William Cash meets chief fixer at BHB Partners Harry Becher, who explains that in his world there's no such thing as a normal request
Scrolling down his BlackBerry over breakfast, Harry Becher nonchalantly rattles off some of his recent HNW client requests. I would like to have said the 'more unusual' client requests but the truth is that for Becher 'normal' includes being asked to set up a dinner date with the German artist Gerhard Richter, put on a private opera in Turkey or set up an appointment with a top London cancer specialist (with a waiting list of months) within 24 hours.
Harry has been a fixture on the London A-list scene for many years, perhaps best known as an ambassador and uber-fixer for Quintessentially until 2005. He has now branched out to run his own boutique service called BHB Partners; his fixing and 'crisis management' centre is based in a huge loft space on Lexington Street in Soho.
Much in demand from Russians and American bankers wanting to get their kids into the best schools or get a last minute box at Chelsea, Harry is now carving out a below-the-radar niche as London's number one private fixer for an eclectic, colourful anddemanding cast of global citizens.
'My business is about people,' he says, dressed in a dark blue suit and looking like the sort of private banker that his uncle, Marcus Gregson, would have employed in the days when he was the founding chief executive of HSBC Private Bank back in the 1990s. So building strong and loyal client relations is very much in the Becher DNA.
'I tend to deal with people's problems and the nature of my work is that because many of my clients are very successful, they often have very difficult problems and high demands. That suits me. I am like the duck in the pond: the legs are working overtime beneath the water but on the surface everything is looking calm and relaxed. We don't tend to do flowers or chocolates, or get you a table at Zuma. There are other firms for that. If somebody needs a new passport in a hurry and they're in Sudan, we'll get on a plane.'
Harry has been a fixer for as long as he can recall, going back to his days at Bedales where he used to organise parties in the school holidays and get his pals into the roped-off VIP rooms of London's most impenetrable clubs (for seventeen-year old public schoolboys at least). Part of the key to Harry's success is that he moves effortlessly between the various sub-sections of London's high society and HNW world (from the young royals to Chinese billionaires).
The name BHB Partners is deliberately vague and could be the sort of name you see on the brass plaque belonging to a wealth management boutique. The word 'concierge' is notably avoided. With a fulfilment rate of 93 per cent, Becher is more of an invisible HNW services broker (clients pay through buying blocks of 'service requests').
'Any old fool can set themselves up as a concierge these days,' says Becher, almost spitting the word out with the sort of contempt that people used to reserve for 'stockbroker' or 'estate agent' in the Eighties and Nineties. 'The problem with the fixing business is that you don't have to have a licence, so in many ways the business can resemble the Wild West or the property world, which is also not properly regulated. I would welcome regulation.'
BHB Partners are an interesting boutique brand because they are the sort of small firm – others in the same market include One London – that is doing very well out of the influx of non-doms who have converged on London's golden pavements in the last decade. The sort of insider contacts and relationships that Becher has built up over the last decade or so can make a move to London from New York or Turkey a considerably easier and less bewildering experience.
Harry has also set up a medical referral company for his VIP clients. Getting access to the right medical specialists is a growing part of what UHNWs – especially those who don't have a London GP – expect today.
His passion for this new medical referral side came from the experience of seeing his mother, Judes, battle with cancer. She was very much the family matriarch, running the Becher joinery company and Good Life-style farm in Hampshire with Harry's father Richard, as well as being busy with a number of charities and their home in Andalucia.
When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, Harry — the ultimate fixer — didn't know where to turn for advice or referrals. While he and his family did everything they could to support her, he knows from his own hard experience how difficult it is to get appointments with the right specialists.
So the medical side of BHB Partners is perhaps the area Harry is proudest of developing as he has already used his formidable access to top doctors to save more than one life. All for just a single 'request' credit.