Bernd was born in Munich and grew up in Munich and Nuremberg. Having lived and worked in innumerous places around the globe, Bernd has returned to his roots and is an investment director and general manager at DEDIQ GmbH, a private investment firm based in Munich. Prior to that, Bernd worked at Oliver Wyman for six years, most recently as a principal and the global chief of staff / chief operating officer of the Corporate Finance and Advisory practice. Focussing on private equity clients and the manufacturing, automotive, energy and financial services industries, Bernd specialised in corporate strategy, mergers & acquisitions, post-merger integration, performance improvement as well as corporate restructuring and turnaround. Prior to that, Bernd worked at J.P. Morgan in London and Sydney for six years, holding roles in Debt Capital Markets, Equity Capital Markets, Acquisition & Leveraged Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions and covering clients across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Bernd read business administration at the Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, ESADE Barcelona and HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and published scientific research at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. In his leisure time, Bernd enjoys spending time with his family and friends, playing soccer, dancing salsa and travelling the world.
QX: Bernd, how might your life have turned out if you hadn’t decided to become an expert in the financial area?
Bernd: As a matter of fact, my dream always was to become a professional handball player – and I would still love to do so When it became evident around the age of 17 though that I would not grow sufficiently tall, I abandoned that dream and considered musical acting for a little while, believe it or not. That seemed too risky a choice for the long term though, so I turned to my more conventional “low risk, high return” passion for stock markets, finance and business. The other option that I considered was to become an astrophysicist, which I had been fascinated about since the age of twelve. However, I would have had to leave home and go to Cambridge, which I was not ready for, plus in the end I favoured bringing about real impact in large dimensions as a generalist over theorising and experimenting in miniscule dimensions as a specialist. So I chose a career in private equity as my long-term goal.
QX: Finance, in particular investment issues, have been with you from the very beginning and accompanied you throughout your career. What is it about it that fascinates you?
Bernd: I am probably fascinated with investing, because it is a lot about numbers, it is about making complex decisions and it can be competitive and instructive. For firstly, I simply love numbers. Others like being in and swimming through water or feel good being among and dealing with people. I also feel comfortable with and maneuvering through numbers. It is natural to me. Secondly, I actually prefer leadership and general management issues over pure finance. However, real world issues are generally too complex, multi-dimensional and interdependent for the human mind to be comprehensively understood. So – possibly also based on my ease at numbers – I prefer finance over other management disciplines, such as marketing, to reduce the complexity of real business challenges into to-the-point common-sense analyses, options and decisions and to evaluate success. Thirdly, I dislike any gambling aspects of investing, but I am very competitive by nature and investing provides direct feedback as to one’s (influenceable) performance, strengths and areas for further learning.
QX: After working for J.P. Morgan and Oliver Wyman, you decided to join DEDIQ. What drove that decision? And why DEDIQ?
Bernd: As I mentioned earlier, I already dreamed of a career in private equity, either as an investor or as an entrepreneur / general manager, when I decided to study business administration with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship / venture capital. So I never intended to become a managing director in an investment bank. Instead, I always considered my time at J.P. Morgan as an apprenticeship to become a corporate finance generalist, and I rotated through the DCM, ECM and M&A departments rather than specialised in one particular area. Similarly, I intentionally chose top management consulting with Oliver Wyman as another preparatory step to improve on market and company due diligence, operational value creation, project management, communication, politics and, eventually as global chief of staff / chief operating officer of the Corporate Finance and Advisory practice, general management and leadership. All along the way, I kept looking for the right role in private equity. Eventually, Matthias Tomann, one of the two founders of DEDIQ, and I re-connected in 2014, after having initially met at business school back in 1998. And their, that is ‘our’, unique model to combine the roles of an investor and an entrepreneurial general manager, plus the outstanding profile and spirit of the entire team, just seemed the perfect match.
QX: DEDIQ claims to be the “entrepreneur-investor for German small and medium-sized businesses”. Can you tell us a little bit more about the approach?
Bernd: Put simply, our approach at DEDIQ consists of buying companies, i. e. investing, and making these companies better, i. e. entrepreneurship. In doing so, we are not just another private equity fund for several reasons: We invest the private capital of ourselves and the family of Hasso Plattner, a core founder of SAP. Other than a fund of institutional investors, we do not face any pressure ‘to exit’ an investment within a certain time horizon and with a certain rate of return. Instead, we are happy to invest with a very long-term perspective, and we focus on dynamic ‘Mittelstand’ businesses, as we generally anticipate huge upside potential there.To make such a company better and more valuable, we focus on sustainable strategic and operational enhancements rather than aggressive financial engineering or speculative buying and selling – just like a true entrepreneur would. As a matter of fact, we become entrepreneurs ourselves, as most of our team members assume full-time general management roles in the companies that we acquire, or at least work very closely with the existing management.This applies to both senior and junior management functions, which is why we are currently looking for additional junior talent to accomplish even greater impact as a team and create growth opportunities for both senior and junior team members alike.
QX: What’s your (personal) investment philosophy?
Bernd: First, invest only what you will not need and can afford to lose; otherwise, save. Second, analyse, rationalise etc., but in the end follow your guts feeling rather than your brains.
QX: How do you stay grounded?
Bernd: First of all, my girlfriend is everything I am not – an artist, a yoga-enthusiast, a nutrition-expert, a people person, you name it –, so all the time I spend with her I am reminded to keep my perspective broad, deep and human. Secondly, I am a big family person and spending time with my many young nephews completely takes me away and re-focusses me on the very essence of living and experiencing. Finally, the same is true for my favourite hobbies: sports and travelling - full of intensity, learning, fun and humbling reality checks.
QX: Outlook: Your next goal (be it private and / or professional)?
Bernd: Oh, there are so many! Professionally, the next big goal certainly is to acquire another company, assume leadership of that company and have a good start into taking that company to the next level and ‘turning it into a champion’, as we like to phrase it at DEDIQ. Personally, the next big goal is the one that never changes, i. e. to keep a good balance and spend as much time as possible on my personal health, family and friends and hobbies. Or as my first salsa maestro put it, ‘I cannot add days to my life, but I can add life to my days.’
QX: You have been a QX-member since the early years. QX is for you…
Bernd: Above all, QX for me is Thomas Fuchs, enjoying life and doing business by connecting with people, bouncing ideas and making things happen. More broadly, QX for me is a unique, both highly professional and very personal community of fascinating people, fun events and stimulating impulses. I still remember the day of my admission in the last millennium as if it was yesterday: the peers I met and admired, the challenges we were given, the fun we had and the admission choice that I as the youngest candidate among impressive peers could not fathom. Since then, Thomas has always supported me as a mentor with valuable perspectives and connections and I have been very happy for him to see his vision grow and prosper.
QX: What is your personal Vanity?
Bernd: I was the best handball player in the world at the age of 7 And I could have been the best at the age of 27 or even 37, too – but my genes just stopped me from growing tall.