Hedgehog Issue 48: Tax justice, Annie Leibovitz and Sexy Fish - Spear's Magazine
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Hedgehog Issue 48: Tax justice, Annie Leibovitz and Sexy Fish

Spear's spikiest friend search for greener grass and juicier gossip

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Drake's progress

Fifteen years after co-founding Lord North Street, one of a new generation of wealth management firms which rose alongside the concentration of global wealth in London, William Drake has stepped down from a full-time role at the business (now merged into Sandaire Investment Office). But even as London's wealth has grown, Drake expresses disappointment when talking to Hedgehog that the radically reshaped wealth management landscape he envisaged then has largely not come to pass.

But first, the good news about the future. Drake is joining RFR, a 'property private office' run by Richard Rogerson, late of Macfarlanes, and Sophie Rogerson, a former City lawyer. RFR, says Drake, does everything from residential property finding, interior design and project management to managing a buy-to-let portfolio and even assembling said portfolio. He is joining to advise on management and strategy, as well as helping to raise RFR's profile among his wealth management network.

Drake says he sees in RFR the spirit of the early days of Lord North Street, which he and Adam Wethered co-founded in 2000, 'brimming with enthusiasm and talent and fun'. He identifies with RFR's aim to provide an 'incredibly professional' service, which he says was also lacking in the wealth management industry at Lord North's birth. (He and Wethered are now senior advisers to Sandaire on two-day-a-month retainers.)

In 2000, there were almost no open-architecture firms, ie wealth managers who could invest in any funds, not just their company's own ('pushing products'). 'When we started,' says Drake, 'the banks really were saying they advised their clients but they were making money out of selling them products.' Now, 'open architecture' has been adopted as a mantra and proof of independence by banks and wealth managers alike.

But while the game has changed radically, the players have not, and this is Drake's disappointment, that the family office space hasn't grown more: 'I thought by now we would have had a dozen really top-flight private investment offices managing billions; England would be the place to go to for this fantastic family office industry.'

Instead, because of competition from banks and a burden of regulation which weighs too heavily on smaller firms, we have seen a wave of mergers (Sandaire and Lord North, Ingenious and Thurleigh, Fleming Family & Partners and Stonehage, among many others) and a thinning-out of the landscape. Nevertheless, he says 'great opportunities' still exist for Sandaire and its field.

So while Drake may be largely leaving behind an industry he has helped to change, he is moving into one he hopes he can help change even further.

rfrproperty.com

 

Shoot to kill

The news that UBS has commissioned Annie Leibovitz to do a series of portraits of notable or worthy women for its brand relaunch brings with it an intriguing question.

Why does the bank -- which prides itself on being a model of financial propriety -- want to associate itself with a photographer who has endured much-publicised financial travails, including nearly losing the rights to the 100,000 photos she's taken after a $24 million loan she took out went wrong?

Leibovitz and the bank's head of communications, Hubertus Kuelps, were in London in October to launch the project, 'WOMEN: New Portraits', which will tour ten global cities throughout 2016, and in an interview Hedgehog asked Kuelps just this question. 'You know, I think what we looked at was who's the best, and who's considered -- at least to my mind -- the portrait photographer of our time, and that's her, and we're entirely comfortable with that.'

But surely it doesn't send the best message about UBS's financial capabilities? 'In the end I come back to that she's the best at what she does, we're very good at what we do, and that's what important. No one's asking her to be an expert at what we're an expert at.'

In the press conference, Leibovitz, who photographed Caitlyn Jenner for the cover of Vanity Fair where she came out as transgender ('There was no retouching with that cover because she was already retouched'), said UBS had given her freedom in her work, which 'feels like I'm flying'. 'They see it as a pretty healthy thing to be related to me, which is kind of extraordinary.'

And how many works by Leibovitz, we asked Stephen McCoubrey, regional curator of the UBS art collection, are in the UBS collection at the moment? None, he said. But, he added, pieces from WOMEN would change that.

WOMEN: New Portraits' by Annie Leibovitz opens at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station on 16 January 2016

 

Clean sheets

Warriors for tax justice have cause for cheer as a report shows that countries are opening up about how much money they are holding and who it belongs to. The new biennial Financial Secrecy Index, produced by the Tax Justice Network, says in 'most countries secrecy scores have improved', suggesting openness is spreading.

Switzerland remains way out ahead at the top of the list (ie most secret), though its score fell by a sixth, followed by Hong Kong, the USA, Singapore and the Cayman Islands. Last year's number two, Luxembourg, has dropped to sixth as its score plummeted.

Cooperation on new standards for tax information exchange and the enforcement of these standards by international bodies have been partly responsible for the good news, says John Christensen, executive director of the Tax Justice Network.

'The G8 and the G20 made some quite strong commitments and David Cameron was party to these commitments,' says Christensen. 'He took a leading role in 2013 to strengthen information exchange processes and we've seen progress there, no question about it.'

But Christensen has caveats, particularly about the secrecy that trusts allow (not least if people started transferring companies into trusts to avoid the ownership registries). He says they are 'useful legal agreements' but can hide their beneficiaries, thus concealing who owns what and how much tax they may be avoiding. Christensen suggests there may be a tax gap here of 'hundreds of billions,
if not trillions, globally'.

He is worried about specific countries' tax openness (or otherwise), but his biggest concern is for Germany, 'a much bigger and emerging problem than I had thought': 'Germany has almost been surreptitiously developing offshore work behind a veil of secrecy for the past two decades.' This was even as it moved for more information exchange across the EU. He estimates Germany ('a safe haven for illicit money from around the globe', per the TJN) now holds €2.5-€3 trillion 'in conditions of complete secrecy'.

 

Fish face

There is a long-established aesthetic for chic Asian restaurants in London as exemplified by Nobu, Zuma and their ilk: restrained, muted, spare, simple. And then there is Sexy Fish.

The new Berkeley Square restaurant from Richard Caring's Caprice Holdings, owners of the Ivy and more, does not so much reject that style as drown it in one of the impressive 15,000-litre electric-blue fishtanks in the private dining room.

From the Matisse-like fabric ceilings to the green Iranian onyx floor, via Frank Gehry's silicone crocodile creeping across a wall (right) and Damien Hirst's blue bronze mermaids at the bar, nothing at Sexy Fish -- not even the terrible but unforgettable name -- is subtle.

Now, that does not mean it is bad: Hedgehog thinks there is plenty of room for a bold high-spec space which challenges itscompetitors with an opulent blast. It's certainly two fingers up to bolshie Novikov down the road, as a foodie later suggested, and is likely to challenge it as the hedgies' post-work venue of choice (judging by all the Hermès belt-and-tie combos we saw).

Sexy Fish has no pretensions to Zen calm, which is lucky: it's raucous, blingy and thoroughly good fun.

 

Table service

Now, obsessions are usually frowned on -- at least when they involve hiding round a corner trying to capture a potential life partner with a butterfly net -- but they're often passions by another name, and who can object
to passion?

Certainly not Gaggenau, the headline sponsor of the Spear's Wealth Management Awards (see page 26), which has gone all-in with Obsession -- a food festival it describes as 'a celebration, a fiesta' where global guest chefs cook up a storm. It is being held from
22 January to 7 February at Northcote, a country house hotel and restaurant nestled amid Lancashire's picturesque scenery.

After Cristal, the guest chef prepares a signature five-course menu with specially chosen wines (introduced by Northcote's head sommelier), followed by Ramos Pinto port and a cheeseboard, signed menus and Obsession gifts. Each package includes a night for a reader and their guest in a Superior Room.

On Sunday 31 January the guest chef is Hideaki Matsuo, who has three Michelin stars for his Kashiwaya restaurant in Osaka for his melding of Japanese and Western ingredients and cooking methods. And on Thursday 4 February it's Diego Hernandez, chef at Corazón de Tierra in Mexico, which has its own vegetable and herb garden, citrus orchard and fruit trees.

Gaggenau is hosting a party at the intimate chef's table on these two special nights and invites Spear's readers to join with a hefty discount on either of them -- 20 per cent off the package price (from £1,187 to £950).

Contact jiggs.patel@spearswms.com to find out more.

 

Field of dreams

The phrase 'the grass is always greener' has long appealed -- for obvious reasons -- to Hedgehog. We're all in search of that better field, with richer pickings and sweeter rewards. This is no less true for investors -- but how to tell whose grass really is greener?

You may have an expected level of performance, against which actual performance and benchmark market returns are observed through portfolio valuations and regular meetings with managers. But it's not easy to know if this is acceptable compared to what everyone else is getting from their investment portfolios.

Asset Risk Consultants (ARC) has been analysing investment managers for its clients for twenty years. It has recently made one of its performance reporting tools available online, at its portal suggestus.com.

By entering some very simple information about your portfolio, you will be able to look into not just one verdant field but many, and compare your investment returns to the performance of the world's largest peer group of private client portfolio investment performance.

suggestus.com



 

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