10 on the Weekend – Hangama Wanner: “My Country of Origin Started to Implode”

Ten On The Weekend is a weekly feature on IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each weekend, we ask the same ten questions of a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.

This weekend’s guest is Hangama Wanner of Kayhan Swiss.

How do you spend your weekends?
Depending on the season, I tend to do different things.

During winter, I spend most weekends with my husband in the Bernese region of Switzerland where we have a lovely flat which allows us to be close to nature and beautiful, mountainous scenery. 

We have no shortage of activities in winter, such as skiing and long walks (après-ski, amongst others).

We also love welcoming our friends for dinners during which we share succulent soul food, exquisite wine, and enjoy each others’ company. Sharing our home and table is one of my favourite bonding times with loved ones.

During the rest of the year and especially summer, I enjoy staying in Zürich. I love spending quality time with my husband, our families, and friends, or simply exploring the rest of Switzerland. Spending quality time with my nephews is a must whenever possible. KayHan (a Persian word) is actually also derived from our names: Käinat, Ayden, and Hangama.

The summer season is often synonymous with barbecues or picnics by the lake. We just love spending time with good food, great company, and high doses of laughter!

Though I occasionally love some “me-time” and appreciate a good movie or a book, I must admit that intrinsically, I have a passion for people and an innate sense of sharing. 

Family and my close friends are everything to me.

What are your top three business goals this year?
First, I would like to expand my client base in the Middle East and Africa regions whilst keeping a strong focus on Iran, Afghanistan, and India. I am more than just familiar with these cultures. I speak their languages and I fully understand their requirements. I see myself as a bridge-builder.

Nonetheless, my aim is to be realistic with what is legally achievable given ongoing global sanctions. Iranian nationals face severe restrictions on their travel freedom and financial mobility. Combining the power of investment citizenship/residency and a proven approach to legal international money transfers, KayHan Swiss has developed a comprehensive Financial Mobility Solution specifically for Iranian nationals. We enable our clients to survive the impact of sanctions and truly thrive as new global citizens on the imperative condition that the applicants do have no relation to the Iranian Government or its entities and that the parties from Iran or in Iran are on not on the SDN list and tagged as subject to secondary sanctions.

My firm also strictly abides by each government’s directives and rules for their citizenship programs. I open doors that otherwise are closed to citizens outside of this culture since I have my roots there but my feet here.

I’d like to perfect solutions and become the consultancy firm of choice and I ask my colleagues in the industry who cannot on-board Iranian nationals to consider KayHan Swiss. Having a solid and reliable network of professional colleagues and partners allows me to foster a collaborative rather than a competitive way of working. 

Second, since my initial background was in banking. I am and will always be a banker. As such, I still aim to continue working in the Swiss banking sector.

I work with the greatest experts in Switzerland in their respective fields of private banking, asset management, trading, legal and taxation services, amongst others. 

Of singular note, a third of the world’s wealth is managed in Switzerland. As per Voltaire’s words: “If you see a Swiss banker jump out of a window, follow him – there is surely money to be made.” There were never truer words! 

The international nature of Swiss society, its political stability, and its powerful educational system have all contributed to place and maintain its banking system in a leading position, regardless of any given financial crisis. The Swiss banking industry has always been unique. 

Last but not least, I would like to always maximize my ability to learn and understand the ever-changing market and challenging industry conditions. I am committed to not only use my existing knowledge and skills but also to further develop them and gain new ones and hopefully also contribute.

What’s your biggest business concern right now?
This year has been plagued by a worldwide economic crisis and growing international security issues combined with an unforeseeable global pandemic resulting in a climate of systemic instability. 

I am inclined to believe that this could well be an unprecedented opportunity for the RCBI industry, which could potentially thrive on the back of these major world-changing factors.

Individuals with financial means may be more inspired to move abroad and target specific European countries on the basis that these would be more disposed to welcoming wealthy foreigners with open arms after suffering devastating economic consequences generated by this global pandemic. 

My personal concern is whether I am able to accommodate the rising number of clients looking, now more than ever, to find a new home. Building a solid team will be my focus, in that regard.

Generally, I would also be concerned about close-minded countries showing tendencies towards far-right political parties as these would then be perceived as discriminatory and hostile countries, thereby losing their attractiveness altogether. It could affect our historically advantageous position as permanent residency and the road to citizenship may become harder to obtain in such adverse social and political environments. 

It will also be interesting to see the developments with the EU and Schengen area, but I trust the investment migration experts will continue coordinating discussions with the European Parliament and Commission to restore communication, erase misunderstandings, establish mutual comprehension based on facts, and together engage in future legal framework undertakings, with our support.

Again, my primary focus is to ensure that I am always ready to immediately deal with clients’ requirements within that framework.

Which book is on your night-stand right now?
I am currently reading a few books at the same time, both in French and English.

Having read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, I have now started reading his second book, Homo Deus.

Harari’s writing captures his pure intelligence, intuition, empathy, and so much more in the most perfect manner. I would not advise this reading after a long and tiresome day but it is high on the list for anyone who wants to challenge one’s belief system.

I am also reading a French book by Jean d’Ormesson, a philosopher who died in 2017. I feel humbled and privileged to be living during the same era as such a literary genius. His books are food for the mind and soul. One of my favourite quotes by Jean d’Ormesson is “Does God exist? Only God knows.” This is beyond thought-provoking!

I also listen to numerous books on Blinkist. These vary from biographies to books about business, science, and new technologies. I really enjoy that these are all summed up to the bare essentials that I can listen to on “fast mode” or read when I have the time to do so. 

When “blinks” are of high quality, I just buy the full book.

How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
I was personally forced to relocate during my younger years as my country of origin started to implode. 

This life-changing event stayed with me and I never forgot where I came from. As I grew older, I always knew that one day, I would help people relocate safely (and legally!). This belief was deep-rooted and inevitably grew stronger in time throughout my subsequent life experiences. 

I was born in one country, spent my childhood in another thanks to my father’s business ventures, grew up and got educated in yet another, completely different country, at first as an asylum seeker and then as a citizen. Now living and working in Switzerland, also as citizen, I love all of my three countries. The migration world is mine. When asked ‘where are you from?’, it is never a simple answer. I hope the response ‘I am a global citizen’ will be sufficient and understandable one day.

I worked in investment banking for almost 15 years and dealt with Middle Eastern UHNW clients. I eventually decided to leave banking and management in order to take a leap of faith and set up my own venture. 

My initial idea was centered around working with Iranians (as I already had many clients from Iran) with a focus on banking and trading. Unfortunately, sanctions and the end of the JCPOA happened within a short time. This prompted me to shift my focus to secondary residency and citizenship. 

People cannot choose their place of birth and cannot control the consequences of being born in any given place. However, once they know it is possible to turn their life around by acquiring a residency permit or (even better) a second passport by way of investment, why would they not do it if they are in a position to afford it? This is my message to those who do not know about the existence of this world of options and possibilities. They need to be fully informed!

What was your proudest moment as a service provider? 
At the very beginning of my KayHan Swiss adventure, a high-profile client selected my consultancy firm despite the fact that KPMG had been his first choice for more than a decade. During this same period and to my great surprise, an interesting family office also expressed its preference for my services despite the fact that I was a newcomer in the industry and could not compare to so-called veterans.

This clearly demonstrates that this has little to do with my branding or my number of years of experience per se and more to do with who I am as a person as well as the principles, morals, and values I stand for at all times. Anybody who knows me or has met me, whether in work or personal spheres, knows that the most precious assets I bring to the table are trust and honesty, very rare commodities nowadays.

Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
Turkey was the greatest surprise. Some jurisdictions used to have (almost) exclusive ownership of the market for what seemed like an eternity. Markets are now changing direction. I cannot talk about sudden moves as such but Turkey can definitely be identified and referred to as one of the latest trends.

My job is to keep a close eye on potential surprises and get ready to serve my clients so, now, Turkey features prominently in my solution offerings.

Whilst writing these notes, I heard from a friend that Malta was close to reaching its quota, which makes me wonder what new changes and developments will arise in the future now that EU pressure is on.

If you could go ten years back in time, what business decision would you change?
I would not change a single thing. I am extremely happy and proud of all my past business decisions (good and bad) as they all had a purpose. Some decisions happened to test my self-belief and resilience whilst others schooled me in the most unexpected ways. Good decisions allowed me to move forward whilst bad decisions taught me hard, but ultimately priceless lessons. 

Admittedly, I do not believe in coincidences and I trust all my past business decisions led me to become the person I am today. Moreover, they led me to where I was supposed to be when I was finally ready. All my past business decisions contributed to the natural continuity of my career. I am forever grateful for being able to confidently say I have no regrets at all.

What investment migration industry personality do you most admire
This is a difficult question to answer.

There is one particular person I hold in high esteem and have a lot of respect for. He has a high moral compass with good principles and values. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and talented but remains humble. He is generous with his time and energy, never hesitates to share his knowledge and experience. I always value his helpful, honest, and direct approach when providing me with precious feedback.

Overall, I have been lucky enough to have met truly amazing people so far, many of whom have become close friends. 

If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
I hope I will be managing a few business ventures including KayHan Swiss. I trust I will continue trading FX and equities whilst managing my real estate investments.

I would also like to invest more in new technologies such as data and life science, AI, and, my favorite, Blockchain technology. 

Business aside, I want to thoroughly enjoy life and quality time with my husband, family, and friends. Travelling is one of my passions and I do not expect this to change in the foreseeable future.

My continuous learning and development are of prime importance. I make a point of allocating time to further read, study, and learn. Some people want to live forever; I want to learn forever! So many subjects interest me.

All the above is not driven by a love of financial gain but an urge to be able to give back whilst aiming for the greatest happiness of the greatest number around me. I truly meant that.

I want to contribute by ensuring that my actions have a positive impact at large. I believe in making a difference whenever and wherever possible no matter how big or small it may be. I want to walk the talk and so much more. As the French saying goes “petit mais costaud” meaning “small but strong”. 

I would love to be more involved in the UN and other organizations in order to help with refugees, women in need, education, and development in certain regions of our disordered world.

My ultimate dream would be to help Afghanistan, a great country that became a war zone during my lifetime. I wish to be a voice of change and hope in people’s lives, if at all possible, and to inspire the younger ones in my family to do so. 

More From 10 on The Weekend

Argentinean native Andrés Gutierrez says that while his friends in LatAm are hoping to relocate to the US, Americans are hoping to get out.
Steven Pepa, who admires Mohammed Asaria, believes matching investor migrants with private equity funds can make the latter more humane.
As many continue to work remotely in 2021, Sue Nickason expects a rise in applications from those wanting to “live the dream” in Cayman Islands.

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Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.

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