Classic Car Tours, Africa tours, Spear’s bi-monthly tour de force, it’s Hedgehog.
It’s an irony that the Cloud, the disembodied omnipresent data storage and retrieval system (try saying that after a medicinal gin), should actually make things clearer: clouds usually obfuscate, not elucidate. Putting your data — documents, music, films — into the ether allows you to recall it at any point, so it was inevitable that someone would try to apply this in the wealth space.
MyWealthCloud digitises all your documents and sorts them into virtual files, which you can access from anywhere. Thus instead of the teetering piles of correspondence, bills, legal letters, bank statements, birth certificates, children’s school reports, invoices and receipts, you can have it all scanned and labelled online. You can organise your folders multiple ways, search by keywords (as the text is digitised too) and see the scans. There’s even a Time Capsule section where you can put your will, expression of wishes or kind remarks to be read beyond the grave, as access will be given to your nominee.
The most obvious retort is about safety — who wants their private documents a few keystrokes away from some nefarious webizen? David Alexander of MyWealthCloud says that IBM has certified the site as ‘ultra secure’ and it is encrypted twice as impregnably as that of online banking. You can choose to have a consultant come to your house and help you sort your papers before they are taken away to be scanned, encrypted and uploaded, or you can send them via FedEx or UPS.
The claim Alexander makes for MyWealthCloud is that ‘we take you from paper to the digital world,’ and given that you can summon your documents from any computer or mobile device, it’s evidently true. But what with the Kindle and e-banking and email and now this, poor old trees must be feeling thoroughly unwanted.
Cartoon by Anthony Haden-Guest
Geoffrey Kent has never been deterred by walls, Great or otherwise. When he first went to China in 1979, Mao was not long dead yet Kent was raring to expand Abercrombie & Kent — a defiantly luxurious, capitalist enterprise — into the People’s Republic. He settled for opening an office in Hong Kong in 1982 and started bringing people into China.
Now, that wall keeping people out can also be seen as a wall keeping people in, and Geoffrey Kent has once again decided to ignore it, this time by taking Chinese millionaires on international tours. With over half a million Chinese dollar millionaires and growing, according to the 2011 World Wealth Report, there is an opportunity here.
‘Two years ago I started to focus on getting in and understanding the outbound market,’ which wasn’t easy because of a lack of good distribution channels: ‘They don’t have travel agents. They like to keep their wealth very quiet. They don’t mix in big social gatherings.’ So he did what he’d done before, when he started the business by jumping on a plane from his home of Kenya to Texas: he went where the wealthy were and introduced himself.
He found that their expectations were limited: shopping trips to London, Paris, Milan, Rome with personal opening of the stores, French vineyards, furniture buying — ‘everything European’. (The difficulties even wealthy Chinese have with getting a UK visa is ‘an insult’, says Kent.)
So where else would he take a group of Chinese billionaires but Istanbul and Kenya? ‘Everyone said they’ll never do that,’ but they touched down in Istanbul in their private jet, ‘loved being on the Bosphorus’ and took off for Nairobi afterwards, with Kent himself helping to guide.
‘We went hot-air ballooning, took a safari through the Masai Mara. They saw cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, buffalo. They were amazed by the hippos.’ Kent went with them himself but had also prepared the ground by moving a Chinese guide to Africa two years ago so she could accustom herself to the region, instead of having a Sinophone who knew nothing about Africa.
So what are the requirements of Chinese abroad? Language is the main barrier, says Kent, hence the immersed guide, and then food. In a wonderful New Yorker article on regular Chinese tourists in Europe, it didn’t matter where they were, they always wanted Chinese food — or at least were always only offered Chinese food. Kent says they ate what was provided with aplomb — but always wanted noodles afterwards.
One of the highlights was an incongruous-sounding breakfast ‘in the middle of nowhere. We had champagne. Everything was served on fine bone china. There was this juxtaposition of the ballooning and seeing the animals then sitting down to breakfast with the china with Masai warriors around you.’
‘This is just the start,’ Kent says. Add to this seam of tourism the new concierge division opening in the first quarter of next year and luxury lodges built in China for internal and foreign tourists (also opening early 2012), and it seems that Kent is broadening the cracks in the Great Wall every day.
Give and Get
One of the surprising things philanthropist Richard Ross said at the Spear’s Wealth Insight Forum earlier this year was that most wealthy people don’t realise how enjoyable it is to give away your money. Said he: ‘Someone who goes skiing and is asked to go down a very steep slope for the first time, you resist it but once you’ve done it, you think, “I want to do this again.”’ That’s like philanthropy.
Well, Dame Stephanie Shirley has decided to make it easier than ever to spread the message of joyful giving by launching Ambassadors for Philanthropy, a digital portfolio of services for donors to talk about the issues around philanthropy and to explain that it’s not nearly as painful as it might seem.
Starting at $100 a year, individuals, family trusts and foundations, corporates and philanthropy advisers can sign up to all manner of benefits — a personal giving portal to share in the success of previous donations, a digital magazine containing a wealth of expertise and the opportunity to network with international leaders, businesses and of course philanthropists, including at the Global Philanthropy Summit, scheduled for March 2013.
The aim is that by sharing expertise and celebrating achievements, more people will be encouraged to give — and to do it strategically, which, as Dame Steve says, has the potential for much bigger impact: ‘Money can be leveraged enormously if you add time, skills and so on. It’s a very satisfying thing to do. By providing a voice for philanthropists, we want to unleash the power of philanthropy on a global basis.’
Dame Steve knows whereof she speaks: she was appointed by Gordon Brown as the UK’s first Ambassador for Philanthropy in 2009 and she was the winner of Philanthropist of the Year at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards 2010. The Shirley Foundation has donated £10 million to the Oxford Internet Institute and money to countless other projects in the fields of IT and autism.
So far, response has been ‘exciting’, she says, with donors and charities from countries including Bulgaria, Romania, China, Israel and India wanting to get involved. A big deal with 35,000 members from across the States is also currently on the table.
But this is not an attempt at emotional blackmail to encourage donors to fill to the gaps that the public purse can’t meet. ‘Oh no,’ Dame Steve says. ‘We philanthropists don’t like that idea. We don’t fill gaps. This is our money. We do what we want to do with it.’ Everyone wins.
Far be it from Spear’s to blow our own trumpet, but after we gave our Spear’s Book Awards prize for outstandingly produced book to the David Shepherd Archive Collection, which featured reproductions of his wildlife paintings, we did hear reports that its limited run of 1,000 was looking a lot more limited.
Chris Andrews from Gateway Publishing says enquiries are coming from around the world and a significant number have been sold since the launch in April, stimulated by the award win. The book, he says, he is a rara avis for the high quality of the plates, even if Shepherd himself says he hardly ever does birds. The book is a fine collection of the predominantly African wildlife art for which he is internationally known, but buyers have been pleasantly surprised by the range of David’s work, with a good representation of all his genres: English landscapes, Victoriana, portraits, aviation and military as well as the power and grace of the steam age.
The collection, printed on archival paper, comprises David’s own selection from his life’s work and was put together over some three years. There were many meetings at the artist’s fourteenth-century converted barn studio and extensive research to find originals and privately commissioned paintings for copying and inclusion. In fact the number grew from the initial suggestion of 80 — to mark David’s 80th birthday — to 120 as at every meeting David seemed to produce another crucial inclusion.
There are a number of brand-new images and the whole book is hand-sewn and bound by Derry’s of Nottingham, one of the few companies capable of binding a book of this size (thirteen by eighteen inches) and using the tricky and ultra-conservation grade vellum that the publishers requested for the finishing.
Finally it seems we have an answer to William Blake’s poser: Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?
When someone starts talking about Swedish carpet, you tend to worry that you’re in for a spiel on how great an Ikea floor weave is (everyone likes a bargain), but the new Fine Watch Room at Harrods proved me wrong. The Swedish carpet there, deep and rich black, is designed to absorb the impact from a fallen piece of horlogerie or jewellery, meaning a dropped Vacheron Constantin will just keep on ticking.
The room takes its lead from the Fine Jewellery Room, giving major brands their own space around the teardrop-shaped floor, each a cavern of chronometrical delight designed by the brand to reflect their heritage or culture. There are the first UK boutiques for Panerai, IWC, Lange & Söhne, Vacheron and Richard Mille. It feels intimate and contained, a small watch world within the parent emporium.
There are limited editions of watches too: Vacheron have engraved a sketch of Harrods on the reverse of their Patrimonie, while Breguet’s Queen of Naples has a special ruby-set bracelet.
In the centenary year of the first Harrods Jewellery Room, it’s good to see that watchmaking finally gets a space that treats it as an art, craft and science just as worthy of attention.
Safe as Houses
As our rather handy Knight Frank Prime London Index shows, prices for fine properties continue to creep back up, reaching 38 per cent above their March 2009 low. The money is flowing in from around the world because investors see a spot on Chester Square as safer than even the most fortified compound in an emerging market.
Well-established in this field is Naomi Heaton’s London Central Portfolio, a prime residential fund manager. It’s embarking on its third fund, only this time with an internationalising twist: it’s Shariah-compliant, the first such residential fund in the UK. Given the insecurity of the Middle East, it makes sense that the region’s HNWs will be looking to move their money abroad yet still invest according to Islamic law.
Naomi, who recently hosted a gala dinner in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity, where Max Clifford told bawdy tales of celebrity sexploits before speaking about his experience with the disease, says: ‘Investors are increasingly looking for capital preservation solutions which have upside potential. There are relatively few places at the moment to park your money where you are unlikely to lose the shirt off your back but prime London Central residential is one of them. The Shariah dimension of the fund means it is globally available, appealing to both conventional and ethical investors.’
The fund — London Central Apartments — will buy one- and two-bedroom flats in top postcodes and is seeking £50 million for its five-year duration. The targeted return is an ambitious 10-13 per cent, which leads one to think that those buildings must be made out of gold bricks.
‘The next generation’ is perhaps an underwhelming title for the children of the wealthy, making them the children of their parents rather than their own people. As we see in this issue, some in the next gen want to emulate their entrepreneurial parents, whether using their resources or developing their own. Others care about philanthropy. Others still need to learn about what it is to have money, to manage it, to safeguard it, to enjoy it.
Trial and error is a fine thing, but relying on someone else’s trial and error is even better. The transmission of knowledge from one to another is the greatest feat of the internet, so it is no surprise private banks have taken advantage of our e-age to help their next gen clients. Citi Private Bank, for example, have set up a private social network for those who have participated in their next gen education programmes.
According to an industry survey, 60 per cent of next-gen clients think that their peers are their most important source of advice, so it makes sense to cement those relationships formed in the next gen programmes, whether while pitching a philanthropic project to the board as a team or touring the floor of a stock exchange together. And since Citi’s next-gen base stretches across 35 countries and countless interests — economics, investment, art, philanthropy — diverse but personal conversations can continue.
Leslie Powell, head of Next Generation at Citi Private Bank, says it’s time to recognise that these next-gen networks stretch around the world, making an online forum necessary: ‘In 2011 we went global with our next gen programme — in North America, in Europe, in Asia. They get to meet an elite group of their peers.’
Instead of letting the energy created in these programmes fizzle out, the network perpetuates it and provides a forum for the sharing of knowledge later accumulated.
On The Road
A throaty roar reverberates through the New Forest as a procession of classic cars winds its way through the country lanes to the Channel Tunnel, marking the fourth year of the Redman Whiteley Dixon (RWD) Classic Auto Tour.
Hosted by the superyacht design studio Redman Whiteley Dixon and bespoke furniture makers Silverlining, the three-day rally across France to Monaco is quite simply an excuse to travel with like-minded yachting and car enthusiasts, with various lunch and dinner events en route through some of France’s finest scenery and stops at famous vineyards and chateaux, to make the journey fun.
The seventeen beautifully turned-out machines of fellow competitors on the 2011 tour included a 1970 Fiat Dino, an Aston Martin DB5 Mk2 1969 and a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud 1961. Armed with a detailed route map, punctuated by checkpoints, including the former Reims Gueux circuit, the tour also takes in scrutineering and treasure hunts, and plenty of gastronomic delights.
The first day of the ‘challenge’ takes the open roads of northern France into Reims for champagne tasting and a six-course dinner at the Ch?teaux les Crayères. The following morning the cars glided through the countryside of southern Burgundy to the 13th-century Ch?teau D’Igé for a well-deserved lunch break and game of boules.
The tour then moved into Provence for sunset cocktails on the terrace of Hotel Crillon le Brave, followed by dinner in the vaults of the ch?teau’s old wine cellar. The final day, some chose to rise early to witness the sunrise from the summit of Mount Ventoux before the entire fleet headed off to the mountain passes of the stunning Gorges du Verdon, before heading south to the ocean and the principality of Monaco. Here the tour was greeted by an escort of Monégasque police leading the fleet through the busy streets of Monte Carlo to Casino Square, and the final stop of the tour.
For many, the RWD Classic Auto Tour is an opportunity to appreciate the vintage engineering and prowess that the fleet of classic cars from the golden age of motor sport showcase; for others it is an excuse to travel in the ultimate style through the stunning French countryside with the company of both yachting and classic car enthusiasts, to the most exclusive yacht show in the world, the Monaco Yacht Show. And this is what classic cars were built for, after all — to be driven. The technical support that is provided only adds to the seamless experience that RWD ensures.
The RWD team have the tour it planned down to a tee, and their superb organisation reveals that classic cars are indeed all about the fun. Add to that excellent food, like-minded enthusiasts and the police escort through the streets of Monaco to the Hotel de Paris, and the event has become renowned as the precursor, and indeed the only way to arrive in absolute style, to the Monaco Yacht Show.
The RWD Auto Tour is invitation only, but there are many other events in which one can participate. Owners no longer wish to keep their classic car locked away in a dehumidified, temperature controlled garage to be used on Sundays — they want to really drive them and make the most of them.