Laurent Mesnier has returned private banking to its former days of glory. « All of a private bank’s clients today are business leaders. Therefore our mission is to adapt to their needs, which are driven by their passions, by their business objectives, and by their hunger for discovery. My job is to support their adventures as well as any risks they may encounter, » says the executive director of ABN AMRO Bank NV, who since February 2015 has made Hong-Kong his permanent base of operations. Enterprising personalities are looking for more than just a passive management of their wealth. They expect something extra, something other than the standard investment of their assets. That is why the modern private banker has to add another, entirely personalized dimension.
An instigator of ideas
Meeting such a challenge is exactly what motivates Laurent Mesnier. He has already tested and successfully applied this model for a number of years. It is a carefully tailored way of doing business forged out of understanding the client’s specific goals and then exceeding their expectations. « What I do here in Hong Kong is no different than what I did in my former functions at Neuflize OBC in Paris (member of the ABN AMRO group). I continue to create value for my clients’ portfolios. What has changed are the details of the network – which in Hong Kong are enriched and strengthened by genuine bonds of trust. » He goes on to say : « I am able to guide Asian business entrepreneurs looking not only to invest but also to develop their activities in Europe. On the other hand, I am able to direct European’s looking to expand their activities in the Asia Pacific marketplace. »
In concrete terms, when an ABN AMRO client is looking for a development opportunity, Laurent Mesnier plays the role of « advocate of ideas. I suggest that they meet other clients, contacts which I facilitate. For example, the other client could well be an industrialist doing the same kind of business but operating in other countries. In that case we can envisage synergies, acquisitions or even common investments.«
Knowing how to link diverse worlds is not at all a given. It is a skill honed from the art of active, constructive listening, combined with the ability to mine the synergies of various relationships. It is a skill that he developed during a six year stint as a business lawyer early in his career. Laurent Mesnier realizes that this experience has given him « an undeniable ability to decode international business regulations and to thoroughly understand global tax systems. It also helps me facilitate cross-border mergers and acquisitions. »
The private banker holds also the scholastic background for the work he does, which in part explains why his strategy has been so fruitful. After a J.D. in International Tax Law, he graduated from ESCP Europe with a Master’s degree in asset management. He then entered the INSEAD private banking certification program. He made his first steps into the world of banking at the Aforge Degroof « family office ». Afterwards, in February 2010, he joined the prestigious Neuflize OBC bank in Paris. One might wonder why he would leave the comfort of the Parisien head office for Hong-Kong?
Hong-Kong, the keystone
He is quick to respond, stating that « Our clients travel extensively. These businessmen and women are « citizens of the world » who often change planes in Hong Kong, the gateway to China and the Asia Pacific. » He specifies : « As an International hub, Hong Kong is a center of exchange where the world’s financial officers and experts meet. It is a platform that facilitates the bringing together of various nationalities. The legal framework and Hong Kong’s rule of law in the context of this unique administrative region of China brings a profound sense of ease to entrepreneurs focusing on building the future. » Another advantage is that Hong Kong has a remarkably efficient infrastructure (airport, subway, bus, tramway, taxis) which allows one to move through the city quickly and with ease. « It is so easy to arrange an appointment in Hong-Kong, to coordinate everything, » appreciates Laurent Mesnier.
As with other bankers of the group, Laurent Mesnier’s remuneration comes from the management of the assets (in the group ABN AMRO) for the clients. « I am not paid to serve as a consultant (in an advisory capacity), » he explains. Client billing for services other than those typically offered by private banks, are heavily restricted by international and European banking regulations. Moreover, the possibility of the tightening of these regulations in favor of even more standardization, could make the role of the private banker even more challenging, by limiting his role to that of a general investment manager. This could thwart the hopes of the followers of the « modernized active banker » model. To the detriment of the personal development of his clients.