Matthew Piepenburg, MA - Harvard University
Matterhorn Asset Management AG
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Advisor & Partner, Matterhorn Asset Management AG
An interview with Matthew Piepenburg, Advisor & Partner, Matterhorn Asset Management AG.
Our special interview on the Swiss Bullion Storage with MATTHEW PIEPENBURG, Partner of Matterhorn Asset Management AG, profiles the hedge fund manager, corporate lawyer and former General Counsel to affluent institutional and private clients. Executive Global discussed macroeconomics, central bank policy, risk management and protection with the astute wealth advisor to family offices, hedge funds and High Net Worth investors.
Matthew Piepenburg CV
Harvard University (MA)
Brown University (BA)
2019 Partner, Matterhorn Asset Management. Macro-economist,
client and service focus.
2011 Managing Director, Massey Quick Family Office. Directed allocation of over $4B in assets while managing team of analysts.
2003 General Counsel (later CIO),
HJ Johnson Family Office. Oversaw all
legal and risk metrics for HNW family office operation.
1998 Portfolio Manager, Benevolent Capital L/S Equity Fund which carefully avoided the NASDAQ implosion.
Swiss Bullion Storage
EG: With the collapse of institutions like Signature Bank, Silvergate Bank and Silicon Valley Bank, it is clear the financial crisis is far from over. Why is it critical now more than ever, for High Net Worth individuals to consider secure allocation of physical precious metals?
Matthew Piepenburg: Wealth is made in manifold ways, but ultimately generational wealth relies upon preserving the same. From real estate to portfolio assets, measuring one’s wealth in fiat currencies, which are subject to undeniable as well as inevitable dilution from inflation and central bank currency debasement, demands a sober allocation to precious metals as currency insurance.
Throughout history, sophisticated investors have universally employed a sober allocation of physical gold to ensure against such risk. Gold has historically proven itself as an equally effective hedge against banking risk and political risk, of which the current era and headlines are replete with example after example. As nations, even great nations, fall further and further into unsustainable debt traps, the last bubble to “pop” is always the currency. Since the GFC of 2008, “temporary” liquidity in the form of Quantitative Easing has devolved from an emergency measure to a political addiction, ensuring near-term prosperity (and election results) at the long-term expense of monetary stability.
As sovereign debt levels surpass GDP to the point of unsustainability, markets naturally turn away from those otherwise essential “IOUs,” which inevitably forces nations to create artificial liquidity to sustain their essential credit markets and yield levels. Such artificial liquidity is by definition inflationary, which means currencies will continue to lose their purchasing power when measured against real assets like gold. Since the U.S. abandoned its gold standard in 1971, the USD (along with all the major fiat currencies of the world) has lost greater than 98% of its purchasing power when measured against a milligram of gold. For us, such evidence makes a dispositive case for gold.
The Premier Safe-Haven
EG: Why would you say that Switzerland remains the premier safe-haven in the world, particularly where precious metals investment is concerned?
MP: Switzerland is known as the world gold hub for a reason. 70% of the world’s gold is refined there and gold accounts for 30% of Switzerland’s export market, thereby making precious metals an essential as well as protected industry. Its unique landscape boasts the world’s safest bedrock vaulting facilities, which are essential to securing extensive gold assets. Switzerland is globally respected for its long-standing rule or law and direct democracy and is fully independent from the political and regulatory vulnerabilities otherwise common to an increasingly fractured EU.
Although FATCA compliant, Switzerland also boasts a globally recognised regard for privacy rights, tax efficiency and political neutrality. We have carefully examined all of the world’s premier (as well as trending) storage locations for precious metals; although every known jurisdiction, including Switzerland, has its pros and cons, we can declare with objective
conviction that Switzerland stands well above the rest.
Successful Asset Management
EG: What three fundamental characteristics would you say that comprise a successful asset manager in 2023?
MP: 1) Genuine conviction. 2) Acknowledged and objectively clear expertise. 3) Client service as an operational priority
EG: Freedom and liberty MUST reign over Communism! As Russia and China continue to stack gold and dump U.S. Treasuries, what should Western Governments and central banks be doing to ensure the continued stability and resilience of our economies?
MP: Western governments need to rule by informed action rather than consensus-friendly platitudes and economically novice leadership. There needs to be more transparency as to national debt and spending failures, along with greater accountability for the policy makers who created the greatest debt bubble (and credit distortion) in the history of capital markets. True capitalism demands free price discovery and natural, rather than centralised, supply and demand forces. By its very name, a central bank, and hence a centralised economy, is an open anathema to genuine capitalism, which effectively died in December of 1913.
Capitalism requires a fair rather than rigged playing field, which means a return to otherwise extinct anti-trust principles. Furthermore, policy makers need to confess that exporting labor costs overseas has effectively destroyed national productivity and manufacturing advantages to the tragic point that the “American Dream” is now effectively “Made in China.”
EG: How do you think the U.S. 10-Year Treasury note will fare in the next decade as the Fed continues to monetise debt and Western economies seemingly head into a BRICS wall?
MP: At the current pace, the convergence of grotesque public debt levels alongside a rate-hike strengthened as well as weaponised USD has deteriorated foreign interest and trust in the once revered American IOU. Although inflation is only temporarily (and mis-reportedly) lower, investors around the world recognise that the UST’s prior boast of “risk-free-return” has been reduced in real terms to “return-free-risk.” Sustaining otherwise unpayable twin deficits with more desperate bond issuance will only weaken future demand for USTs, thereby forcing the Fed to monetise the same with “mouse-click” money, an inflationary policy which will then weaken an already weak US10-Year in the debt-soaked years ahead.
EG: Compromising the security protocols you have undertaken at Matterhorn would be a challenge to make even James Bond, Ethan Hunt, or Raymond Reddington wince! How might your Swiss Alp vaults be the best solution for wealthy clients at a time of geopolitical risk, confiscation and upheaval?
MP: Since MAM was founded, Egon von Greyerz, who came up through the banking system before becoming the Vice-Chair of a FTSE 100 company, knew better than most about the alarming cracks in the ice of the global banking, currency, market and political systems. Thus, he immediately recognised the need to store precious metal wealth outside of this open circus where one’s gold could be otherwise comingled, hypothecated or even lost to failing bank operations. More than one commercial bank during the 2008 crisis, for example, was unable to provide gold delivery precisely when needed most.
We, however, avoid such risk. Our Swiss Vault is not only the most secure vault in the world, but the gold held within its 007 walls is owned directly, with no intermediary parties, shared assets or limits to direct access. In short, what Egon designed for his own family funds and investor circles, is the very same service he created for MAM clients. If risk levels rise, clients can always access our partners, as well as their gold. We have a private airstrip, luxury accommodations and even satellite phones for the worst-case scenarios, which we all hope, will never be needed. Hope, however, is never part of farsighted a wealth preservation plan.
EG: Ralph Waldo Emerson states ‘the desire for gold is not for gold itself, but for the means of freedom and benefit.’ What pertinent trends do you currently see amongst your elite institutional and ultra high net worth clients?
MP: Our clients have always understood the lessons of math and history, and hence the universal error of measuring wealth in paper money. As currency, market, banking and political risks reach new highs, they see these risks soberly. They are calmly ensuring against such risks in gold allocations while confirming their own Emersonian freedoms by simply freeing themselves from these broken systems and currencies.
EG: Industrialist Hugo Stinnes in the 1920s could see the hyperinflation coming in his time, taking enormous loans to buy industrial assets and paying them back in worthless Reichmarks, eventually becoming Germany’s richest man. How may prudent investors utilise leverage in this manner today?
MP: Gold makes up less than 0.5% of all financial assets, so clearly, as well as historically, the smart minority (as opposed to just the contrarian minority) is always comprised of profiles similar to Hugo Stinnes.
EG: Financial expert Jim Rickards mentions dynastic wealth as being that which has existed in families for 300 years or longer, typically consisting of land, gold and art. Why is it so important to remain ‘analogue’ in this digital age of foolish CBDCs?
MP: Digital evolutions, like any evolution, can create progress as well as fiat wealth, both near and long-term. And digital Trojan horses, like CBDC, can always distort and control wealth. But whether evolving from horse to buggy, buggy to steam, or rotary to cell phone, dynastic wealth will always be measured by real assets rather than paper or digital trends. Gold, like earth and art, are not outdated relics of preservation, but rather their very bedrocks.
EG: Switzerland is renowned not only for quality watches and chocolate, but also the finest quality gold. As Swiss Bullion Experts with direct access to refineries based in Switzerland, what additional advantages are offered to clients?
MP: We get better access, better premiums and better metals. Furthermore, as a Swiss entity rather than a foreign entity operating in Switzerland, we operate under far less regulatory hurdles and restrictions.
EG: Having earned decades of trust from sophisticated investors across 90 countries. Halfway through 2023, with scary macros and geopolitical risk mounting, what should informed investors be doing concerning the weighting of their portfolios?
MP: Traditional risk assets (and risk parity allocations) are both over-priced and correlated, and should be limited in size. Smart, long-term portfolios buy bottoms rather than tops. Thus commodities should be a priority, as their cycle is yet to begin in earnest. Portfolios should include large allocations to cash equivalents (short-duration sovereigns), only to be employed when markets mean-revert. Active rather than passive management is key as markets reach bubble heights.
EG: Looking at how world events are unfolding, if you could serve in an advisory capacity to the President of the United States on markets and the economy, what would your advice be and why?
MP: We’d tell the current President to resign and advise the next president to prove an advanced understanding of history, math and currency cycles. We’d then advise him/her to seek what is best for the country, not what is best for re-election. An ounce or two of honesty, blunt-speak and accountability wouldn’t hurt either. EG
Work smarter, not harder and never give up.
Don’t be a ‘me too’ - focus on what makes a difference.
Focus on growth, not cost-cutting and price services accordingly for being the best in your field.
» Protected IPO gains of the dot.com bubble from 2001 NASDAQ implosion.
» Protected family office balance sheet from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
» Authored best-selling macro book, Rigged to Fail (2019); co-authored (with Egon von Greyerz) and Gold Matters (2021).
» Extremely proud father and husband;
zoo-keeper to many horses, one cat and an intrepid labrador retriever.
Matthew Piepenburg began his finance career as a transactional attorney before launching his first hedge fund during the NASDAQ bubble of 1999-2001. Thereafter, he began investing his own and other HNW family funds into alternative investment vehicles while operating as a General Counsel, CIO and later Managing Director of a single and multi-family office. A graduate from Brown University, with highest honours (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). He holds a Master’s degree and Juris Doctor from Harvard University and the University of Michigan respectively. For further information, please visit: www.goldswitzerland.com