Despite the news that HSBC Private Bank allegedly abetted tax avoidance through clients’ Swiss bank accounts, Hoffman is upbeat: ‘On the whole our clients have been extremely supportive. It’s business as usual.’
That business has been helped by an increase in investments as his clients benefit from a ‘benign’ economy and the increase in mergers and acquisitions that he predicted last year. Alternative investments are also something of a forte. Hoffman champions his extensive research team as well as his own experience in hedge funds: ‘Our alternatives team has an enviable track record dating back to 1989’. That gives him access to some of the best hedge fund managers in the world which is useful ‘especially when you consider public markets, might be sliding sideways in the next twelve to eighteen months’.
It’s not surprising AuM has gone up by $400 million: ‘I went to see a client last Thursday, it was a really easy meeting to do because he’d had a very strong year last year and a really strong first quarter this last quarter.’ Those clients are typically UK entrepreneurs with considerable international exposure: ‘We’re very fortunate, we look after a lot of the significant wealth creators in the UK.’
The former Spear’s Private Banker of the Year really does look after them: catering for those significant wealth creators’ every whim with a round the clock service. This has previously manifested itself literally: when an eccentric billionaire noticed HSBC’s enormous lobby centrepiece clock was an hour slow, ‘the client said if I could get the clock corrected by the time we reappeared from our meeting then he would give us more business’. Despite an absent horologist somehow the clock was fixed when they returned one hour later, thereby obliging the honour of the investor.
Credited by peers as one of the best in the business he continues to boast one of the largest books in Europe. But his manner is one of honesty rather than bravado, crediting his ambition to be a ‘stalwart’ he emphasises the importance of loyalty: ‘It’s said to get to trusted adviser status takes seven years with a client. Reputation can certainly help but you’re only as good as the collective sum of your clients and the performance you give them, it’s never a question of resting on your laurels.’ Such trust means he’s able to be innovative, identifying profit in M&As, property and secondary private equity, sourcing a discount and a far quicker return: ‘Clients do like liquidity.’ Clients also want security and Hoffman’s enthuses the need for a ‘fortress like balance sheet’.
With a young family Hoffman travels less now but is still never far from an aeroplane: ‘I’ve formation skydived for the last fifteen years. It’s like synchronised swimming at 150 mph -it actually brings the heart rate down!’