From Germany to Malta, the Timberland Group of companies is motivated by its customer-driven culture and its ability to help clients take valid decisions when it comes to the future of their investments.
As one of the founders, CEO Thomas Kraemer underlines this ethos because it is one he holds dear – and one that he has been driving for 20 years. “In 1998 we established our first Regulated Entity in Germany,” Thomas says. “Things expanded well and in 1999 we set up our first funds. The result was that we had quite successful dividend investment funds to distribute to the German-speaking regions, namely Germany, Luxembourg and Austria.”
The company was so successful in fact, that a market participant cloned them in the next few years. Then in 2009, Timberland got much broader in its business approach, thanks to the fact that Germany adopted more flexible regulatory regimes with regards to the funds, and lawmakers opened up a lot of new possibilities that were streamlined with what was possible in Germany at the time. This enabled Timberland to create an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF).
“What we achieved was the first of its kind,” Thomas continues. “We started to distribute this product in Germany and Hungary as a new market, and worked with a large German audit and tax advisory company that was active in investment funds.
“Looking back, I would say we were a little bit ahead of our time when it came to those markets. Then, in 2013, the markets changed and appetite for those types of equity investments enabled us to be in the right place at the right time to place us in a leadership position.”
Timberland in fact sets up and distributes investment funds and investment vehicles. “We give people access to lots of investments and assets that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to invest in, all the way from high-net-worth clients to retail customers.”
It is a business that Thomas is incredibly passionate about. “This is my life – I live and breathe it,” he says. And it is a passion he discovered young, when he trained under the guidance of the former Head of the Association of Entrepreneurs in his region in Germany, which gave him unique insight into financial services and the financial markets. Clearly, it is knowledge that has been reflected in the success of Timberland.
“Today we have five offices, including one in Malta,” Thomas continues. “Our team is currently made up of around 40 people across those offices, but it is constantly growing thanks to a client base of around 20,000 people, which includes small investors, high-net-worth individuals and even professional funds. Our growth has been quick but not too quick. We have been careful to achieve things step-by-step.”
As CEO, he sees his role as twofold. On the one hand he keeps a close eye on the daily running of the business – from the administrative to the legal aspects. And, on the other, he maintains a wider focus on company developments and opportunities.
“It is my job to evaluate them, present them to the team and to then take on Board, employee and client perspectives,” he explains. “As CEO I have to look into the future and see how best to capitalise on it for our customers. I don’t have a crystal ball but I am hyperaware of what is going on. As a company, though, we are more focused on the long-term, rather than day-to-day fluctuations in the market.”
Asked about the challenges facing his sector, Thomas highlights the fast-paced world and how quickly things develop. “Looking globally, there are certain things that we thought were certain and that we could plan around, but which aren’t so certain anymore. That is making us reconsider and think differently. Of course, technology is also changing very quickly, and keeping up with that is imperative in our industry. Plus, as we operate in a highly-regulated sector, we also have to maintain our knowledge on that front. It is demanding but we do a good job of it.”
On the flip side, though, opportunities are coming thick and fast. Climate change, for instance, is spearheading developments in the automotive and solar industries. “We have reached the point where the environment needs change. Climate change is no longer a question mark – we can see it before our very eyes, and that is bringing market reaction. On top of that, technology is starting to be affected by blockchain. A lot of people don’t understand it yet, but I believe it will change everything from the way we do business to the way we live. There are so many opportunities for its application that we can’t understand yet, and I have no doubt it will bring serious change for the financial industry as well as more classic sectors.”
Locally, Timberland is working on its first Maltese CSD-listed bonds, and plans are in place for the company to be one of the first local issuers to have listed its bonds on Central European exchanges. “It’s exciting,” Thomas says. “And the future is exciting too. I trust that, say, five years from now, we will be doing the same things we did 10 years ago, but perhaps we will be doing them in a bigger way. And that’s good because continuity is important. We will almost certainly have developed into new areas, new markets and will be doing new things. And I will be right here to grow alongside it,” he says.
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