Posted November 30, 2009 | yuri bender | Post a Comment
Much of PWM’s time is spent out and about on the rues and strasses of Continental Europe, so it can be a welcome change to attend a London lunch, even if amidst the glass and concrete of Canary Wharf. Northern Trust has been hosting a select band of journalists in the ‘deep South’ of its post-industrial Docklands HQ for a few years, but after having secured an invite to this annual Thanksgiving gathering for the first time, we at PWM were not disappointed.
Biff Bowman, Northern’s Emea boss, described Thanksgiving as Christmas without the commerciality, and a feast celebrating relationships. He handed over to Bob Browne, chief investment officer, in a video link-up with Chicago, where the group was set up by banker Byron Laflin Smith 120 years ago, to serve the City’s wealthy families. Bob cut a slightly nervous, forlorn figure, sitting at 6.30 am in the front row of an otherwise deserted conference hall. “He looks like he’s about to testify,” suggested Biff in London, six hours ahead, as we digested Bob’s views on emerging markets, which he suggests private clients should be making increasing allocations of their wealth to, China in particular.
The Biff and Bob show continued, with Biff vividly describing a recent dinner with Jeb Bush, younger brother of the last US President. The jist of the tale was that the former Governor of Florida – Biff studied in Miami so is well-connected in the ‘Sunshine State’ - had a much better understanding of financial services than his bro’.
Also present was Ian Headon, head of the group’s growing hedge funds administration arm, and a big cheese in his native Ireland, which hopes to benefit from the latest EU alternative investments directive. He edits an Irish football fanzine in his spare time, a passionate lover of the beautiful game, ‘gutted’ by the French handball which broke Irish hearts. The conversation on politics, football, finance and families, interspersed with delightful portions of turkey, trimmings and an exquisite cheesecake, could have carried on all day, as far as I was concerned. One of the 15 senior Northern Trust executives present even took me aside to tell me about his life of domestic bliss. “I love my wife dearly,” he confided. “We have been married for 20 years, but she can never quite get the consistency of the Thanksgiving turkey right, and she knows it.” A good thing that Northern Trust continues to focus on relationships.
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