Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Crisis-hit rich wanted cash they could count on

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The credit crisis prompted a well-documented exodus of client money from risky assets into safer ones like government bonds, cash and gold.
But some rich clients of private banks would have preferred to take their money and run.
They were so rattled by the threat of financial instability to their wealth that they wanted the reassurance of having as much of it as possible in a form they could hold in their hands and count: banknotes.
Wavering confidence in the financial system led some to consider taking out their entire cash balance and holding it in banks’ vaults in physical notes, said James Fleming head of international business at British private banking blue-blood Coutts.
“That was a request on three or four occasions at the height of the crisis when everybody was concerned about the balance sheets of the banks generally, not us specifically,” Fleming said.
“We cautioned against holding cash in the vault,” he said, adding: “They didn’t do it.”

Private bankers must show restraint in Europe

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Private bankers remain in demand in some key European markets, but they will have to live with lower salaries if they want to continue to be part of this business.
Top wealth managers told the Reuters Global Private Banking summit that they have stopped offering the huge packages seen in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
“We are not offering packages that are outlandish. And I do not see the other banks doing that either,” said Samir Raslan, General Manager of Citibank (Switzerland).
Raslan said the structure of banker’s salaries had also changed. Relationship managers who form the backbone of a private bank’s workforce were getting higher fixed salaries than before, but no more huge bonuses.
“We see more rational hiring, rather than aggressive, open cheque-book hiring,” said Raslan.

from Sakthi Prasad:

From coffee beans to brick buildings

M.R. Jaishankar of Brigade EnterprisesM.R. Jaishankar, chairman and managing director of real estate firm Brigade Enterprises, the youngest of 12 siblings, started his career in the family business of growing coffee beans.

 But after a nasty labor dispute, which resulted in the burning down of his factory in 1984, he saw an opportunity in the real estate business in the then sleepy Bangalore city -- and tasted big success.

from Sakthi Prasad:

Real Estate – To invest or not

Abhijit Mukherjee of Dr Reddy'sEveryone of us has our own ideas about a dream home and usually wonder if it makes a good investment or not. 

But for Abhijit Mukherjee, president of the pharma firm Dr. Reddy’s, the choice is very clear -- He is not a big fan of real estate investment. 

from Sakthi Prasad:

The brave new world of Ideas

Rostow Ravanan of MindtreeThe world was built on ideas and in the absence of innovation, mankind would have continued to live in stone age.

Of course, Rostow Ravanan, chief financial officer of Mindtree, would subscribe to the view that new ideas are absolutely necessary to promote business growth. Well, who wouldn’t? While talking to journalists at Reuters India Investment Summit, he vigorously defended his company’s foray into designing smart phones saying it is a new idea, which may as well pay off.

from Sakthi Prasad:

India Investment Summit comes to Bangalore

After completing the Mumbai leg, the 2010 India Investment Summit is set to arrive in the garden city of Bangalore on Wednesday. Long known as the pensioner’s paradise, Bangalore is fast morphing into a global, multicultural city. The city is also emerging as a favourite destination among young Indian professionals aspiring for a blue-chip career in the information technology business. But despite Bangalore’s success in the IT industry -- the showpiece of a rising India -- the city’s infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with its phenomenal growth over the last decade or so. Frequent power cuts, traffic-choked roads and lax urban planning often leave city dwellers and foreign investors in mute frustration. However, despite these issues, multinational companies have kept their faith in the city.

Executives of real estate, technology and pharmaceutical firms will be exclusively talking to Reuters journalists about their companies’ growth plans, challenges they face and business opportunities that are available within the wider context of India investment story.

Stay tuned.

A bubble in the real estate market?

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INDIA-URBANISATION/Have you tried buying or renting a house in Mumbai recently? If so, then I won’t be surprised if you think real estate prices are plain expensive, and incredibly so. But that’s almost always been the case in India’s commercial capital. After all, when was the last time someone told you they got a cheap house in the city?

So is the real estate market in a bubble? We asked Adi Godrej, the man who controls Godrej Properties, if things could get bubblicious. This is what he had to say: “I don’t think we are in a bubble, because demand is strong, but we could get into a bubble.”

Paranoid governments and conspiracy theories

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- Adi Godrej

Adi Godrej

Adi Godrej, who marshals his namesake $2.5 billion diversified group, believes the Indian government is “paranoid” about the possible effects of allowing more foreign investments into sectors such as airlines.

“They (the Indian government) have not allowed foreign airlines to invest in private airlines, and they cite security. I don’t see what security would be compromised,” Godrej told the Reuters India Investment Summit in Mumbai.

Five weeks: It’s an eternity in the world of politics

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By Christopher Doering carper

Five weeks:  It may not be a lot of time for many people, but with the pivotal mid-term elections looming on Nov. 2 Delaware Senator Tom Carper said five weeks is an eternity for Democrats to use to turn the tide in their favor.

“Today, five weeks a lot happens. A lot of minds change in five weeks,” Carper, a self-proclaimed “optimist”, told the Reuters Washington Summit.

After a hard day’s work in Afghanistan, Petraeus reads… about Afghanistan

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After spending 16-plus hours each day running the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, American General David Petraeus tries to thumb through a few pages of a book each night before his eyes close and it falls to the ground.  The most recent topic? Afghanistan of course.

AFGHANISTAN-PETRAEUS/The four-star general told Reuters that currently on his nightstand is a book by a leading expert on the country:  Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: a Cultural and Political History, a book ranked 21,047 on Amazon.com (as this blog was being published).

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