At the time of writing Bitcoin hangs above $11,500 and everyone is asking whether it is a fad or the future?
As brokers 'extraordinary' of physical currencies, we prefer not to have an overly conspicuous opinion and, even if we did, we would be careful to caveat anything resembling a recommendation with the tag of being based on information anyone can read anywhere, any time.
This week's post is brought to you with 2018 in mind. It is a puff piece, designed to tell you a bit about the effort behind the effortless.
Networks, connections and the way one courts new business.
Frankly, we like to think that this title is near as important an aspect of Prime Cap's 'being' as the incisiveness of our solutions or the sharpness of our rates. The calibre of our referring sources and the strength of their trust in us is nearly the most important thing to our business because it sustains us.
So, we're going to talk about how we approach business development (urghhh).
Whom do we 'network' with and what goals and expectations do we have when it comes to those we enjoy sharing contacts with?
As a company we believe that our appeal comes from our approach.
Please don't roll you're eyes - we mean it!
It would be wrong to say that we have a particular 'strategy' or understanding of our prospective clients' appetites; and yet, we are a successful, profitable, boutique business. If we aren't doing something right then how are we doing anything at all?
We don't think we know it all. We know we haven't thought of everything. We are reactive to feed back. We have absolute confidence in explaining concepts and activities the workings of which we understand. We never use a script. We always remember our clients name and we will only discuss the short comings of our banking and broking peers and rivals when presented with statements we can either confirm or refute.
Be assured that we aren't so pretentious as to say that 'our approach to every engagement is underpinned by 'X' or 'Y'...' - Yes, a financial services firm needs to take 'how it's brand is received' seriously, but, espousing yourself to cliches is one of the quickest ways to fall short of an expectation which you've helped establish/set. On the flip side, reducing and distilling one's self down to the barest of qualities one speculatively identifies as important not only strips away things that your client might relate to - comforting fallibility for one thing - but also, when it comes to complex subject matter, devalues your expertise and experience.
So, what do we do?
Well, hoping not to sound too flippant about it, we leverage the extent to which we personally 'get on' with our industry partners in the professions of law, property and wealth management. These are very very very hard sectors to crack. This is because they deal with intensely private matters of personal wealth. It is about both trust and competency and the ability to interpret queues and anticipate reactions.
'Only working by referral' does genuinely serve a few purposes.
Many of our competitors think we publicise the fact that we only work by referral because we want to come across as exclusive and aloof...only working with foremost operators in a particular sector. Well, we do understand why they might infer that and we aren't rushing to correct them in a hurry, but, dealing 'by referral only' genuinely informs the confidence with which we can begin our consultation. It really does make a huge difference to the way we are able to do business and is almost unique!
Our team is confident. The client is already qualified in our minds eye. We know what our partner expects, of course. Also, practically speaking, it means our staff are never in a position whereby they need to call someone they don't know. No cold calling occurs at Prime Cap. If someone really wants to introduce themselves to parties unknown then we advise researching of mutual contacts and connections so as to approach with some form of context to hand.
Prime Cap does not have many partners who refer to us, but, the one's that do, do so without hesitation. We have spent many years quietly building up the trust of lawyers and IFAs who we know and have always known work with currency requiring private clients. Confidently dropping in anecdotes about the FX work we do, carefully posting and sharing case studies or news about the markets, all of this has steadily built up the confidence our partners and friends have in us.
Our staff are always eager to have an interesting or different conversation. Those with whom we can find agreement and common ground are far easier for us to refer to.
Unlike many of our peers, we strive to make sure our relationships are two way. Whilst our residential property partner might thank us for allocating them 10% commission on the deal we've done for their Singaporean buyer, they would much prefer us to refer them a new client!
Keeping the pool of contacts we work with close and personal enables us to remain 'sticky' to our clients and they to theirs, when referring to us. It's not quite as vulgar as a mutual back scratching exercise, but it does mean both Prime Cap and our partners needn't worry about incorporating a third party expert into the crafting of a tailored solution. Another moving part is not a risk but an asset.
Now, to an anecdote:
Many moons ago, one of the Prime Cap team, before the company was in fact established, happened to meet a manufacturer of fine, bespoke furniture. He headed a firm of 'joiners'.
This joiner produced his wares in Austria. As a result he oft needed to transmit sterling, paid to him by his London based customer, over to his factory in Austria to co er euro denominated manufacturing costs. It is not uncommon and something we can do in our sleep.
Fast forward nearly 7 years and the same Prime Cap team member (having now become a member of the Prime Cap team, of course) is called upon by an interior design firm for whom he does some procurement work (they purchase key pieces from a number of Europe based wholesalers - Eicholtz being one such).
The interior design client had recently won a contract to redesign and refurbish a new build Chelsea penthouse apartment for a non-UK family establishing their London base whilst their children finish their education - again, not an uncommon reason to need to convert and send currency.
By sheer coincidence the penthouse owning couple had previously contracted the skills of Prime Cap's Austria based joiner.
We therefore found ourselves as the currency broker for both the interior design business and the joinery business.
Once our role for these suppliers had been identified, the financial activities of the underlying private client stood to benefit hugely from the 2.66% improvement we could bring to their rate of exchange when we were compared with their private banking service.
Many of the contractors hired by the private client in this scenario source product, materials and services from outside the UK, so we have become the de facto broker and payment facilitator for the project at large.
The faith our clients had in us begot us more business. At is happened, the foreign client who engaged both the interior designer, the joiner and Prime Cap was introduced to us all by a wealth management business known personally to the interior designer.
The structure was not predicated on any referral fee set up. The private client will go on to deal with Prime Cap until we no longer operate or they find someone better. Equally, they will add to their property portfolio in London, which gives us, the joiner and the designer the chance to unite in endorsing search agencies, real estate advisers and build contractors.
It is not typical that we are able to refer back to our partners, probably because we serve one rather perfunctory purpose for an internationally disposed individual or their business, but it most assuredly forms part of our motivation, business development strategy and longer term brand development methodology.
To round off this epistle it feels sensible to say that, only as a result of the varied exposure our staff have had to a huge array of private client matters, can we reasonably call ourselves specialist in that segment. We like dealing with private clients because, ultimately, every client is at their core a private client.
Family offices, trusts administrators, entrepreneurs and even LLP's rely on one person to buy in to the value we offer and the animated way we conduct ourselves. They might not be using our services for their own personal use, but they are an individual nonetheless and we think that it is our treatment of that fact which wins us business and means we sit as broker designate to some of the UK's most prominent families and are referred to by an increasing number of HNW and UHNW advisers.