Private bankers have rarely shown such grit as when they braved the icy blasts and driving snow of the Beast of the East to attend the 20th PAM Awards night at the Dorchester last week.
It just shows how the PAM gongs for the truly great and good in our private asset management industry are so eagerly sought. Just to be a nominated finalist for one of these Awards is thought to be a greater achievement than five Olympic Golds.
Despite those beastly blizzards from the east, PAM's pulling power was self-evident, hosting a full house of its fearless cohorts of distinguished industry practitioners, who undoubtedly must share genes with that great and tragic Antarctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott.
Such amazing fortitude in the facing of endless snow. Not only were there virtually no “no shows” for the dinner of dinners, but some attendees even managed to dogsled in more guests in than expected, leaving the intrepid PAM sherpas to hurriedly manipulate supernatural forces to create extra place settings.
And this on the night when the Met Office was issuing dire warnings of the “Snowmeggadon” end of the world, amid strident calls not to travel under any circumstances, even to the pub next door. At lesser events in London last Thursday night, in comparison, cancellations were widespread.
PAM's people are made of sterner stuff, like the splendid Andrew Wheeler of Kleinwort Hambros. Friends swore he turned up in black tie and skis, without spilling a drop of his vodka martini. None of us had seen such a suave apparition since one of those early Bond movies with that other super-spy smoothie, Sean Connery.
Incidentally, we were assured by friends that Kleinwort Hambones remains a nicely well-balanced company after last year’s merger was consummated. Indeed, it should be noted that the bank featured well at the acclaimed PAM Awards. The short-listings for both the HNWI and the UHNWI Total Wealth Solutions Provider and the bang up job the combined presentation team did for judges on very short notice demonstrated the cohesion that has been achieved.
It shows how well things are developing at KH, we are told. Paul Kearney, Mo Choukeir, Andrew Thompson, Gene Salerno, Fahad Kamal, Delyth Richards, Paul Bentley et al all remain loyally in situ and are part of the senior team.
“So, the old Kleinwort Benson contingent is alive and kicking,” as a good chum remarked, before disappearing on the piste down snowy Park Lane.
Our personal highlight of the night was the long over-due Lifetime Achievement Award given to Peter Stormonth Darling, of Soditic and erstwhile chairman of the legendary Mercury Asset Management. Like us, Peter is the epitome of old school and shares many of the essential values of us hardy veterans.
Who can forget his attack on the frightful dressing-down fad, which spread throughout the City some two decades ago? When people turned up in jeans, chinos, sneakers and T-shirts, you really couldn’t tell who were the crooks and cowboys – and who were the good eggs. As Peter put it at the time, “The financial crisis in 2008 was in part brought on by casual dressing among bankers with important lending decisions to make”.
Peter, of course bravely chose to serve with the Black Watch in the Korean War, despite being offered a soft ride home to Blighty from his posting in Germany. If only these grunge-clad City cads could have been subjected to protracted square-bashing, spit'n'polish, or survival courses in the Cairngorms, then some of the root causes of the financial crisis would have been snuffed out very quickly.
Peter will of course bravely serve again, if required on the Korean peninsula if Kim Jong Un turns even more bonkers than President Trump.
One of the loudest cheers of the night was when Coutts won the PAM Award for Total Wealth Solutions Provider - High Net Worth. The PAM Judges pointed to the strength of its banking capabilities, coupled with a much improved investment offering, together with a framework that facilitated the more effective discovery and exploration of client needs.
We can only assume that Coutts boss Peter Flavel must be in line for a 'K' from HM the Queen, when the time comes. This would be very well-deserved but Sir Peter, don’t breath a word to any of those dastardly republicans back in Oz.
And in another “didn’t they do well” performance, Rothschild Wealth Management was the only entrant to win in more than one Award category. Helen's heroes managed to snaffle the Client Service Quality - Ultra High Net Worth and Total Wealth Solutions - Ultra High Net Worth Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Investment Performance - Defensive Portfolios and Quality & Clarity of Reporting - Custodian categories. Personal tip? Just a little bit greedy, Rothschilds, so try not to do so well next year and give others a chance.
Cazenove Capital bagged the Client Service Quality - High Net Worth Award. This must reassure those discretionary clients who moved over from C Hoare last year. In fact, surely Mr Alex should have this gong on loan for a bit?
The final definitive word went to PAM chieftain, James Anderson. Showing great sensitivity and self-restraint, he made no mention the prior weekend's Calcutta Cup result at Murrayfield, as this might have sent most of the guests scurrying for their snow shoes, though his discreet splash of tartan provided them with a subtle reminder to take their chariots in for a service. He remarked that many firms consider a PAM Award, or even making the finalists list, “to be the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, because of the demands it makes on entrants and the rigour of the judging process”. Spot on!
Or, in James's case, it was beating the Beast from the East, via an epic eight hour train ride from Geneva to London, via the Paris Fashion Show.
PAM Awards guests are traditionally always assured of fine wining and dining. The assembled throng all quickly thawed out with copious quantities of Roederer, a sumptuous fillet of prime Hereford beef, washed down with a superbly rounded Chateau de Pez, courtesy of those delectably impeccable folk at MMD.
The final touch to commemorate this splendid occasion was a fabulous solid silver 20th Anniversary PAM Awards coin in each guest's goodie bag, generously offered by Baird & Co, surely now London's favourite bullion merchants.