One size doesn't fit all

Swiss small and medium-sized enterprises are gearing up for immense change. By 2021, succession solutions will need to be found for 75,000 companies, employing a total of 400,000 people. To ensure smooth handovers, our experts take a bespoke approach, as shown by the story of tour company owner Twerenbold.

In December 2015, the tour company owner Werner's Twerenbold suffered a fatal accident. It was an immense shock for Werner’s son, Karim Twerenbold, as well as for the company's workforce. Fortunately, Werner was forward thinking and, in the years before, had made a contingency plan for succession. He had been gradually handing over the management of the business to Karim, who represents the fourth generation of Twerenbolds. Karim had been helping out on various fronts since he was a small child – from cleaning the coaches to writing the itineraries. And, after completing his studies in business administration, his father began putting him in charge of major projects such as supervising the two-year construction of a luxury river cruise ship. In this way, Karim was prepared to take over the reins of the business. Of course, processing and coming to terms with the loss of his father and mentor was something for which he could not be prepared.

Not just preserving legacy but building on it

Exemplary as this gradual handing over of the reins may have been, the environment was and is very challenging in light of market trends such as cheap long-distance buses and digitalization. Karim Twerenbold has clear targets – "We want to grow, but not at any price. To me, being financially independent is just as important. This is why we're going to reinvest our profit instead of siphoning it off." His motto is "innovation based on tradition."

He is supported by his UBS corporate client advisor Andreas Linder, who finds the best and most effective way to provide Karim with tailored expertise from specialists at UBS on the current economic situation, forms of financing and stock markets. "In our client relationships, we see ourselves as a partner who watches over the long-term development of a company as a whole. Being able to talk to each other when we need to is essential," explains Andreas Linder.

Like my father, I'm not primarily concerned with keeping the company in the family but rather with preserving the company itself and its values.

Karim Twerenbold, president of the Board of Directors of Twerenbold Reisen Gruppe

This is important to Karim because he likes to be cautious when making decisions. Farsighted, he has planned the organization of the company in the event that anything should happen to him. "Like my father, I'm not primarily concerned with keeping the company in the family but rather with preserving the company itself and its values," he says.

Experts with a wealth of valuable experience

Even though there will be a considerable increase in the number of company handovers in the coming years, systematic succession planning as seen with the Twerenbolds is certainly not the rule, reports Andreas Linder.

Many business owners find it hard to think about succession, not least for emotional, financial and legal reasons. In practice, a successful handover of a company can take quite a long time because, in addition to the owner, generally the family and business also have to be made ready for the transition. It's crucial not only to decide between the various kinds of family or non-family succession arrangements, but also to achieve the best possible sales price, or to pass on the company's values. When it comes to these kinds of preparatory and decision-making processes, help and advice are available from external fiduciaries and UBS corporate client advisors, as well as from our specialists in corporate finance, wealth planning and wealth management. With their extensive experience drawn from numerous succession situations, they can devise bespoke solutions that cater to all aspects, for the long term. Every succession situation is unique, so a one-size-fits-all solution simply will not do.

In our client relationships, we see ourselves as a partner who watches over the long-term development of a company as a whole.

Andreas Linder, UBS corporate client advisor

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