The Global Credit Crunch had relatively little effect on the New Zealand banking sector. In part, this fortunate stability was a result of the health of the country’s financial market and lending sector, which always faced much sterner regulation and control than many other countries during the boom years between 2002 and 2007. For such reasons, since the 1990s, New Zealand has been the destination of choice for global investors, who have been well rewarded for their faith. Particularly, those from countries such as Japan and China, who flocked to place their household savings in New Zealand, have since received interest rates well above their domestic offerings.
“This has seen a global uptake in investors who want to enjoy the attractive rates offered from New Zealand, without exposing themselves to exchange rate risk,” says Luigi Wewege, CEO of Vivier & Co, one of New Zealand’s most prominent financial companies.
Founded in 2001, the company was heavily focussed on domestic assets and New Zealand clients. “More recently,” Luigi tell us, “the management team has found a way to obtain secure, higher yielding investments. It therefore decided to take advantage of the company’s good reputation and efficient cost base to offer our services worldwide. These include above average deposit rates, coupled with security and lasting stability.”
This boutique financial institution now services the unique needs of an international clientele. While headquartered in Auckland New Zealand, Vivier Group enjoys a presence on virtually every continent with offices in Johannesburg, Lima, Orlando, Dublin, London, Paris, Munich, Dubai and Hong Kong, “We also have many clients outside these main hub cities,” Luigi is quick to point out.
He continues to note that, as a Financial Service Provider, Vivier & Co’s business is relatively straight forward. Put simply, they offer a higher interest rate on savings – in any major currency – than available almost anywhere else. The company also maintains a Bankers Blanket Bond with Standard and Poor’s A+ rated insurers, providing a NZD2,000,000 indemnity on any one claim/loss in the aggregate. This is a simple and effective product that satisfies a global problem for investors seeking a higher yield but with complementary safety. Additionally, they offer bank accounts to companies and individuals who wish to do business outside their country but face difficulties opening an account abroad.
“As regards to distribution, we have an international advisory board, with members based around the world,” he says. “And we offer local customer service directly through teams responsible for each major language and/or jurisdiction.”
While New Zealand may have dodged the worst of the global credit crunch, institutions like Vivier & Co still face their share of hurdles. The underdevelopment of a buoyant financial service sector in multiple locations is one of them, “Outside of highly developed hubs such as Singapore and London it is difficult for people to gain access to boutique financial services,” Luigi points out.
The other hurdle is a lack of consumer awareness about the meaning of boutique financial services, which means that Vivier staff often face the challenge of explaining the advantages to clients. But when it comes to personal service, they are very well looked after.
The staff working at Vivier & Co benefit from a companywide devotion to their development. “We are offering products that are not available via the usual high street banks,” Luigi says, “so it demands a more personal level of customer contact, in particular when dealing with clients that look for tailored solutions going beyond the scope of traditional services.”
“A Boutique Financial Institution must attract and retain staff who are incentivised to deliver these investment solutions efficiently and effectively,” he adds. “Smaller than a traditional bank, we can be more flexible and focused with our staff as well as with our clients.”
Development includes a full scope of industry training, as the financial regulators in New Zealand set strict rules in relation to anti-money laundering and ‘knowing your client’. All of Vivier & Co’s staff are well versed in these rules and apply them in their day to day work. Examinations are also available for RFAs and AFAs, Registered Financial Advisers. The company also has to belong to a dispute resolution scheme. This ensures clients can have confidence when they deal with a financial adviser: that they are professional and meet appropriate standards of competence, care and diligence. Training takes the form of attendance at seminars on compliance and related matters.
Luigi points out some of the specific customer services for which Vivier & Co are renowned: “We offer above average returns along with far higher security than normally available. Interest can be paid gross without any deduction of tax,” he says. “We have also limited the amount of costs for transfers on inward and outward deposits, minimalized account charges and removed market risk volatility.”
And, importantly, Vivier offers a more personalised customer contact that can be found almost anywhere else. This particular aspect of the company, their person-to-person approach, is one of the keystones to its position in the industry. Luigi explains that after-sales service and customer commitment are critical elements of the business, “We cannot and do not take our clients for granted, as happens with many high street institutions,” he says. “We listen to each client’s particular needs and develop a deep understanding of his or her financial goals.”
In this way, they can work together to make the best financial decisions, something that is hard to achieve with a retail bank. It’s yet another reason why Vivier & Co is so highly respected and enjoys relationships with such a great number of satisfied customers who not only return, but also spread the word: “A positive recommendation from a client is worth its weight in gold,” he adds.
Of course, Vivier & Co is not the only financial operation offering boutique services but has found the best solution to outplaying the competition is by offering far higher quality. Thusly, they continue to make highly selective loans, secured directly or indirectly against real estate located in the UK and Ireland, both of which are stable members of the European Union, while at the same time, ensuring costs are contained by providing straightforward products and keeping a close eye on overheads.
“This winning combination allows us to continue offering above-average interest rates and thus staying ahead of the other players in the market place,” is the company’s mission statement.
With 2014 almost at an end, Luigi is looking at the next year with anticipation and excitement, as there are a number of new developments on the horizon.
Earlier in 2014, after several months of negotiations, the purchase was completed of Vivier Mortgages Limited, a Dublin based home loan company. This will enter them into the mortgage industry, as well as offer a chance to take part in the fast moving Irish economy. Similarly, the Vivier Property division has recently established an association with first rate, experienced developers in the United Kingdom. This will allow the group to invest in a wide range of residential real estate that will expand the asset side of the balance sheet and offer even more security to their clients. Finally, the Vivier Technology division has entered the scene as a crucial part of the offering, “A short while ago, the company mandated a top design firm to rewrite the entire website.” Luigi explains, “At the same time, we have signed up with a new debit card organisation, affiliated with VISA and MasterCard. This will allow us to simplify account opening procedures and online banking as well as to improve data protection and functionality from anywhere in the world.”
Each of these projects has demanded significant human resources, Luigi explains, “The group has called on experts and specialists worldwide to accomplish these goals, which have required considerable capital.”
This capital was sourced by the shareholders and demonstrates the level of confidence they have in the company’s long term goals, “Quite rightly they trust that this investment will be vindicated by stable expansion of the client base, growth of the balance sheet and ultimately the success of the group as a whole.” Luigi concludes.