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Wealth Manager: B Capital on why the world needs boutique merchant banks
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by Annabelle Williams on May 31, 2012 at 00:01
Ultra-efficient, secrecy-ridden and not very good at bridging the cultural divide of working in the UK; these are the stereotypes that generally spring to mind when one considers the Swiss banking model.
Against this backdrop, running a boutique from offices in London and Geneva might seem like an additional headache for a new player, particularly given the regular drip-feed of less than positive news about Swiss banking, but this is how B Capital began life, with two offices set up simultaneously at launch in 2008.
The reason, founder Lorne Baring says, is that the mechanics of Swiss banking are ‘on an operational level, like stainless steel’, and as such he has sought to bring a touch of this ‘really good’ system to London through B Capital.
‘They really know how to run the operations of a bank and the regulators in Switzerland are less red tape and more pragmatism,’ he says, after spending a chunk of his career at Barclays’ Swiss office.
‘It was great to see how they do it because then I could transfer some of that back to London.’
Aside from a slick back office, the Swiss preoccupation with privacy is another element Baring has tried to emulate in the fledgling business, which was set up with Barclays colleague José Rebelo.
‘Even friends of mine in London are irritated by the lack of privacy. It seems all data is shared… it’s quite messed up. That’s where I think the Swiss are really good, they just protect your privacy.’
Baring agrees there is ‘no doubt’ the Swiss ‘do things differently’ but that there is a manner of ‘cold and calm, and that’s what a lot of people want’.
The business now runs $500 million (£319 million) in assets under management on behalf of 21 clients and has eight staff. The firm targets clients with a minimum €10 million of investable assets.