It is a little known fact that private bank Wegelin, Switzerland’s oldest bank is also active in the bars and restaurants business.
In its ‘Nonolet’ bars – a play on the Latin saying pecunia non olet (money doesn’t stink) - in St. Gallen and in Geneva, hedge fund managers and other financial professionals rub shoulders with other locals in the early evening over sparkling wine or champagne and snacks.
It may sound an odd sort of diversification, but Wegelin says there were forced to try a new line of business to ensure an upmarket crowd mingled on the ground floor of the Wegelin building.
“You cannot have a strange business there like a kebab shop,” said Wegelin partner Christian Raubach.
Wegelin was forced to launch a hostile takeover on a local bar which had attracted a lot of unruly drinkers near its St. Gallen branch office.
“We bought the bar, we fired the owners, and we put a nice Café in so we get a different crowd. The crowd that sits during the day drinking coffee and not vomiting drinking beer at night,” Raubach said.
The operation proved to be a success but is unlikely to develop in to a brand new business area.
“Everybody thinks Nonolet is probably very profitable..let me tell you private banking is a much better business,” Raubach says.
Even for an American who's not wealthy, Geneva has a reputation as a global centre for wealth management - the place the world's rich come to stash their money and (they hope) make it grow.
But you don't necessarily expect it to be so aggressive -- after all, the rich tend to be demure when it comes to their banking.
Imagine one reporter's surprise, then, on arriving in the airport in Geneva and seeing bank ads everywhere. Think of the casino adds in Las Vegas's McCarron Airport or the technology ads in San Jose's Mineta Airport: it's the exactly the same in Geneva, only with wealth managers.
Look left - there's UBS. Look right - there's Julius Baer. Look up in the baggage queue - there's a Swiss bank that emphasises a focus on the Arab world. A complete unscientific guesstimate suggests the display ads in the terminal run about 75 percent wealth management and 25 percent fine watches. (No surprise that every other storefront in the Ville Centre area of Geneva has watches on offer.)
There is one plus to all of the bank ads in the airport for the less wealthy though. Tell your cab driver to head toward their addresses and you're likely to find the city's best cafes.