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  1. Wealth
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December 6, 2010

Hedgehog Issue 18

By Spear's

Gunplay, wordplay – it can only be Hedgehog

Even when you know a gun is unloaded, you still duck as soon as someone starts examining the trigger. It’s one of those reflex actions, like blinking, or frowning when someone mentions the bank tax.

As James Cook of Ray Ward lifted an ornate restored shotgun from a cabinet and set it up on his shoulder, even though Hedgehog was nowhere near his eye-line, you’ve never seen anyone hit the floor so quickly.

Ray Ward, which has been selling, repairing and restoring guns for 50 years, has recently repaired and restored its store on Cadogan Place, integrating its guns with the clothes of brother-company Bernard Weatherill, so that you can bag your field coat even as you spot the perfect piece with which to bag your grouse.

Alongside the Purdeys and Holland & Hollands are Continental brands like Beretta and Perazzi; all are elaborately decorated with swirling leaves or hunt scenes or delicate cross-hatching, concealing the technology of the sidelock under the artistry of the engraving.

Whereas a shooting party in the 1980s could easily have been mistaken for one in the 1880s — the guns may even have been part of the patrimony, and the rituals were certainly the same — the sport has lost some of its hauteur as CEOs in the Noughties began to decide that the best way to distinguish themselves from the golf crowd was to take their clients and contacts out for a day at Molland or Maristow with over-and-unders. It had the added benefit of displaying the British Isles at their best (and bloodiest).

At the top end, the rampant competitive expenditure typical of oligarchs taking up English pastimes (see also: buying country houses) has seen the price of a pair of shotguns shoot up. As James Cook says, ‘They don’t want to be standing in the line of guns where the number-two peg is shooting the same pair.’

What they really want is gun envy. Freudians, be silent.

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‘Put your money where your mouth is’ has long been the favourite taunt of wealth managers to private bankers. Smaller wealth-management firms, such as multi-family offices and independent investment advisers, make it axiomatic that they invest alongside their clients, and are highly sceptical of bankers who recommend their firm’s products but, surprisingly, can’t be induced to put their own money into them.

Now wealth managers have a voice with which they can whisper in the ears of Cabinet ministers and regulators in the form of the New City Initiative, founded by Daniel Pinto of Stanhope Capital (we talk to Lord Browne, chairman of Stanhope’s advisory board, on page 40). Twenty-five firms, including Odey Asset Management, Vestra Wealth, Crossbridge Capital and Stonehage, are members, employing more than 3,000 people.

Pinto is very certain why NCI’s first major campaign should be about alignment of interests: ‘If you don’t tackle the core issues of why are people inclined to take excessive risks, you will have another 2008.’

Answering his own question, he says: ‘Bankers are human beings and greed dominates human nature.’ Instead of forcibly investing part of people’s bonuses in company stock (look how well that turned out for Lehmans), they should be forcibly invested in their own products. Result: instant alignment of interests.

Fondly remembering the era of values-led bank partnerships, Pinto, who spent his early years in finance at Warburgs, says that the invective directed at bankers in 2008-9 was ‘very hurtful’ to those who remember tha days when being a banker was a source of pride.

By promoting its message to Vince Cable and Paul Tucker, deputy governor of the Bank of England, and combining this with a plan to offer internships to university students from underprivileged backgrounds, NCI hopes to start restoring that pride.

If Spear’s had a family tree, Annabel’s would be our MILF. (Look it up!) We sprang, Athene-like, fully formed from Annabel’s head when William Cash, editing the Annabel’s magazine, spotted the niche Spear’s now occupies. Annabel’s, of course, continued to dance the night away.

So imagine our delight when a glorious Annabel’s Christmas hamper, a maternal gift which isn’t socks,
came our way. Stocked by the Mount Street Deli with delicacies such as Annabel’s chocolate truffles (tiny bites of sweet darkness), Sicilian pistachio biscuits and foie gras, the wicker hamper is ideal to dive into after the festivities become all too much and you need to escape the tinsel and mistletoe and wandering hands of Great Uncle Harry.

And because Annabel’s has never just been about the senses, there’s the Annabel’s book, too, to which the eponymous Lady Goldsmith and Sir David Tang (who answers questions in this issue’s At the Sharp End on page 128) have contributed.

Many of Annabel’s siblings are offering hampers as well. The Wentworth Club’s has chocolate golf balls (bet you can’t get a whole in one), while The Club at The Ivy’s comes with Gaston Chiquet champagne, Moulin de Gassac claret and The Ivy truffles. Whichever you choose, make sure you’re generous with the contents: after all, Caring is sharing.

If the Women’s Institute has taught us two things, it is surely that women are very good at making jam and singing Jerusalem. We now learn, however, that the former of these has nothing to do with fruit, sugar, muslin or sterilised jars — women, in the manner of rock stars, are jamming about wealth.

Zoë Couper, former head of marketing at Credit Suisse and founder of financial communications agency Couper and Partners, has melded minds with John Gordon, founder of Xtreme Information and Intelligence Squared, the cut-above debating society, to come up with Financial JAM Sessions, which will promote financial literacy among women.

With a global series of events planned — London, Mumbai, New York, Geneva et al — for ‘an international mix of sophisticated, well-educated women with varying degrees of wealth and from differing sources’, Financial JAM Sessions will have discussions on everything from core financial concepts to philanthropy and future-planning.

Zoë, a judge in this year’s Spear’s Wealth Management Awards (see page 22), said the financial sector finally needed ‘to understand the significance of the female economy to their businesses. The financial needs of women can be different to men’s through clear demographic, longevity and family realities. However, the real difference is more nuanced and reflected in the way women engage with decisions, gather facts, quantify value and approach risk.’

Wealth management seminars can be a snooze, but RBC Wealth Management’s ‘Mind, Management… and Morality?’ one on tax and morality took a distinct swing for the eye-opening when final panellist Robert Venables QC decided to tell the hall what he thought about tax.
Here’s a clue: he doesn’t like it.

Or rather, he doesn’t like what the government does with it. It’s fine to use tax for ‘ensuring the criminal classes are kept under control and out of harm’s way’ and ‘subsidising the deserving poor’ and ‘protecting the country’.

What Blair, Brown et al have done, however, is start ‘subsidising drones, parasites and scroungers’ through welfare and benefits: ‘A girl simply has to open her legs, get pregnant, drop a child and there she is at the head of the benefits queue.’

I don’t know about children being dropped, but jaws certainly did.

‘We object,’ he continued, ‘to providing so-called “jobs” for incompetent civil servants, people who would unemployable in the private sector.’

Venables was terrifically scornful of HMRC, saying it can’t close one loophole for opening another, allowing clever lawyers to run rings round it. Worse was its claim that one could break the spirit of the law, when the case of R v Bhagwan shows that only the letter can be broken. Perhaps worst of all, he said, was the government’s application of new laws on tax retrospectively, a generally deplorable move.

He finished with a rousing cry: ‘We should be proud and not ashamed of taking them on: we’ll stop them stifling initiatives!’ You may not agree with his moral principle — it’s OK to avoid tax if you don’t approve of where it’s going — but you can’t fail to be stirred as he articulates it.

Ah, Frieze Week, when the art world descends and anyone near Regent’s Park notices a sharp increase in men with black-framed glasses and women whose faces are in an immobile pout.
Deutsche Bank has been sponsoring the Frieze Art Fair for several years now, and each year it awards a prize to an up-and-coming artist which includes a guaranteed exhibition at its offices in Germany. (This year’s winner was French-Moroccan Yto Barrada.)

The presenter was Pierre de Weck, a member of Deutsche’s group executive committee and its ambassador for the arts arm of its CSR activities, so Hedgehog took the opportunity to ask him whether Deutsche was collecting less than before the recession. His answer was surprising, and surprisingly frank: ‘During the recession, we were losing money, we were hurting, we were laying off staff, so I thought there’s a limit to what we can do with art.’ So now they have started to sell off some pieces (only by dead artists) to fund further new ones, instead of increasing the collecting budget.

In America, there is a furious debate over ‘de-accessioning’: should museums and galleries be allowed to sell works from their collections? British institutions can’t, but private companies don’t suffer from this legal bind (unless self-imposed).

The collection has become a ‘breathing’ one, as Pierre calls it: works go in and works go out. Valuable pieces are sold privately, less valuable ones are offered to staff via an e-auction, encouraging them to become collectors (after presumably being inspired by the omnipresent art within Deutsche’s offices). So far only dozens of pieces, out of thousands in the collection, have been sold.

We also asked him why Deutsche continued to sponsor contemporary art when others (hello, UBS) were giving up: ‘Others choose to direct their spending to Formula One. We support art.’ Although this seems neutral enough, one can’t help but detect a subtle undertone of scorn.

At the FT/City of London debate on the future of the financial services industries at the Tory party conference, Stuart Fraser, the policy chairman of the City of London, responded curiously to a question on pay: ‘When God gave out brains, he didn’t give them all out equally, and so we have to live in an unequal society.’

Lionel Barber then pointed out that few people were ten times as clever as someone else and thus deserved ten times their salary. Touché.

Too often internet reveries stay virtual: it’s rare for some Firefoxy fantasy to materialise. Couturelab on Davies Street is an exception, the physical instantiation of the web’s chicest site, and — even rarer — the reality is better than the pixels’ promise.

The site offers true luxury — limited-edition, hand-crafted, thoughtful, elaborate, carefully made items — from Spaniard Vicente Gracia’s soaring birds necklace, where their trailing plumage is composed of feathers in five colours of gold, to Clements Ribeiro’s half-and-half dresses made of found fabrics, to Charvet archive-print silk dressing-gowns and matching bow-ties.

‘We have tried to create a global community of artisans,’ says Mauro Durant, one of founder Carmen Busquet’s right-hand men. By harnessing the reach of the internet not to mass-produce but to specialise, Couturelab can contact a weaver in Kashmir as easily as Cire Trudon in Paris, whose exquisite candles — once lit for Louis XIV — are also available.

There are things here that even a sybarite in their most frenzied dreams couldn’t envisage: reclaimed fur with silver embroidery; Polaroid-printed scarves with scenes from African villages; stuffed toys which look like a genetic experiment to meld eight different animals gone horribly, adorably wrong.

And by venturing down to Davies Street, you can behold all these items — some of which are not even on the website because they sell out before they can be digitised — in the flesh. It turns out that real reality is even better than virtual reality.

Our old friends the Halcyon Gallery, who were last seen in Hedgehog with Bob Dylan’s lonesome country ’n’ western scenes, now have another exhibition from one of their long-established artists, Lorenzo Quinn. Quinn, who sculpts, first came to prominence aged 21, when he created a piece for the United Nations.

Aptly for a sculptor, he has been working on hands of late, and his latest public piece, which is being installed opposite the Dorchester on Park Lane as part of Westminster Council’s two-year City of Sculpture Festival, features a vintage Fiat 500 which is being grasped from above by a huge cast of his son’s hand.

Owner Paul Green is keen on public sculpture: ‘We believe strongly in the importance of public art as it makes it more accessible to the general public and enhances the local environment.’

The Hedgehog is sponsored by B Capital

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