A Journey to €1 Billion in Assets Under Management at Source For Alpha


EBS alumnus Dr Christian Funke describes in an interview the insights and strategies behind the success of his company Source for Alpha with his co-founders Gaston Michel and Timo Gebken.

EBS: Congratulations on the remarkable success of Source For Alpha! Could you tell us more about the journey and the key milestones that have led to surpassing €1 billion in assets under management?


Dr Christian Funke: "I started working on Source For Alpha together with my fellow EBS Alumni Timo Gebken and Gaston Michel in 2007, just when we were finishing our Finance PhD at EBS. We initially had some difficulties finding investors and raising capital in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, but finally managed to found Source For Alpha AG as a BaFin-licensed securities investment firm in 2010. We launched our first mutual fund, S4A US Long, in May 2011 with less than €3 million seed capital  – and we needed another nine years of perseverance growing the business to €100 million assets under management by the end of 2018. Based on excellent performance, the growing length of our investment track record and through recommendations of satisfied clients we were able to grow much faster in the last five years and reached the major milestone of €1 billion in assets under management in December 2023."


EBS: Source For Alpha's board members received significant recognition in the latest Forbes rankings. How does it feel to be ranked among the top fund managers and what strategies have contributed to this success, especially during volatile market periods?


Dr Christian Funke: "It feels really great to receive several such prestigious recognitions in the last years. Besides the recent Forbes rankings we are especially proud of the Handelsblatt Award as Top Fund Managers 2023 for our German and Eurozone equity funds, the Refinitiv Lipper Award 2023 for the best-performing US Equity fund over 3 and 5 years as well as being ranked Citywire Elite as part of the top 3% of 10,000 global fund managers. All these awards are based on the success of our systematic, rule-bound investment strategies, which we developed using the results of decades of academic research in empirical asset pricing."


EBS: Managing over €1 billion in assets is a significant achievement. What unique approaches or principles does Source For Alpha apply to asset management that sets it apart from the competition?

Dr Christian Funke: "Our corporate claim is “Wissen schafft Werte” which translates into “Knowledge creates value”. What do we mean? Well, every day, renowned researchers work to gain a better understanding of capital markets. Our aim at Source For Alpha is to put this knowledge to our customers' use in order to generate added value. We continuously analyze the results of capital market research and apply them to our systematic, rule-bound investment strategies. We see our consistent focus on academic research knowledge as our unique selling point distinguishing us from our competitors."


EBS: You have a strong connection with EBS Universität. As an alumnus, supporter and sponsor, how has your association with EBS influenced your career and the growth of Source For Alpha?


Dr Christian Funke: "My connection to EBS has been very close since I started studying Oestrich-Winkel in 2000. I served twice as student representative and later as a representative of the academic mid-level researchers ‑ and during my times as a research assistant from 2004 to 2007 at the Endowed Chair of Asset Management I was involved in the initial design of the Bachelor and Master programs as well as teaching a lot of Finance courses. As a consequence I have a deep understanding of the university and kept many personal relationships with students and faculty. Finally, this engagement further deepened during my time as president the EBS alumni association from 2016 to 2021. Overall, this immersion into the EBS network and community – which often feels like a family – has influenced me personally greatly and has resulted in many long-lasting friendships and meaningful relationships. From a business perspective, it has benefited the growth of Source For Alpha as many of our clients, especially on the private wealth management side, are EBS alumni I met through all those years of being active in the EBS community. Additionally, on the HR side, we have frequently hired interns from EBS and, actually, recruited one of them to join our company full-time after finishing his Master in Finance."


EBS: Given your experience and success, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those interested in the financial and asset management sectors?


Dr Christian Funke: "Finance and asset management is a very competitive sector and it is very difficult to pursue an entrepreneurial career in this sector, especially given regulatory requirements and technological developments. In general I would advise today’s aspiring entrepreneurs to keep an open mind and dream big – successful founding stories such as N26, Scalable Capital or Trade Republic show that new entrants can disrupt even a heavily regulated industry such as banking, wealth management and brokerage. In general, it is extremely important for aspiring entrepreneurs be ready to work (very) hard and long hours, to learn fast, to test and iterate your product and service offering until you find your USP, and, finally, to stay humble during the whole entrepreneurial journey. The lows can sometimes be very low and the highs can be very high, so it is important to be mentally ready for a ride!"


EBS: Leadership is a critical aspect of success and your role as a director of Source For Alpha reflects strong leadership. How do you define effective leadership, and what principles guide your leadership style in navigating the complexities of the financial industry and managing a successful company like Source For Alpha?


Dr Christian Funke: "For me effective leadership is based on good and clear communication, building trust and developing meaningful personal relationships in a business context. You cannot lead a team successfully if you do not inspire its members to follow you – and for me leading by example is the most effective way, especially give the complexities of the regulated asset and wealth management industry. My personal objective is to communicate our vision and objectives to our team at Source For Alpha as transparently as possible, to show them how we work towards those goals as a leadership team and to make everyone understand which role they play in reaching those goals – and how they can grow personally in a successful organization. And of course, this will work most efficiently if the team trusts me as a leader based on the personal relationship we have."


EBS: Finally, as a successful entrepreneur, alumnus and sponsor, what message would you like to pass on to current and future EBS students who might be inspired by your achievements?


Dr Christian Funke: "You can not underestimate the power of personal relationships and the added value of a strong network such as EBS alumni, spanning many generations of EBS students from the last 50 years. So embrace it! But remember that you have to build your own personal relationships and that you have to work towards establishing yourself in the network. And “there is no free lunch” – put yourself out there, join as many events as possible, be curious, keep learning, share your story, your ideas, dreams and ambitions. And especially, help others without expecting to be repaid – you will be rewarded many times over at a later time and when you least expect it."


EBS: Thank you for the interview!


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