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  1. Analysis
May 21, 2019

Business Profile: Mirabaud

By Oliver Williams

For over a century and a half since it was founded, Mirabaud was typical of many family-run Swiss banks: Geneva based and Swiss focused.

However, since its first foray outside Switzerland – to Montreal in the 1980s – Mirabaud has been opening offices around the world: London, Paris, Dubai, Madrid, Milan. Last year saw a new Latin American focus with Brazil and then, earlier this year, Uruguay.

However, London remains one of its longest and most loyal countries. PBI’s Oliver Williams asks Harry Thorburn, head of the UK Branch and Etienne d’Arenberg, head of Wealth Management in the UK, what is the secret to its success?

Mirabaud

Etienne d’Arenberg

 

Oliver Williams: What is the Mirabaud setup in the UK?

Etienne d’Arenberg: We have various different functions here in London: asset management, custody, wealth management and a brokerage unit.

We offer Lombard credit (leverage on a portfolio) but don’t do lending or mortgages. We can put you in touch with the best people who do that.

We do everything else that clients need from a private bank: FX, credit cards, money transfers, custody and execution, etcetera.

About half of our UK clients are UK based – either resident non-dom or have a connection with the UK. Others are coming in from everywhere.

OW: The UK, and London in particular, is a saturated market though. So how do you expect to win market share when there is so much competition in the wealth management space?

EA: We are unlike the big banks. Mirabaud is a small family run firm where you can speak directly to the principles.

How many real private banks in the UK can you name? There’s Weatherbys and C Hoare and Co, but there are not many others. We are private – Mirabaud is still family owned. This means that when you call Mirabaud you are speaking directly with the decision makers.

I’ll give you an example: I had a client who was staying at a hotel in the middle of nowhere in Australia and his card didn’t work. He couldn’t pay the bill. So he called me up. I was able to speak to the manager and settle the bill there and then.

We are strongest on this service part and I feel that is very important.

OW: Many private banks today view technology is a critical part of their service offering. Is Mirabaud investing in this area?

EA: We don’t have a banking app because we don’t want to be hacked. If you can hack the Pentagon you can hack a bank account.

We have read-only statements. If you want an opinion on something or want to check how much is in your account, you can call up your relationship manager. You can call them up, email them or WhatsApp them – and they or one of their assistants will tell you.

OW: And what about that other tech trend-of-the-day: Cryptocurrencies?

EA: We don’t offer cryptocurrencies. If a client wants to invest in them, we say ‘fine’ and we send them elsewhere to buy them.

OW: How do you see your clients investing at the moment?

Harry Thorburn: We see a lot of clients going for ESG and impact funds at the moment.

But, you know, clients have their individual needs. For example Exxon Mobil ranks very highly on sustainable ratings. Why? Because they invest a lot in renewable energy. But a lot of clients say they don’t want to invest in an oil company, so we tailor sustainable investments to client needs.

EA: If you want to make an investment into just funds offered by our asset management unit – we can do that. If you want multiple differentiated portfolios fulfilling objectives of various situations, we can do that as well.

OW: Mirabaud has continually expanded its London presence. Do you think there’ll come a time when its UK brand becomes bigger than its Swiss origins?

EA: Switzerland has stability; it has an account surplus – you won’t find that in many places – and is a secure place to put your wealth.

If you are a wealthy person from Asia or the Middle East and you want to deposit money somewhere, where will you put it? Switzerland remains an attractive market for the international wealthy.

But then 50% of our workforce is outside of Switzerland.

We have been based here [in London] since 1991 so we are committed to the UK.

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