1943 – 2015
Paul-André Jacot passed away on August 14, 2015 after a losing a brave battle with a vicious illness. He is leaving a big void not only in his family but also in the derivatives industry although being retired for just about a year. My sincere condolences go to his lovely wife Anne and his children and their families. May the good memories help them in these difficult times.
Paul-André grew up in Bolligen, near Bern, but soon decided to look for challenges outside his hometown. As was customary at the time in Switzerland he spent some time in the Romandie, both to learn French and to study, which he did at the University of Geneva and completed with a banking degree. Trading soon became his fascination as he got active as a currency dealer with Citibank. This would set the stage for his view on life in general and business in particular: people are the key to success and networking is most important. In his days relying on your counterparty was of utmost importance to success – without trusting your counterparty you could not survive on the currency phones (yes – in those days the phone was the trading platform!). After working for Rouse Woodstock and Conti Commodity for many years he co-founded FFM Financiere in 1985, a boutique for trading futures and options where he was active until 1991, when he founded his own company Derivacom, specializing in financial consulting, expert witnessing and many related matters. While he was successful in these endeavours he really set his mark in his activities as member of the Swiss Futures and Options Association (SFOA).
SFOA was founded in 1979 in the midst of the “futures scandal” of 1979 (a small intermezzo by todays standards, but a big thing at that time…), when in particular the silver market was manipulated via Swiss brokerage accounts and in general the CFTC was trying to get a hold on information out of Swiss Brokerage houses (Switzerland at that time was the European hub for trading derivatives as in many surrounding countries derivatives were subject to gambling laws…) as well as Swiss Commodity Dealers using the derivatives. Since the flow of information did not work a meeting was held in Bern to figure out where the problem was. It was quickly realized that the CFTC did not use airmail to send out the requests… Also other issues could be solved at that meeting. Another thing became quickly clear – sitting at the round table makes more sense than writing letters (remember – those were the pre-e-mail days, even pre-fax! and phoning was very expensive). It was agreed to found the Swiss Commodities Association (at that time financial futures were not yet really active). Bürgenstock was chosen as the neutral meeting site and proved to be the ideal pick – a beautiful, serene place high above Lake Lucerne, a place where it was difficult for participants to leave. But it was such a beautiful place that no one minded. Many like to come via the steamboat which was an ideal way to bring them to this special place or enjoyed the cowbells, which often were the only sounds to hear in the morning. PAJ, as Paul-André was known, participated from the beginning and joined the Board in 1984, became its president and CEO in 1989. In 2001 I took over the Chairmanship at his urging but he remained CEO until 2014. A very special highlight for him was the election to the FIA Hall of Fame in 2009, which was a well deserved recognition for his work as good ambassador for the derivatives industry.
The Bürgenstock conference was always extremely dear to him and he always tried to improve the conference to make it an even better place for networking, meeting old friends and making new ones. Be it the Gala Dinner, the Country evening, the Cosy Corner – you name it. Together with Carol Gregoir, who was the secretary of SFOA for most of his tenure, he made sure that the guests felt comfortable, the food was superb, and he was always looking for the little special things like a small gift for each moderator and many other things. He was also there to help out when things went wrong – like the morning the elevetor at the Palace hotel was stuck because “late-night guests” decided to try to move the piano up to the room to continue the party after the hotel staff asked them to stop because they need to get the place ready or when – well, there are too many stories to be told from the good old days, so let’s leave it at that one! He also had a special sweet spot for kids and for many years organized a special tombola with great prizes to raise funds for a children’s charity in the country of the special guest. To achieve all that he had his network of friends and partners in the industry who helped him with the necessary input and sponsorships. Obviously, the most important part of the conference is not to be forgotten – having a good time was central to him, but equally crucial to him was the sharing of information, ideas and know-how. Therefore he always pushed for panels that were real discussions and not just PR-operations. Panels were to be lively and thought-provoking and provide food for discussions at the networking events later in the day.
Paul-André never liked being in the limelight, he preferred the work behind the scenes. But he was a gregarious, fun-loving guy and for a long time one of the last participants to leave the Gala after-dinner party. But in the last years he slowed down a bit and also the changes in the industry made him think. Gone were the days when a phone call could arrange a sponsorship or support the children’s charity tombola with prizes, gone the days when participants were able to attend the whole conference, stay for the Gala and return on Sunday only. The conference became more and more business only. People used to be happy and proud to come to the conference, pay for the participation and speak on a panel, thus putting themselves and their company in a good spotlight. This becomes more and more difficult as speakers stay just for a short time and will not participate in the networking events, thus negating the original idea of the conference: sit down, discuss issues and find solutions. Then business was run by the traders, today it is run by lawyers, CFO’s, compliance and IT people. Spontaneity is gone and it has been changed from a people business to a shareholder value driven business and the bottom line is more important than the original idea of an exchange: provide a platform to find the best price for a product and disseminate this to the public. This change was difficult for him. He acknowledged this in his comments after he left the Association:
“At age 71, it was time to leave the scene of an Association, involved in a rapidly changing environment and this, without regrets, considering the highly interesting moments shared with quite many friends and colleagues from all over the world.”
Unfortunately he only had a very short time to enjoy his semi-retirement (PAJ was not the type of guy to ever fully retire). Less than a year ago he was hit with the news about a very bad illness. He fought very hard and his strong faith carried him in the belief that everything will turn out well. At the funeral of his long-term friend Robert Sauthier this spring he was very positive and had high hopes of being able to enjoy life quite a bit longer. Unfortunately it was not to be.
I will remember him for being a great friend, a great human being with a big heart and someone to rely on. We did have our serious discussions, but always with the same shared goal of success going forward and based on mutual respect. Paul-André – you will be missed by me and a lot of people! Thank you for everything you have done for the Association, for the Industry and for the friendship we shared!
Honorary Past Chairman of SFOA