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    Schwarzman had bigger and more ambitious plans and in , at the age of 38, he left Lehman Brothers along with Peter Peterson, his then boss, and started Blackstone.

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    Barbara Streisand, Neil Sedaka and Russian billionaire Leo Blavatnik have all fallen short of the mark and been declined by the committee.

    In he made a high profile donation to the New York Public Library and the Fifth Avenue branch now bears his name. He takes the time to read every one of their report cards and write to them, his strong belief being that education can get you to wherever you want to go.

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    I always think about what will kill the other bidder. How has Jinping contributed towards making China the economic superpower that it currently is today?

    Its rise is by no means recent and is seen as powerful testament that, in some cases, a moderate communist economy can work.

    Deng was a true political and economic visionary and had a peerless understanding of the difficulties involved in governing a vast country with a population exceeding 1 billion, and expanding fast.

    Communism was, and remains still, perhaps the most viable alternative for keeping such a huge economy stable whilst keeping control over corruption and regional unrest.

    His predecessor, Mao, had a fierce reputation and a brutal leadership style. Deng, on the other hand, as leader of the Communist Party recognized a need for tempered reform and led the country to its current position as a well-ordered market economy.

    Under his leadership there was a drive towards modernization in agriculture, manufacturing, technology and defense. China continues to demonstrate its power as the workshop of the world whilst ignoring calls from other countries to address its human rights policies as well as its poor environmental record and flagrant disregard of international copyright and patent laws.

    A sobering thought indeed as many other large countries grapple with how to grow their GDP and develop their own standing.

    From the outset Xi has vowed to continue with the reforms of his predecessors and to take this further by removing inhibitive trade barriers with the west.

    Born in as the son of a communist revolutionary, Xi did not have the. The area became a hotbed of communist revolutionaries who rose up to build what was to be a new and more modern China.

    His adolescence was spent in hard labor hauling coal and manure for the village but his hard work paid off and he gained the trust and respect of his fellow villagers who elected him their village Party Chief, his first official office.

    He grasped the role and began a series of projects to reinforce the local riverbank to prevent erosion, much to the delight of the local farmers.

    The party as a reward for his efforts and hard work awarded him a motorcycle, but he immediately traded this in for a walking tractor, flour milling machine and farm tools for the.

    Although not in school at this time Xi read well, gave himself a high standard of education and was recommended for enrollment at Tsinghua University in , at the age of When he left for Beijing to take his place at Tsinghua all the villagers queued to wish him luck and good fortune.

    Having arrived in the community less than 7 years earlier he left having earned the respect and gratitude of his fellow villagers and he never forgot this.

    As he became more powerful and more affluent he shared his good fortune with the villagers and remained in contact. After completing his university education Xi took a comfortable and well-paid office position and began his career in business, which was short-lived.

    Whilst his colleagues and friends took overseas study courses and started their own businesses in the newly reformed market economy Xi returned to his passion, party politics, giving up his comfortable lifestyle for a position as Deputy Party Chief in Hebei Province before taking the role of Party Chief of Ningde Prefecture in the Fujian Province, which was one of the poorest regions of China at this time.

    Many remember his tenure in Ningde as a period of positive change and he became recognized as a champion of the common people. These visits did not go unrecognized by the people who took him to their hearts in the same way as those in Shaanxi Province.

    He helped thousands of farmers improve their living conditions with extensive new housing programs as well as working with fishermen to offer them alternative work on land at a time when fish stocks were in severe decline.

    He was as tough with local officials as he was warm to the people and was intolerant of any corruption or inability to act decisively. He set about ensuring that officials met with their people regularly and put into place processes of communication that are still carried out today.

    During this time Xi embarked on a series. His policies were groundbreaking and he oversaw a crackdown on food contamination as well as adopting environmental policies unheard of elsewhere in China.

    His understanding of the need for environmental policy within China as a way to improve living conditions could well be one of his many worthwhile legacies in years to come.

    He has tackled head on previously ignored issues of deforestation and land contamination within. In Xi was transferred to Zhejiang where he immediately set about creating plans and targets to improve the infrastructure and economy of the region.

    He encouraged industry from outside the province to invest and began to set up working partnerships with neighboring provinces.

    Within 2 years he had set up a system of grass-roots democracy allowing local communities an active voice in local party affairs. In September Chen Liangyu, Party Chief of Shanghai, was dismissed following a fraud investigation surrounding social security funds.

    It was imperative that the new Party Chief would be an exemplary candidate and Xi was chosen for his outstanding track record and integrity.

    Shanghai was one of the most powerful regions and represented an important step up the political ladder for Xi, which he grasped willingly in early His record was unblemished by scandal or corruption and he has always been a popular choice with the people.

    As a statesman he has the respect of many overseas politicians and has frequently hosted and visited presidents, prime ministers and foreign dignitaries.

    His straight talking and honest approach has improved trade and diplomatic relations previously strained with many countries.

    He has travelled extensively in recent years across Europe, Asia, South and North America in order to develop a more open and friendly trading relationship.

    First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches.

    UK but the marriage ended in divorce within 2 years and little is known of the circumstances. Xi met his current wife, Peng Liyuan, in and they married in the same year.

    Peng is a renowned and respected opera and folk singer, and was a household name in China when they met. The couple has a daughter, Xi Mingze, who has been studying at Harvard since Xi and Peng appear to be the typical power couple in many respects and talk of their devotion to family life, despite having to spend extended periods apart.

    Perhaps this is a sign of his single-minded ambition and overwhelming desire to retain a clean public image.

    Xi will assume the presidency in March and has already begun taking steps towards tackling corruption by requiring officials to report their assets regularly.

    His rapid reform approach is at. China often gets a tough time from foreign press and is frequently misunderstood but with greater openness comes better understanding and faster progress towards a common goal.

    Having said that I would like to table the idea that Apple could well see a settling period in its growth. When the iPod arrived it was a great product and well received.

    The iPhone was another great product that crashed its way into the mobile phone market, but the constant rumors and whispers surrounding what Apple will do next is getting tiresome.

    What has become tedious is the necessity to create. Anyone who bought a first. The division between Apple lovers and haters has been drawn deeper than ever before and what was once a symbol of cool is now simply an everyday object.

    The iPad was the last great innovation from Apple and, like so many products, it was a reinvention of a product, which had failed in the hands of previous innovators.

    New products arrive but they are understandably predictable. Rumors of the new Apple watch are equally predictable, as Android watches have been trying to tempt us unsuccessfully into the smart-watch age for a little while now.

    The company has diversified substantially since its early days as a manufacturer of personal computers and now has a wide range of electronics products including set top TV boxes, tablets, MP3 players, mobile phones and so on.

    Apple has become a design business but do we all want to fill our lives so entirely with Apple products? Do I want an Apple refrigerator that replenishes itself by ordering groceries online to be delivered at a time that fits into my iCloud calendar and schedules it for me?

    Both private and institutional investors have been sucker punched in their belief that Apple stock is bullet proof. Rochdale Securities were hit hard in October.

    Miller reportedly closed down his computer at the end of the trading day, quietly left the floor and never returned. So what about all the rumors of new products and new market strategy?

    Are we to ignore the analysts and take our own view on what could happen based on our own gut instincts? Your guess is as good if not better than mine.

    In order to refine our guesswork. What the rumor-mill believes will happen: The fifth generation iPad will almost certainly arrive in March and will be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, alongside the second generation iPad Mini, complete with retina display.

    The iPhone 6 is anticipated to arrive in the autumn and expected to come with a new curved screen and without the home button, which could be replaced with on screen gesture control.

    None of this is particularly spectacular but will help keep the iPad and iPhone ahead of its competitors. Apple will put us out of our collective misery and finally release the TV set we all keep hearing about.

    The iWatch has been lauded as the possible end of the smartphone era and as a concept is interesting.

    I was fascinated by the LG watch phone in and felt it had potential so maybe this could be a huge success for Apple and an opportunity for them to create a market where LG arrived too early.

    A further overhaul of the iMac range including the Mac Mini and a range of budget end component products is widely predicted. This seems unlikely, although would make good sense.

    What many of us would really like to see: If Apple were to decide that there was long-term value here by leveraging their supply chain then there is certainly scope for expansion in this sector.

    Look to Mercedes — Smart and Prada — Miu Miu as great examples of quality brands extending their reach without damaging their core appeal.

    Tim Cook had a tough first full year in and learned some important lessons, but has come through this looking stronger and more determined.

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    Never having seen Lego before he was in the bucket and rummaging, tipping the contents onto the floor. I watched as he turned them in his hands, studying each side before accidentally snapping 2 bricks together and then another more purposefully.

    Within minutes he had built something. There are potentially ,, permutations using just 6 standard 8-stud Lego bricks see here for proof http: Ole Kirk Kristiansen, a Danish carpenter and furniture maker founded the company in The Great Depression of the s was crippling to the business and Kristiansen began focusing more on toy products in order to stay afloat.

    The brief yo-yo craze in the mid thirties gave him the lifeline he needed and when this died out he was left with a large quantity of yo-yo parts that he then.

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    By the business was employing staff and had switched to a more resilient plastic, ABS, which is non-toxic and still used today. Lego had evolved from simple bricks into a more sophisticated range of product that was now taking more and more shelf space in toy stores everywhere.

    In the company opened the first Legoland Park in Billund, Denmark, which featured miniature towns and intricate models built entirely from Lego. The park was a roaring success and attracted close to , visitors in its first year.

    Lego was becoming much more of a brand that the Kristiansens could have imagined and business was booming. Through the s they continued to add to the range, introducing Duplo for younger children as well as adding figurines and ever more complex product packages from pirates to astronauts.

    Adults and children alike were competing in Lego building tournaments and the range had become a staple for toy retailers the world over.

    The business has gone through some tough times in recent years and in sales of their seemingly ubiquitous products spiralled down causing competitors and predatory private equity groups to start circling.

    It seemed that the longstanding family owned business was finally going to have to succumb to pressure and, heaven forbid, begin rescue talks before what seemed like an inevitable looming bankruptcy.

    Knudstorp had joined Lego in from McKinsey and was a surprise appointment to many but an inspired move nonetheless. He immediately set about reviewing the business structure from the top down, asking difficult questions and tightening control of costs whilst refocusing on the core product.

    There were 3 failings within the business culture at Lego, which Knudstorp identified immediately. This is not a unique problem and many have cited similar reasoning for the demise of Kodak and others who have fallen from dominant positions at remarkable speed by assuming they are simply invincible.

    Lego had become a lumbering giant with. Years of investment in a range of clothing, watches and more theme parks had left the business with a problem.

    This problem was caused. In some respects the business was lucky to have hit the rocks before , as the outcome may have been very different.

    Knudstorp had a tough job on his hands and was adamant he would not be taking the expected approach of slashing jobs and selling off parts of the company straight away, opting not to panic and consider the overall picture more carefully.

    He knew the clock was ticking and he flew to Virginia to attend BrickFest, the annual event for adult Lego fans. This was a shrewd move and Knudstorp took the time to talk to his loyal customers and hear what they had to say.

    It was important to understand what Lego meant to its core customers in order to give them what they wanted.

    Time and time again he was being told that Lego is the ideal way for a child to learn about creativity and improve problem-solving skills. In early Knudstorp announced his plans for Lego that included cost cutting and a return to the core product.

    This was reinforced when the founders of Google were featured in a Time Magazine cover story praising Lego for helping to shape the way they tackled problems by teaching them basic problem-solving skills at an early age.

    Lego sets had a purpose whereas a Lego t-shirt or watch had no real relevance and these distractions were causing deep-rooted damage.

    In early Knudstorp announced his plans for Lego that included cost cutting and a return to the core product ranges that were integral to profitability.

    Lego had a longstanding policy of owning its buildings rather than leasing and this accounted for a substantial amount of potential cash value that was vital if the company was to survive.

    The continuing purge saw the sell off of the theme parks to Merlin Entertainment and the video games business was closed down and sold to more able outside licensing partners.

    Once the non-core areas had been addressed Knudstorp then set about the difficult task of laying off staff, which had been a sore subject for the Kristiansen family.

    The remaining staff had to be carefully re-educated to understand that profitability was now at the top of the agenda. Performance related pay was introduced across the company and processes were sped up.

    In the past it had taken an average of 2 years to bring a new product to market and this was cut to 12 months as a sense of urgency was instilled.

    More redundancies followed and a further 3, departed as production became more streamlined. One month later, does the child come back to the toy and play with it again?

    Or does he put it away and forget about it? The results of the overhaul were extraordinary and Lego began to grow and move back to profitability faster that anyone could have imagined.

    What has happened here is a powerful case study for any students of business in the modern era. As Lego takes more considered steps into new markets and new technologies it will continue to strengthen and the competitors who were circling in could well become targets themselves in the near future.

    Lego now produces over 29bn components each year, 19bn of which are manufactured in Billund, Denmark. With network problems and poor sales behind them, does BB10, their new software have what it takes to save the company?

    The brand once adored by the corporate world has slipped up again and again and no amount of PR spin or claims of a comeback can convince shareholders or potential investors that the good times will be back.

    Back in the day RIM had a great idea to bring phone and email together launching the first Blackberry devices in Their great success came from being the first to offer a system a device and the software to back it up, which placed them in a position where they had control of their destiny whilst others struggled to marry together these three components.

    The company rolled on with its existing device range but realizing its mistake hastily released a touchscreen device, The Blackberry Storm, which was hardly a worthy competitor to the iPhone.

    It had no WiFi capability and poor touchscreen functionality. It sold below expectations and left loyal customers wondering what was going on.

    The truth was that it was cumbersome and behind the times. Sales were poor with only , devices shipped in the first three days, compared to 1.

    They seemed to have forgotten the end user and stuck rigidly to trying to please corporates and carriers. Other manufacturers were showing the consumer what they would want and RIM were asking suits what they thought.

    We see a similar story in the tablet market with Blackberry dismissing these new devices at first and then hurriedly releasing their own Playbook, which was a vastly inferior product and had fundamental flaws, namely its lack of email support.

    The die was cast for RIM, Playbook sales were dismal and the lack of a plentiful app store has left RIM struggling to convince developers that they should be building Blackberry or Playbook apps.

    This is a problem that still exists and no amount of financial incentive seems to be enough for the app development community to be enticed.

    The much-lauded new operating system, BB10, has been a long time in coming. The launch is scheduled for this week at the time of writing end of Jan and RIM are planning to launch six new mobile devices this year in a bid to recapture market share.

    Co-CEO Mike Laziridis did little to rebuild confidence and quickly earned a reputation for complaining about shareholder unrest. The response to this was weak and the PRs sat quietly waiting for the storm to die down.

    In the network experienced a severe outage of service for days, leaving corporate users stranded. Whilst most customers will accept there will be occasional problems, the handling of communication from RIM was poor and the consequences were damaging as many corporate clients started to look elsewhere for fail safe options.

    A year later the problem re-occurred and this time the timing was embarrassing to say the least as Apple launched the iPhone 5 in a fanfare on the same day.

    Thorsten Heins was appointed as president and CEO with a mammoth task on his hands. Since Heins arrival there has been some degree of change in culture and more caution being taken around product development and launch.

    Blackberry announced shortly afterwards that the first BB10 devices would be all touchscreen. The brand was fast losing corporate market share and becoming synonymous with teenagers who were unable to afford iPhones, which has lead to a dilution in the perceived value of the product.

    At first it was believed Samsung had organized the stunt, but when they rigorously denied involvement RIM had to step up and rather awkwardly admit blame.

    The guilty secret that soon became apparent in all these places was that not one of them was entirely devoid of an IKEA product.

    Not one, and believe me I started making a point of asking. This is the great thing about this brand, you will find their products in the most modest social housing often as easily as you will in upper west side apartments.

    IKEA is a complex business and not an easy one to understand from the outside. In the simplest terms the business remained under the control of founder Ingvar Kamprad until he retired in From the outset Kamprad wanted to retain control of his business and deliberately avoided the suggestion or offer of outside investment, preferring to do things his way and without interference.

    From small acorns big oak trees grow and if you need proof of this then IKEA is your evidence. Kamprad founded the company modestly in at the age of 17 with money from his father.

    The name IKEA is taken from his initials and the first letters of the farm and village where he lived, Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd. He used the money from his father to buy stocks of pens, picture frames and household items, which he sold locally at discount prices.

    Business was good after the war and Sweden was well insulated from the economic hardships of post-war Europe, giving IKEA the perfect environment to capitalize on the modern demand for furnishings.

    By the first range of furniture was introduced and although not yet flat-packed for self-assembly the pricing was keen and suited the mass market.

    The first retail showroom opened in , some 10 years after Kamprad had started out and it was another 3 years before the company moved into the flat-packed furniture business almost by accident.

    Company folklore has it that the idea of flat packing came from an employee taking home a table, but being unable to fit the table into a car had removed the legs only to re-attach at the destination.

    However the idea was formed is irrelevant as flat packed furniture was born and would go on to dominate furniture sales around the globe. The business really began to grow at a greater pace from the late s onwards and by IKEA was employing staff.

    Having been founded 16 years earlier this may not seem like a giant leap forward, but keep in mind that Kamprad had started the business on a modest gift from his father at the age of 17 with no prior experience and was about to ride the crest of a wave that would see households in Europe and America take up the latest craze of home improvement, which still exists today.

    Kamprad continued to build the company brick by brick, adding products to the range, cafeterias within stores and looking more and more towards eastern Europe for a cheap supply source of quality materials.

    Kamprad had long believed that people would be prepared to travel if he could offer the largest choice and range at the best prices, and he was right.

    Kamprad had been canny in hiring great young designers and creating fresh looking modern furniture that appealed to almost everyone yet still remained mainly in the budget end of the market.

    Kamprad retired in after 43 years at the helm and became an advisor to the business. You may not spot him immediately in the towns around Epalinges buying Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper in the January sales and taking the salt and pepper sachets from the local cafes but that is him and he is there.

    He is not a miser, he simply values money well spent and he has a portfolio of property as well as many of the trappings you may expect from his billionaire status.

    The Italians seem to understand the need for power and beauty in the right combination and have produced some of the finest and most desirable cars.

    German, American and British car makers have all produced great cars, notably Aston Martin, Mercedes and even Dodge but they all lean too far one way or the other.

    Aston Martin and Mercedes seem to overlook the need for outrageousness whilst the Americans are obsessed with brut force.

    While Mercedes invest huge budgets in the finest detail and craftsmanship the Italians have a wonderful knack of making the imperfect somehow perfect like a true thoroughbred.

    Bugatti come close with the Veyron, but somehow the influence of VW just seems to take the edge off its flamboyance. This is a difficult market to break into and many have tried.

    The allure of a supercar is often in the heritage that places huge barriers to newcomers, although not impossible to overcome.

    Maclaren, Noble and Pagani all make truly great supercars and have held their own, but others have been less fortunate. Horacio Pagani was born in in Casilda, Argentina.

    His father was of Italian descent and the Mediterranean flair seemed to have been passed on. His father was of Italian descent and the Mediterranean flair seemed to have been passed on as Horacio was building detailed and perfectly scaled balsa models of GT cars from as early as 12 years old, these can be seen at the showroom in Modena.

    By the time he was 16 he had designed and built his own Mini Moto and he still owns the bike today. At the age of 17 he had built a buggie utilizing Renault running gear and was accepted to study industrial design at the University of La Plata and went on to study mechanical Engineering at Rosaria.

    At the age of 22 he went solo with his own consultancy and designed bar furniture, caravan trailers chairs, beds and all.

    He finally moved to Italy during with a letter of recommendation from JM Fangio and joined Lamborghini where he worked on the team creating the Countach Evoluzione, which was the first car to be built with a fully carbon fibre frame.

    He fitted in well at Lamborghini and in he designed the Countach Anniversary and became an integral part of the design and build of the Diablo.

    By the late s Pagani was trying to convince Lamborghini to invest in an autoclave so that they could further extend production of carbon fibre parts for their cars.

    In Pagani borrowed money to buy an autoclave and in left Lamborghini to set up Modena Designs, a company that still makes carbon fibre parts for Formula 1 cars today.

    It was Modena that would allow Pagani the time and facilities to develop his first car, the Zonda, and in Pagani Automobili Modena was born.

    In the early years Modena Designs continued to work closely with Lamborghini in the styling of the Diablo and Pagani was by no means ostracized by his former employers.

    Pagani pushed on with the development of his Zonda and made the most of his racing contacts to secure a deal with Mercedes AMG to supply engines that would make sure this car had the performance to match its looks.

    The Zonda was finally launched at the Geneva Motor Show in after 7 years of development and arrived with a 6 litre Mercedes AMG V12 and would accelerate to 62mph in 4.

    It also had killer good looks whilst never imitating Ferrari or Lamborghini. Pagani had no plans to churn these cars out at any great speed, preferring.

    Of these there were a number of special editions created to individual client specifications and these are the most sought after. Later cars came with higher price tags and blistering performance, the Zonda Cinque the final iteration of the car delivered the driver to 62mph in 3.

    In the Zonda was finally replaced by the unpronounceable Huayra. The top speed is over mph and 62mph is racked up in 3.

    Factory production, on the other hand, remains painfully slow with fewer than 20 cars being built each year. A deal with EA games in allowed the games maker exclusive rights to the Huayra in the gaming world for their Need for Speed franchise.

    Pagani retains ownership of both companies and remains true to his ideals, creating a small number if highly desirable and powerful cars with jaw dropping good looks.

    As a result Pagani have arguably become the leading hypercar brand and been instrumental in establishing this market, stealing a march on its better-known neighbors.

    Crash one and, if you survived, you could deliver it back to the factory to have it rebuilt from the ground up. Simply because we take a certain responsibility in commending the work done in the past.

    A lawyer would tell you that he declines all responsibility for whatever he may or may not utter.

    Well we're going to go out on a limb and just proclaim our opinion alongside the votes and comments we received from our readers.

    We're happy to provide our perspective on the firms we've picked for this year's award. The private equity fund category is probably the most challenging because this sector is the least transparent and hence to most difficult to evaluate but we've looked as closely as we could and found the following gems that are worthy of our crown.

    We hope you can give them the nod of agreement, and if not please feel free to tell us why. Blackstone is a company that we studied in detail in a previous issue when our lead article was about Mr.

    Peterson, one of the two founders and that added to our confidence. Its a name that everybody has heard and you'll hardly find anyone who doesn't respect this firm.

    It is for this accomplishment, amongst other criteria that we named Blackstone our winner for this year. Schwarzman and Peter G. Peterson, today Blackstone has over 1, employees in 24 offices worldwide and is one of the world's largest private equity investment firms.

    Its diverse range of funds makes private equity, real estate, credit and hedge fund investments all over the world. Everyone firm has excelled in their very own way and we are pleased to present those great firm.

    So besides Blackstone and without any further ado, here are our additional award winners:. Experience, success and talent.

    They are doing the deals that you read about in the paper and they are generating great returns for investors.

    We commend the intellect and strategy not only on the management level but the whole of what seems to be well-oiled machines of the private equity industry.

    Specializing in private equity, venture capital, credit and public market investments, Bain invests across a broad range of industr y sectors and geographic regions.

    Established more than 40 years ago, today Warburg Pi n c u s i s a g l o b a l l y integrated partnership led by co-presidents Charles R.

    Kaye and Joseph P. In this edition of The Elevator we have profiled Mr Schewarzman in great depth. Visit the profiles section of this issue to learn more.

    The idea of the hedge fund was born in the s, then resurfaced at the end of the s and celebrated its real breakthrough in the s. That means that it took the market almost 70 years to mature the idea of making profits on rising and falling markets.

    For 20 years the hedge fund managers were the pop stars of the finance industry and investors flocked to this type of financial instrument but then came the fall from grace, leaving only the best funds and their managers in business or almost.

    This sector is also not being spared by heightened regulations and therefore doesn't have the "carte blanche" to do as they please.

    The times of playing cowboys may be over but this sector still has a bright future ahead. There's still a very large number of hedge funds out there and it was challenging to pick the winners for our awards but we think we've made a good and fair cut through the masses and found some stars among the dogs.

    It seems logical to be able to generate profits from both falling and rising markets. Pine River pursues several strategies including global convertible bond arbitrage and equity driven event investing.

    Clever ideas and double-digit returns have propelled these firms to the top of our list and we're confident that we've picked the right ones to highlight this year.

    As always, if you can share your thoughts and comments with us via Twitter Elevatormag. Set up by former Lehman Brothers trader Deepak Narula in , Metacapital Management has become the world's most successful hedge fund.

    His mortgage-backed arbitrage fund Metacapital Mortgage Opportunities, which invests primarily in residential and commercial mortgages, ended Narula and others correctly bet that agencybacked mortgages owned by the much maligned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - were primed for a rebound.

    Leading London investment firm Odey Asset Management was launched in to focus on active fund management at a time when the industry was obsessed by investment indices.

    Oxford graduate Crispin Odey was determined that original research and rigorous analysis should drive the investment process and was determined to keep research and judgment at the heart of the investment process.

    This year saw his move to the firm's Geneva office. The list is long but the following companies simply stand out. The term has been diluted and become somewhat of a fashion word in the financial industry.

    We've taken to the subject also with a wider perspective because its not much use to evaluate family offices who manage only one estate, because logically they wouldn't accept new clients.

    In that spirit we've looked at asset management firms, financial advisors and multi-family office companies to pick the best ones we could find.

    Its no great surprise that the winners are all in Switzerland, the place where managing money is a natural part of life.

    The firms we've picked have a responsive team of outstanding professionals who have excelled in terms of client services and performance in and we're confident that they will continue to do so.

    There are a lot of firms that proclaim to be a family office because it sounds good but most of them don't even know what it means to really be at your client's service.

    In , it was ranked 29th among the leading independent providers of multi-family office services worldwide by Bloomberg. Notwithstanding the various crises beginning in , Finance has been able to move ahead on the strength of its innovative business model.

    Today, with sizable assets under management and 25 members of staff, it rates as a mainstay in the Geneva banking industry.

    On the contrary, its often the small and nimble firms that will strive more to deliver that little extra bit of service that you need.

    Experience is the single most important thing when it comes to finance, simply because its important to know every trick in the book when it comes to managing money.

    There are a lot of situations where the unexperienced will react too soon or too late. Only the well-seasoned manager will pull the trigger at the right time.

    In addition to financial services, it aims to provide clients with access to a wide range of supplementary services - including art collection management, VIP-service, property management, tax and business consultancy, as well as legal advice.

    As an independent Swiss financial service provider the company is independent from the banks, ensuring that its investments are completely customer-led with no conflicts of interest.

    Owner-managed financial services provider Helvetic Trust specialises in the fields of wealth management, family office services, real estate and precious metals.

    It was founded in by Kaspar Grob and is currently wholly-owned by its 16 partners. In addition to the head office in Zurich, the company also has branches in Berne and Lausanne as well as an office in London.

    A Swiss company, small enough to be manageable but active on an international scale, the share capital of 1 million Swiss francs CHF 1 million is entirely in the hands of the active partners.

    The closer you get to the road, the better you can see its beauty. Fuel consumption under standard conditions: CO2 average value for all vehicle models sold in Switzerland: We think the most important are two factors: We've picked some institutions where the client is still king.

    Some have failed miserably and others have excelled in these trying times. When politicians try to dictate what banks can and cannot do its probably not very good for business.

    When every banker has to spend much of his time reporting to his legal department and compliance slows down the flow of business beyond reason, private banks are facing tough times.

    When banks simply can't open bank accounts for certain citizens like Germans, British or American clients - just to name a few, that's bad for business!

    It seems like its tough across the board and only the strongest will survive. In that spirit, we've picked a few financial institutions that have stood out with their innovation, their level of service and their motivation to take on the adversity of the current times whilst maintaining a healthy proximity with their clients and striving to continuously provide a certain level of service.

    One thing is for sure, when it comes to banking, bigger is not always better and there are many banks that will not serve you as well as you deserve.

    The ones we decided to award are certainly the best in their class. The breed of private banks was created for a specific type of client.

    The wealthy, demanding individual who needs a more tailored service than a retail bank will provide. I think we've made a good pick of the best banks for the job.

    With affiliates, branches and representative offices spread across nearly 20 countries, the diversity means not only are they present in major financial centres but also that you can find a top-quality account manager who knows and understands your language and culture.

    Not saying that they are the only ones out there but they have simply been found to be the best at what they do.

    These institutions work very hard to earn their spot at the top and the competition is hard. Especially in current times, many banks have to re-invent themselves in order to stay in business as old business models get swept away by new regulations.

    A leading Swiss private banking group, Julius Baer focuses exclusively on the demands of sophisticated private clients, family offices and external asset managers from around the world.

    It has the largest international presence of all Swiss private banks with over 40 locations in more than 20 countries, including a comprehensive pan-Swiss network.

    The Group is present in 80 countries, and employs close to , people, half of which are based in its four domestic markets: Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg.

    With more than 5 million retail customers and a significant share of the corporate and institutional markets, the group focuses on retail banking by offering a wide range of financial services including insurance, mortgage finance, asset management, brokerage, real estate and leasing services.

    Under his guidance the bank continues to grow its wealth management business, with particular emphasis on asset management and expanding its global presence.

    In a marketplace that is becoming ever more investment-led and performance-driven, Capricorn Strategies was established to provide unique investment advisory services.

    Supervised by the Danish financial authorities, Capricorn has assembled a team of investment professionals with a deep understanding of investing in the G currency universe.

    The FX G10 fund seeks risk-adjusted returns, that are uncorrelated to other investment strategies by trading the most liquid assets available to investors, the currency majors.

    Its strategy is long term, fundamental seeking alpha opportunities in most market conditions by benefiting from currency arbitrage and exchange rate differentials.

    Risk is tightly controlled via a dynamic hedging strategy aimed at reducing the exchange rate risk. Founded in , FX Concepts is a global leader in technical analysis and quantitative research for Foreign Exchange and Interest rate markets.

    FX Concepts supplies traders world wide with precise commentary and trading strategies, using methodology that incorporates 3 core analytical techniques: Cycles analysis, Gann inspired technical analysis and quantitative trading models - three tools that enable FX Concepts to identify the appropriate time, the appropriate level and the appropriate trading strategy.

    Axel Merk founded Merk Investments in Switzerland in by pooling the investments he had been managing for his friends since college.

    He relocated the business to California in , and Merk Investments became an SEC-registered investment advisory firm.

    The Merk Currency Enhanced U. Equity Fund combines U. The Fund actively manages U. The combination of U. Jasso has worked hand in hand with its clients, taking the idea of independent advisory to a new level.

    We have enhanced our asset management activity with the conception and recommendation of tailor-made products.

    Today Jasso acts as a unique point of reference for the implementation of complete asset management solutions.

    Box CH Lucerne 4 Tel. When church bells are stolen for scrap metal, you know commodities are still in demand. But what's going to further your cause and what will stall your portfolio in ?

    Jakobsen has often made some extreme predictions most of which have fortunately missed the mark but regardless I do think he talks sense and we all need extremes to give us a balanced view.

    The point to take from this is that there may well be a fall in crude oil but few agree that we will see anything so significant.

    I have huge expectations. If it gets above , I think the momentum will come and people will be buying as the market moves. The wild card for commodities trading could well come in the shape of coffee beans.

    Prices appear to be on a downward trend but looking to bottom out as the bigger money is building a long position and larger farmers hold stock pending price rises.

    Palm oil is poised to rise in value as stocks are depleted and demand increases. Therefore movement of Venus helps us to know the advance movement of base metal and bullion.

    It is important to note that Venus is known for highest volatility. Combination of Venus with Saturn is positive while combination Venus with Mars is dangerous for commodity market.

    Our advance predictions for positive movement for. While majority of commodity experts were expecting downward movement in copper and crude oil I had predicted well in advance for positive for copper and crude oil.

    Sage advice but I may stick to more conventional methods myself. The overall consensus from the banking analysts seems to be consistent this year with grains trading flat, metals likely to underperform on the whole and the big movers likely to be coffee, palm oil and cotton barring any middle eastern oil crises.

    Which horse does the smart money back in ? There are interesting plays ahead as the global economy continues to slowly recover.

    Two years of trade deficit and a continued strong performance from the yen no longer stacks up. The Bank of Japan has been busy printing money and a current account surplus is turning into a deficit.

    The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the seasonally adjusted current account was in deficit in September for the first time in more than thirty years.

    The market will catch on quickly and jump on a sure thing making the Yen look like the best table in the casino. The Swedish krona has.

    Norway has a stronger fiscal position and is favored for the medium term and the NOK has been seen as something of a port in a storm with many traders.

    In Denmark the DKK is likely to stay on the right side of parity as a healthy current account surplus, steady interest rates and the government continuing to make Danish bonds attractive all combine to create a steady ship for DKK.

    The Euro is still facing a challenging time and political uncertainties in Europe and a period of necessary stabilization could well result in further ECB rate cuts.

    With general elections in Germany and Italy during this year there is some skepticism as to whether the IMF prediction of a EU current account surplus of 1.

    Across the Atlantic the USD is expected to pick up following the expected fiscal cliff agreements between the President and Congress. With the economy walking a fine line between stability and recession it seems highly unlikely that the two sides will not cooperate fully as the consequences are inconceivable.

    Many feel that the weak outlook in the Euro-zone will help support the USD but anticipate a continued low scoring against other currencies. Asia is generally favored for those looking towards a long position, particularly with MYR and CNY that are set for slow appreciation offset with a hedged short KWR position.

    A continuation of term would allow Najib to plough on with his liberalization reforms in the equity markets. Korea is the wild card here and is seen as an under-valued currency and has been less volatile than other Asian currencies.

    Michael Greenberg of Forex Magnates recently shared some useful overview predictions, two of which were certainly worth further consideration: The larger FX brokers will continue to grow in the US whilst we see a reduction in numbers of smaller brokers and the reverse is likely to be the case in Europe.

    Buying art purely from the perspective of making a good return is a speculative and subjective business and takes steady nerves. The opposing view that artworks should be seen as an asset may be a more stable approach and buying art that can be enjoyed firstly is the safest bet for those with the liquid cash to play as well as appreciate in both senses of the word , but bear in mind ownership also comes with associated costs and responsibilities.

    The big name pop artists appear to be losing value recently. From a pure investment perspective there are many art funds ready to cater for your appetite should you prefer not to own, store and insure valuable pieces.

    There are plenty of art funds to choose from in alternative asset management and this sector has been fine tuned considerably since the collapse of several funds in Those more interested in the fun of finding the next Tracy Emin or Chris Ofili will find no short cuts or trade secrets.

    Prior to many of these funds were operated by art experts, as opposed to fund managers, and. The landscape is different now with specialist funds emerging from within this specialist area to cater for Russian, Brazilian and Chinese artwork in particular, all of which remain hot areas for potential earnings.

    Beware fee structures for specialist art funds, as these often need to incorporate high security, specialist storage and costly insurance policies.

    Those more interested in the fun of finding the next Tracey Emin or Chris Ofili will find no short cuts or trade secrets. Following the major collectors and galleries is unlikely to find you a hidden gem and you may have more success hunting through the graduate shows and honing your sharp eye.

    Be prepared to put in the hours and the searching could well pay off, but this is a hit and miss game.

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