Private Banking: EFG challenges the establishment
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Private Banking: EFG challenges the establishment

It was set up by private bankers. It is run by private bankers, and it is built around private bankers. The brightest talents are flocking to it. Does EFG International have the model to take wealth management by storm? Peter Lee investigates.

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IN 1994, SWISS private banker Jean Pierre Cuoni paid a fateful call on Spiro Latsis, son of John Latsis, the Greek oil and shipping billionaire.

Cuoni was then already in the top echelon of his profession. Formerly head of private banking for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Citibank and then for nearly five years CEO of international private banking at Coutts, he had specialized throughout his career in coverage of super-wealthy Greek shipping magnates and their families.

But this was no courtesy call to discuss routine business. Cuoni had fallen out with senior management at NatWest, the owner of Coutts. Now, aged 58, he was heading for the exit. But he hungered for one last crack at the private banking business.

He had developed strong views about what private banks and private banking divisions of larger financial institutions were doing wrong – using bankers as sales forces to hawk their own dubious investment products. He also had a clear idea of what they should do differently – free private bankers from bureaucracy and let them do a decent job of looking after clients’ wealth.

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