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Wealth Manager of the Week: Hottinger's plans to grow in the UK
by Annabelle Williams on Dec 14, 2012 at 07:31
In a climate of scandal and general public mistrust in the banking sector, many small private client businesses are feeling the pressure through association, having the misfortune of operating in the same sector as the culpable parties.
Lee O’Leary, managing director of Swiss family-owned bank Hottinger’s London operation, argues the wealth management industry has been unduly hurt by a string of misdemeanours in broader financial services.
While private client businesses have experienced far less in the way of scandals, they have been tarred with the same brush as big banks, O’Leary argues.
‘It’s a shame because we have seen these situations and the private client side is pretty much unscathed, but tarnished by it,’ he says.
‘Some clients will say to a very good investment manager “it’s a shame you work for them”. But it’s not the individual they are concerned about, it’s the institutions, and we can’t control the institutions. I think the private client side has been tarnished unfairly because they tend not to have been involved in those situations.’
As the family-backed business holds no client money itself and lacks the teams of product-pushing salesmen and advisers that have caused problems for other players, O’Leary believes the firm is not subject to short-term pressures like others.
‘We don’t have those high level pressures on us. The Hottinger family has been very supportive; I have no real pressures from them.’
Against this backdrop, O’Leary is seeing increased interest from prospective clients wishing to have their investments managed by a Swiss player.
‘We have done absolutely no marketing, we have no public side of it. We are a very discreet organisation. The [Hottinger] family want us to be that way and we want to be that way,’ he says.
O’Leary was working as a director and senior asset manager at Julius Baer, with over 30 years’ experience under his belt, when he was approached by the investment arm of Swiss private bank Hottinger to set up a London office to complement its New York and Luxembourg operations.
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