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October 14, 2014updated 28 Jan 2016 6:14pm

William Cash's letter from issue 41

By William Cash

On The Spear’s 500 and on trying (and failing) to commission Michael Lewis

As I write, I am feeling something of the same sense of excitement as I did shortly before the first edition of Spear’s went to press in spring 2006. On 27 October at The Savoy, alongside our Wealth Management Awards, we are launching the inaugural edition of The Spear’s 500 — the essential guide for high net worths to the top wealth managers and private client advisers.

This is a project I have been wanting to publish for many years now. The Spear’s 500 is the first comprehensive guide to all of these fields in the world. We believe it will be a landmark publishing event for the wealth management industry. Our ambition is for it to become the new global bible of the industry for both HNWs and their advisers. We have been referred to as the ‘bible of the banking industry’ by GQ magazine; with The Spear’s 500, we go beyond banking into every field that an HNW might need. And the UK is just the start: future editions are planned for Europe, Asia and America.

The Spear’s 500 guide recommends the top 500 professionals (typically the top 25 or 50 in each sector, along with rising stars) across the entire spectrum of wealth management, advisory services and private client practice in the UK: from private banking to property advisers, family offices to family lawyers. We are also including the top HNW service providers: advisers on security, insurance, travel, art and philanthropy; business angels and equine breeders, and other bespoke services.

The wealth management and private client industries have long needed such a reference guide. We also hope it will become — like Chambers for the legal profession — the definitive reference guide to every sector that matters to HNWs.

Ever since Spear’s was founded, when the first Spear’s Index of HNW wealth managers was reproduced in The Times, the Spear’s Indices have been at the heart of what makes us the UK’s top wealth management and private client media company. Our new beautifully-produced guide cements this.

I said that The Spear’s 500 was the first guide of its type in the world. That is not quite true. At the very first Spear’s Wealth Management Awards back in 2007, we created a special award for Dr G’nter Woernle, a dogged German lawyer who is also the author of The Wernlin Directory: Private Banking and Asset Management in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which is in many ways the true inspiration behind The Spear’s 500.

As I write, I have a copy of the twelfth edition (2006/7) — which was his last — on my desk. It is beautifully bound with a hard cover — not unlike The Spear’s 500 — and it is a testament to his dogged research over many years that he finally persuaded the highly secretive world of Swiss private banking to co-operate with him and let him publish the details of national banks, family offices, security dealers, foreign banks in Switzerland and an ‘Index of Executives’.

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Having spent the last six months working on this project with all the Spear’s team, led by editor Josh Spero and the Spear’s Research Unit, I can hardly believe that one German lawyer could produce such a path-breaking guide all on his own. It allowed much-needed light to appear through the dark wall of secrecy that has for so long prevented HNWs approaching banks or asset management firms in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In the past, HNWs have had to go through a murky network of self-referring, fee-hoovering third-party lawyers and ‘advisers’ who have not always had clients’ interests at heart.

While London’s private-client industries have generally been more accessible, we are making them as easy to navigate as clients would like. For the first time, HNWs have access to profiles of all the top professionals, with sharply written bios and interviews that allows the HNW to make up their own mind about who to call in for a beauty parade. Our readers want to know the names behind the brass plaque, and not just the names, but their performance, their specialities and indeed what they are like as people.

Talking of awards, I began my speech at the Spear’s Book Awards in late September by saying that most people might not be aware of the literary credentials of St James’s Street. I pointed out that Avenue, the restaurant where the awards were taking place, was underneath the Walston family flat in which Graham Greene used to conduct his illicit rendezvous. Greene specially rented a flat above Lock & Co so that he was conveniently living next door.

I also pointed out that I was somewhat relieved that the shortlisted writer Michael Lewis hadn’t been able to make the crossing to attend the lunch. I was worried that Josh Spero, our editor, might have tried to commission him to write a piece for Spear’s… something which I had first tried shortly after founding Spear’s.

I knew Michael from his Spectator days writing under Dominic Lawson where he must have been paid ’95 per article. When I called his office in Washington, I was put through to his agent who told me: ‘That’s a nice idea for a piece, Mr Cash. Michael’s fees start at $60,000 for a feature… excluding expenses.’ As much as I would love to have Michael Lewis as a contributor, don’t expect to see his byline in Spear’s any time soon.

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