International

London branch opens: "the UK market is of strategic importance," says Yves Mirabaud

The Mirabaud Group is strengthening its presence and its service offering in the UK market, thanks to the grant of a banking licence for its London office. Yves Mirabaud, Senior Managing Partner, talks about this important step and the Group's development strategy in the UK, and addresses the uncertainties sparked by Brexit.

Nearly 30 years of presence in London

The Mirabaud Group has been operating in London for almost three decades. It has continually consolidated its presence and its services in the heart of the world's most important financial centre. When it launched its brokerage activities in 1990, the Group’s partners at the time quickly expanded their activities to include their two other business lines, asset management and wealth management. This global offering has now reached its natural culmination with the grant of the "fully-fledged" bank status. The London branch rounds off the offering of the European bank Mirabaud & Cie (Europe) SA, which is registered in Luxembourg and already established in France and Spain.

A strategic market

Yves Mirabaud, Senior Managing Partner, stresses that Mirabaud has long offered financial services and investment solutions for UK clients and investors. “By opening a bank branch in London, we will be able to serve clients' interests to a greater extent in the future”, he explains. The UK retains its strategic importance to the Group and “With one foot in Europe and the other in numerous English-speaking countries, the door is opened to numerous markets." London is the leading financial centre in Europe and worldwide, which is reason enough to maintain an active presence there. Above all, this financial hub offers favourable conditions for management and investments. “You can tell that all the parties involved are very committed to defending the financial sector at both political and economic levels,” says Yves Mirabaud.

Both more local and more global – At the same time

The opening of a bank branch in the United Kingdom is part of a carefully considered and focussed strategy to offer Group clients a wider range of services in several key European countries. It is the final stage in strengthening our banking offering in Europe, which began in 2014 in Luxembourg and continued successfully in France and Spain in 2015. Maintaining this trend, London was a natural location for a branch, given the historical links between Mirabaud and the city being the global financial capital. The Group also had high-powered teams on ground in London and has enjoyed stable and regular growth in its three business lines. Yves Mirabaud adds, “Swiss banks need to have a local presence in London in order to better serve their clients, as Switzerland does not have access to the European markets.”

Yves Mirabaud explains that “The demands of banking transparency mean that clients are also less inclined to travel, so we need to be closer to them with a broader range of services. We can now offer management, custody, lending and credit services more easily, and our managers can call on all the Group's support systems and services to meet clients' specific requirements. Now, it’s a matter of consolidating our presence, both in London and elsewhere, and above all of developing synergies between our offices and our different business lines. This is the greatest challenge, particularly in terms of cultural integration, because people don't work the same way in London, Geneva and Paris."

The benefits of Swiss banks abroad

Swiss banks have had to adapt the structure of their branches abroad because they can't handle all of their business from their offices in Switzerland. There has been a strong trend in this direction for several years now, with the formation of bank branches in the main European financial centres via subsidiaries in Luxembourg. This is crucial to ensure their competitiveness, especially compared with domestic banks.

"What sets Swiss banks apart from local players is their pronounced focus on personalised service, their responsiveness and their understanding of complex issues," stresses Yves Mirabaud. “Switzerland is a small country, which has encouraged us to look beyond our borders. In our business, that translates into specific expertise in diversification and internationalisation of management. This is a competitive asset you don’t find anywhere else. The specifically Swiss approach gives us an edge on our competitors,” explains the Senior Managing Partner.

Under the shadow of Brexit

Some would say that growing your business in the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote is a bit of a gamble. But this doesn't seem to disturb the Senior Managing Partner of Mirabaud. Given the current uncertain environment, he is presenting a British stiff upper lip, an attitude he appreciates in his British counterparts.

“With or without Brexit, we need to be in London to serve our clients. Whatever happens, it won’t affect our local presence. On the day after the vote, the markets fluctuated wildly, but investors eventually realised that the UK economy is very resilient. More than anything else, it was the psychological effect, that was most important for me in this period of upheaval. The UK has undoubtedly benefited from the global recovery which is emerging simultaneously in all the markets, but I am convinced that the London financial centre will remain what it has always been, a strong financial hub that plays a pivotal role in the global economy on many levels.” 

The UK is still a member of the European Union, and will remain so for another two years. Everything will depend on the negotiations with Brussels. The only real uncertainty for Yves Mirabaud is the conclusion of an agreement on the free movement of services. “The negotiations are just starting now, so we've still got time ahead of us. Even so, it's still a little early to make forecasts, especially as we don't have any basis for predictions. Besides, the Brits are shrewd. They may have shot themselves in the foot, but they won't shoot themselves in the heart.

Yves Mirabaud then observes, “Ultimately, I think that Brexit will have more legal consequences than economic ones. But, whatever the outcome of the talks, we will adapt, just as our house has always done. In its two centuries of existence, it has managed to ride out more than 50 financial crises without excessive damage or accidents. And that gives me confidence. Also, if the UK manages to reach a better agreement than Switzerland with the European Union, our country will be inspired to follow its example.”