Prince with a purpose

Liechtenstein-based LGT Group has opened its first office in Dubai, and is hoping to target some of the region’s super rich individuals. Group CEO Prince Max explains why

It is difficult to know where to start with Prince Maximilian von und zu Liechtenstein — or Prince Max as he prefers to be called. His father is the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. His family’s art collection goes back 500 years and is worth a good few billion dollars. Their private banking giant LGT Group has been owned and run by the family for over 80 years, with a cool $98.6bn of assets under management.

But you wouldn’t guess any of this from talking to Prince Max. Unassuming, modest and if anything a little shy, the prince only gets really excited when he is talking about two subjects — finance and art. And he knows a lot about both.

“My DNA is not just finance, but I like it!” he says.

He can say that again. As group CEO of the company, he has helped expand the firm into 20 locations across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, with 1,700 employees. If you are rich and want to get richer, there are probably few better people to call right now. And calling him has just got easier, with LGT Group last month opening its first office in the UAE, after securing a category four licence from the DIFC to provide an advisory service.

“The last couple of years have been good for us,” says Prince Max.

Really? Haven’t we just come out of the worst recession in living memory? In any case, doesn’t everyone have a huge distrust of the entire industry these days? Not so. The unique family ownership structure of LGT has resulted in more clients flocking their way, on a regular basis, he says.

The region has $1.4 trillion of captive wealth, and LGT is keen to get a slice of the pie.

“I do think that in bull markets when everything is easy and people take risks, you don’t see quality. People run around and tell you incredible stories. The amount of risk they take is often hidden. It’s really in difficult times where quality shows, and when you can lose a lot of money or make a lot of money. I would say that our performance over the long term has been very strong. It’s why we are developing well, not just with private clients but on the institutional side with sovereign wealth funds and pension funds all over the world,” he says.

There is no shortage of competition in his field, but again, Prince Max keeps coming back to the company’s ownership structure, which he says will continue to attract more clients.

“Most of our competitors are public companies. So they have shareholders who can sell their shares the next day. Many of the shareholders have a short-term orientation. So the management teams of these companies have a different mindset in the way you pursue the business. We have one shareholder who has been in control for 80 years and is looking to stay — and structurally not able to sell tomorrow. It leads to a completely different way of doing business,” he says, adding: “In our situation the family is using the competence of the organisation for its own needs and is the largest client itself and so has a lot more skin in the game than the leadership structures of other organisations. So our strategy is very different and so is our balance sheet. And it benefits our clients. It’s very risk conscious and focused.

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Posted by: Abdulla Hashem

Private equity investment is a highly risky asset class. Many very wealthy investors in that part of the world lost a lot of money with banks in this area and no one talks about it.

Posted by: Jacob di Marisco

I know Arabian Business likes to spin everything around Dubai but this article is misleading. LGT has operated a Representative Office in Bahrain since 2005 from where it services some of the seriously rich Saudis including members of the Royal family. Anyone reading this article would just assume that the Dubai office is their first in the region rather than something they have set up after 7 years of research and investment in the region led by one of the most experienced and pre-eminent bankers from their base in Manama. From Anil I wouldn't expect anything but spin however I equally blame Prince Max for not ensuring that this is clear as he has visited Bahrain many times over the last decade.

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