the beginning of 2022. In the following interview you will get a first impression of Princess Gisela. In our role as managing directors, Count Francis von Seilern-Aspang and I will continue to be active in relationship management and to support the management team at a strategic level.
Michael of Liechtenstein . Executive Chairman
«Gouverner, c’est prévoir; et ne rien prévoir, c’est courir à sa perte.» Emile de Girardin, a French publisher and politician, summed up what wealth and succession planning is all about: act with foresight, otherwise you may be heading for a loss. Often easier said than done! For as much as a generational change offers opportunities, it also harbours dangers if one does not plan ahead in a structured manner.
Structuring assets and planning succession are often not easy undertakings, because the economic-rational view is compounded by an ideational-emotional one. This dimension is often more important than one might think. Every generational change is fraught with risk because intra-family circumstances and poor planning can pose a threat to family assets.
When is «the right time»?
Wealth and succession planning is a process that can take several years. The right time to begin the process depends on many factors. If the process is started too early, it can arouse desires in the successor generation and steer a personal development in the wrong direction. If started too late, the process can fail often because offspring has already gone its own way, established itself in other areas and a return to the fold is difficult or lengthy. The decisive factor, however, is the desire of the transferor to actively initiate the succession process. The actual process begins within oneself.
Material values are not primary
The roots of a succession are already laid in the cradle of children, through the role model function of parents. From an early age, we learn from our parents what life is all about, what it can hold, how things are to be valued and what we can achieve with our abilities. These perceptions shape our own views on family, wealth and entrepreneurship. Accordingly, it is important to focus not only on material resources in the process, but also on family values, traditions, attitudes and role perceptions. They have a subliminal influence on the family system and, if not addressed and taken into account, can jeopardize family wealth and happiness at a later stage.
Wealth means responsibility. Responsibility means looking ahead. What should the future of the family legacy be? What counts as core assets, what as residual assets? What is to be achieved, what is the purpose of the family’s wealth? How should the successor generation use the assets? Who should take over the reins of the family business? What other factors should be taken into account? These and many other questions need to be clarified and the family and the assets need to be viewed from an objective, neutral and future-oriented perspective.
For the person handing over, this is sometimes an uncertain and doubtful path. In order to develop a sustainable wealth and succession strategy, it is therefore worthwhile to call in outside support. Independent experts have the necessary expertise and knowledge in various areas. However, their most important function is to listen and to understand, to ask pertinent questions and to guide the process in a targeted manner and from a neutral position, with the ultimate goal of uniting the family, its assets and business enterprises into a functioning «perpetuum mobile».
Five «essentials» for success
Five factors shape the success of any wealth and succession planning: First, the analysis of the initial situation and possible challenges in order to summarize the real overall situation of the family, its assets and businesses in economic, financial and personal terms and to lay the groundwork for a realistic and sustainable wealth and succession strategy. Secondly, the definition of values in order to promote a common understanding of the family legacy. The associated open communication within the family makes it possible to form a guiding framework for the future development of the family, assets and business. Thirdly, the definition of purpose for assets and the company, which also creates the basis for discussion with regard to shareholding and management succession as well as governance. Fourth, the consensus of all those involved, which is necessary for the feasibility of an asset and succession strategy and fundamentally strengthens the family’s ability to act. Fifth, ensuring flexibility so that the assets and business can be adapted to future conditions.
The framework conditions in which wealth is embedded influence its continued existence. While one can often only react passively to external conditions, one can actively influence internal conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to actively start a wealth and succession
process with professional support and secure the future of
wealth and family.
Francis von Seilern-Aspang . Managing Director
Since mankind exists trust is an elementary component for prosperous interaction between people, is it in business, politics or society. Without trust fruitful and good relationships are impossible. But why then is everything being done to undermine this essential value? In this article for Trusts & Trustees H.S.H. Prince Michael of Liechtenstein highlights the importance of trust for a prosperous society and economy, and related to that the role and duties of the international trust business industry.
On May 30, 2022 H.S.H. Gisela Bergmann, Princess of Liechtenstein, CEO and Managing Director of Industrie- und Finanzkontor, awarded the winners of the fourth I&F Family Wealth Preservation Award with a prize money of CHF 9'000:
Winner of the 1st prize: Anton Löhmer (DE)
Winner of the 2nd prize: Marco Lettenbichler (AT)
Winners of the 3rd prize: Cynthia Kranz (LI) and Christiane Mocker (DE)
The I&F Family Wealth Preservation Award, an essay competition, is embedded as an elective module in the LL.M. Executive Master's Program in Corporate, Foundation and Trust Law of the University of Liechtenstein. The award honors essays that convince through a high level of practical relevance and scientific expertise. The award is a successfull cooperation between science and the fiduciary practice.
Find out more about the I&F Family Wealth Preservation Award in the media excerpts below (in German language). Photo: Nils Vollmar, Balzers (LI).
With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that in this new decade anything is possible and nothing is immutable. From one day to the next, open borders were closed, while social and economic life was brought to a standstill worldwide. Now, a few months later, we face a new reality. The consequences of the crisis are clearly visible.
Covid-19 has led to great uncertainty in society. The danger of epidemics is suddenly real again. To avoid infection, people are prepared to make vast concessions. All over the world, people are giving up their privacy to gain a little more security through various applications. Billions of dollars in aid are tacitly accepted, even if it is uncertain how this aid will be financed or repaid. Questions about the medium and long term consequences are being ignored. Asking them is seen as a sign of a lack of community spirit. Yet they must be asked.
As we struggle with Covid-19, solidarity is the top priority. The intent is to strengthen the cohesion and trust within society, and help us get through these difficult times.
However, it becomes problematic when the call for solidarity is used to undermine basic civil rights, to expand bureaucracy, to hinder entrepreneurship or weaken democracy, or to increase control over the individual by methods supposedly meant to contain the virus. A look back into the past shows that such ostensibly temporary measures can mutate into a permanent state of affairs.
Paradoxically, however, solidarity is disregarded when it
comes to the future of the younger generations, who will have to bear the consequences – financial and otherwise. Could the threat posed by the virus possibly be overshad- owed in the medium and long term by the effects of the measures taken to overcome it?
All of us – young or old, living alone or in a family, entre- preneur, business leader or politician – should consider the consequences of the crisis initiated by the virus and then decide the right path for the long term: restrictions, control and heteronomy or entrepreneurship, trust and self-deter- mination. More than ever before, now is the time to address these values and realign our economic and social systems in such a way that future generations also have bright prospects, and the future is not gambled away due to fear of the virus.
Gisela von und zu Liechtenstein
Member of the Management Board
A mega-project is quietly being developed that will have far-reaching consequences and represent a significant intrusion into the financial privacy of each individual. Economists Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman are driving forward this project, called the Global Asset Registry. Their vision is to uncover the hidden wealth of nations. But what will the consequences be?
Imagine that everything you own and acquire is entered in a register of assets, stating your name, place of residence and tax number. Anyone in the world can inspect and access the information about your possessions. What do you think about it?
Under the leadership of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), to which also Mssrs. Piketty, Stiglitz and Zucman belong, work is underway on a global, centrally managed asset register. A first Global Asset Registry Workshop, held in Paris in July 2019, generated a wealth of ideas. Land, houses, apartments, other real estate, cars, bank accounts, life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes – all types of assets, without exception, could be included in this register, and it should be as accessible as possible to the public.
In the Roadmap for a Global Asset Registry (GAR), ICRICT argues that the prevailing inequality of wealth poses a serious threat to the economy, society and democracy. It does not explain exactly what this danger is. But it does see the solution in the complete disclosure of property owner- ship. The ICRICT admits that the effective extent of wealth inequality is unknown. But it hopes that the GAR will bring hidden wealth to the surface and then reveal the extent of wealth inequality.
To this end, ICRICT wants to link the wealth data that the GAR collects with those already collected by existing instru- ments – such as the Common Reporting Standard, the Beneficiary Register or Country-by-Country Reporting – or those contained in other national registers. Any additional data could then be collected at a later stage. Those behind the project eventually want to be able to trace asset ownership back to its origin, if possible.
The ICRICT justifies its striving for comprehensive asset transparency by stating that it wants to revive a «broken social contract», according to which private property only receives protection from the law if, in return, ownership
relationships are disclosed and applicable taxes are paid. The argumentation suggests that it is striving for an ideal «Contrat Social» in which the common will and the common good prevail over everything. Individual rights and goods are to be subordinated to this common will and common good. The conviction seems to be that inequality of property becomes inequality among people. Conversely, however, this means that there would no longer exist any room for individual freedom of action and decision-making, or for property rights.
Political decision makers are an important target group.
As outlined in the GAR Roadmap, ICRICT would like to give them a basis for discussing an «appropriate» level of inequality and supporting appropriate taxation. Further- more, ICRICT sees the GAR as an instrument to prevent crime and abuse of power; tax authorities or citizens of corrupt states should be able to take action against their governments. They argue that the advantage for ordinary citizens or businesspeople is the complete transparency and the resulting convenience of only having to sign tax returns, for example. The data on belongings would already be stored centrally.
The project’s argumentation is largely based on estimates and assumptions. It follows the widespread notion that the
«rich» are getting richer and the «poor» are getting poorer because a certain percentage of the world’s wealth is accounted for by a certain percentage of the population, and this percentage is decisive for all social problems and injustices. This is the basis for the idea that justice is achieved when everyone has the same amount of wealth. But is it not much more important that people have the ability to exit poverty and the chance to increase their living standards, instead of everyone having equally much or, conversely, equally little? Discussions about rich and poor often fail to take into account that worldwide poverty has fallen significantly in recent decades (as confirmed in surveys by the World Bank and other organisations), and that living standards are generally much higher today.
The measures initiated because of Covid-19, however, could interrupt the decline in poverty, leaving a lasting mark on the economy and society. Across the globe, social and economic prosperity will weaken and poverty will increase again. Here and there, the virus will also tempt to maintain restrictions on fundamental rights and increase control over citizens. A comparison of these developments with the objectives of the GAR reveals a complex picture of the future: The opportunities to shape life according to one’s own ideas will dwindle. The right to own, use, dispose of and be- queath legitimately acquired property will gradually be restricted. Authorities and centralised organisations, on the other hand, will be given greater scope for action.
The world is moving into a challenging age. The claim to equality and justice ignores the fact that in a world where everyone is equal, no progress can be made. To paraphrase Friedrich A. von Hayek: «A social market economy is not a market economy, a social constitutional state is not a constitutional state, a social conscience is not a conscience and social justice is not justice.» Why? Because with the word «social» individual liberty rights are being gradually eroded.
Whether and how the GAR project will be able to really establish itself depends ultimately on the extent to which politicians, especially in Western democracies, will adhere to the principles of the rule of law – because the project attacks the principle of the rule of law and personal rights. It will also depend on how aware each individual becomes of the dangers that emanate from such comprehensive transparency.
A global register of assets would neither bring crime to a standstill, nor would it close the gap between rich and poor, nor eliminate inequality. On the contrary, it would make a mockery of fundamental human rights and expose every citizen. Social progress and social prosperity would be destroyed because private property would be destroyed.
The GAR Roadmap also argues that offshore structures through foundations or trusts hide the existence of proper- ty and provide fertile ground for tax evasion, tax avoidance or financial crime. Here, the authors seem to be deliberate- ly negating all developments of recent years in the field of tax compliance and the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in favour of their project.
The purpose of foundations, trusts or other legal asset structures is to organize assets in such a way that business, family or charitable goals and projects can be realized. However, this presupposes that assets are preserved and protected, for example against the dangers arising from current political and economic developments. Foundations and trusts are instruments with which assets can be preserved over the long term and aligned with a specific purpose – so that also future generations have good prospects.
In Liechtenstein, the Law on Token and TT Service Providers will soon enter into force. In FinTech circles, the law is already known as the Blockchain Act. In this newsletter you will learn more about this law and also what opportunities will arise from a digitalised economic system.
In an interview with Claudio Grass, H.S.H. Prince Michael von und zu Liechtenstein talks about the value of private property in today's world, what the tasks of a state are, what opportunities and risks are foreseeable, and what distinguishes the Principality of Liechtenstein. The interview was published in two parts on www.proaurum.de
The Western World can look at a Golden Age. The decisive factors behind it were the concept of a free market economy and the awareness of the need for cooperation. But today's burning question is: how will the future look like? The voices of egalitarianism are becoming louder and are accompanied by an increasing entitlement mentality. We would like to share our thoughts on this with you in the current I&F-Newsletter. Therein, you will also discover the key factors that have enabled the Principality of Liechtenstein to become a successful business location.
Prince Michael von und zu Liechtenstein in talks with Barbara Dietrich (www.diplomatic-world.com) about Liechtenstein and the world. The key question is: What makes Liechtenstein so successful?
"Last night the wife said: Oh Boy, when you're dead you don't take nothing with you but your soul, think!" This line, that John Lennon once sang, holds implications which many People grapple with: the awareness of one's own mortality. In this essay Count Francis von Seilern-Aspang explores the various opportunities that come along with a conscious wealth and succession planning.
Geopolitical developments have a decisive influence on private wealth, both in a positive and negative sense. Just like in a crime investigation, the "murder" is a given - of greater interest is how it happened in the first place. In a similar way, Geopolitics examines the events happening around the world. In her exclusive essay for www.finews.ch Princess Therese von und zu Liechtenstein illustrates the relationship of Geopolitics and Wealth Preservation and Management.
Is the Private Sphere still private? Marc Zahn analyses this question in an essay which he contributed to www.finews.ch
In the eyes of many, certain areas of Europe are virtually heaven on earth. But reality reveals a different picture. Thus time would be right, to reflect once more on values. An exclusive essay written by Count Francis von Seilern-Aspang for www.finews.ch
In this Essay H.S.H. Prince Michael von und zu Liechtenstein illustrates the challenges for Wealth Protection in times of Big Data.
There's an old adage that says that true happiness lies within oneself. Transposed to the financial industry, this could be interpreted as meaning that happiness lies in the culture and values that prevails at those companies?
An interview on the future of Wealth Management in the context of Wealth Preservation.
This newsletter explains what Wealth Preservation is all about, especially in terms of younger generations. And you will learn about the variety Liechtenstein has to offer.
Facts and background information on the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEI).
This newsletter addresses the risks and jeopardies which are a bane to wealth, and illustrates what is needed to preserve wealth in the long-run.
This newsletter includes information about the Swiss Tax Treaties with Germany, Austria and Great Britain.
An article about the Liechtenstein foundation in the context of family governance.
This newsletter takes a deeper look at the Liechtenstein Tax Law and further explains why private wealth should be protected and preserved.
This newsletter gives you an insight into Family Governance.
This newsletter takes a closer look at the term transparency and informes about the recognition of Liechtenstein foundations under the civil law in Switzerland.
This newsletter overviews the Liechtenstein Tax Law.
This newsletter provides information on the Liechtenstein Discretionary Foundation.