Arjun Chopra talks to Arun Kakar about the South African bank’s vision for UK HNWs
‘The people we work with haven’t asked about Brexit in the last year,’ Investec’s Arjun Chopra tells Spear’s proudly.
‘They always stay ahead of the curve,’ he says of his clients. ‘What they were worried about a year ago, they’ve either pivoted and adjusted or they’ve just come to terms with it and found opportunity within it. So the environment for our team has ironically been really good.’
As Investec’s head of private capital, Chopra works with ‘asset rich, cash poor, time poor’ HNW entrepreneurs, who ‘are experts in their field and unbelievable wealth creators’. Clients come to Chopra’s team when they’ve identified a ‘super normal’ opportunity, and it’s his job to help them grasp it.
No wonder Brexit has become an afterthought. He mentions one client, who founded a ‘very successful’ media business in the 1990s that he says is still one of the last independents in its particular space. After developing a separate business at start-up stage, the firm stepped in to provide the client with the necessary liquidity to fund the venture, which Chopra calls ‘really exciting’.
‘Here is an example of established guy who has built an incredible business, has put in all the bells and whistles there to make sure it can run itself and do really well,’ he says. ‘He sees an amazing opportunity that he trying to incubate here, but needs to release liquidity in order to do so.’
Discussions on strategic decisions and can take place for up to a year, before there is even a deal on the table. Ultimately, Chopra notes, the client knows what their goal is: the bank is the trusted partner that helps them achieve it.
‘[It’s] really exciting for us to work with those people, because you see this deep sector expertise,’ he says. ‘When they tell you they’re going to do something and you look at their track record of what they’ve already done, you have a strong inclination that they’re going to do it again.’
Much like Investec’s private bank as a whole, Chopra’s department is on an upward trajectory. With a steady transaction flow in hand, he’s eyeing up a strong pipeline heading into the New Year.
‘I think the talks that we’re going to have in the next few weeks, if I can envision it, is one of tremendous opportunity,’ he says of the outlook ahead. ‘They’re seeing in the market and the speed of which they’re trying to execute those ideas and that’s been the theme of the last eight months. For executions, we’ve been the busiest we’ve ever been.’
Chopra traces much of the bank’s success to its ‘entrepreneurial backbone’, a ‘golden thread’ that connects all of his departments.
He explains this in terms of the ‘infrastructure within the firm that allows these transactions and opportunities to be looked at from a lens of understanding, mutual opportunity and connectivity’. The bank draws on its specialist banking capabilities across different experts in the group. One of Chopra’s clients for instance, already had an existing mortgage relationship with the bank, another came from the corporate finance division.
It’s bolstered by the speed with which the bank is able to act on the needs of its clients. Chopra’s team was designed to be ‘lean’, he says, and it’s this boutique-style attention to clients that enables to offer a more rounded level of support. This is why relationships with clients are often close and amiable: Chopra can’t think of a client where he doesn’t know if they have kids, for instance, or what they enjoy doing outside of work. ‘We’re constantly talking to them and especially when you spend a long time shaping a deal, it really becomes about two personalities working together,’ he says.
It’s this personal connection, coupled with the work itself that gives Chopra his impetus.
‘What is really important for us is the client’s journey, where he or she is going to go over the next five years and whether we feel we can be a meaningful part of that journey,’ he says. ‘We should be absolutely privileged and delighted to write a half million or two million cheque to that client: the bet that we’re making is that they’re going to get there, and that we can support them in getting there.’
Arun Kakar writes for Spear’s