When did you set up Hanover Private Office and why? What is your company mantra and ethos?
Hanover Private Office was founded in 2010 from a Georgian town house on Gloucester Place in Marylebone, Central London. On 4 January 2010, I was sitting in a cold office kitchen when the first ideas came together; it was me, a laptop, home printer and a mobile phone.
I came up with the idea for Hanover Private Office frustrated by the lack of care many multi-national firms have when it comes to giving UHNWIs the very best bespoke advice and support to help them reach their goals. This was never more apparent than immediately after the global credit crunch, when firms were openly putting their own interests before clients. It didn’t sit well with me to see clients treated as disposable pawns in a game of economic chess.
During this period, there was a huge fall out of trust between firms and clients; many of the banks were going under or sacking huge numbers of staff. Clients were left exposed at huge risk with nowhere to put their hard earned savings or investments. The property market had been volatile and estate agents were saying anything to close deals to earn their commission. The reality was that clients were left with nowhere to go.
For me being in property starts with listening and not trying to sell products or services which a lot of the time are not suited to the client’s actual needs. I wanted to create a firm which was actively different and far better than the competition. The principles were simple – trust, discretion, expertise, independence and accessibility; values easy to say than deliver on repeatedly.
Bringing together a team of experts who shared my vision was not easy and we still struggle to recruit. We’ll only take on the very, very best. How can you teach somebody to genuinely care about their clients, who often become friends over time? It is not easy and regardless of being good at the job in hand, care and decency is something you just can’t teach. Showing discretion at all times, is one principle I have always insisted on.
Client confidentiality is so important, and I know in other firms they are like a sieve when it comes to leaking confidential transactions to boast their own public profile. Hanover Private Office is a discreet platform to engage with our clients to help them achieve their goals in the real estate and yachting sectors. We have opened ourselves into the fields of sport and media, but 90% of our work is real estate based. We stay true to what we are good at – growing our clients’ wealth in the prime property markets.
Does Hanover Private Office have a typical client and where are they from?
The only common denominator is that all our clients are wealthy. They come from every corner of the globe. We have many UK based clients, but more from across Asia, Russia & CIS, the Middle East, African and America and increasingly we have buyers from Hong Kong and India. We are always meeting new clients and contacts on our global road shows.
You are very active in the prime pockets of Surrey and in Central London, what are some of the property highlights in this area?
To find property for sale in London, which is good quality or a development opportunity can be very tricky. Whether you are looking for a home or a commercial premises, it takes time and patience. Many of the assets we acquire are off market or from special situations such as receiverships, or via a bank off-loading bad debts. We sift through what every estate agent has on offer, but most of what we acquire is direct from the owner. We have a sophisticated asset tracking system, which allows us to monitor the best assets that our clients will always be interested in.
The best houses, apartments and offices in Knightsbridge will never go out of fashion. Likewise for Mayfair, Belgravia, Kensington, Chelsea and Holland Park. Wide properties with lateral space and high ceilings will always sell well. Investing in a quality location and a quality product, which is liquid and tangible has always been appealing to the ‘super rich’. London is one of three ‘Global cities’ – New York and Hong Kong being the other two. These three cities will buck trends and look expensive, but people still want to live and work there.
In addition to focusing on London, we focus on the areas where a work-life balance is as equal importance to our clients. The areas of Surrey and Berkshire to the west of London, are frequently traded through our platform. Wentworth, Englefield Green, Sunningdale, Windlesham, Weybridge, Henley-on-Thames are favoured by UHNWIS trying to find houses close to good schools for their children. With the likes of Eton College only a few miles from Ascot and Virginia Water, it is no wonder so many of the world’s royal families and UHNWIs like to call Surrey, Berkshire and Oxfordshire their country home
What is your assessment of the current price level of London prime properties and the potential for a price correction?
It’s all about demand and supply, and the factors which effect those two key aspects. Due to growing demand, supply has shot up. In London circa 250 high rise (20 storeys plus) buildings sites are either now under construction or with planning permission. Whilst demand is still good, property taxes (Stamp Duty Land Tax), remittance taxes for bring ‘un-taxed’ money into the UK, a change in the status of non-domiciles, means demand is not at the same level it was in 2013-2014.
The volume of transactions across the UK annually has not fallen – still circa 1,100,000 per annum, but the volume of transactions over £5m has fallen because of increased stamp duty and a 3% surcharge for second homes being introduced on 1 April 2016. For those sellers, who are forced to sell within a limited period of time, due to mounting debt or other pressing reasons, buyers can get some good deals. However buyer beware – if you buy cheap, make sure it is actually good quality. In some cases, we are seeing prices at lower rates of £ per square foot, but the key to any market is that you compare like for like.
Look at the volumes of trades – what would prices have to do, to get back to the usual rates of volume? Fall in the short term. That said, if you look at the market over the last five years, and not just year on year, you gain a clearer view seeing that the market is in good long term health. If you buy well, and can afford to hold, you will continue to make good money in property. Timing and pricing are key to real estate success. There is currently a flight towards ‘AAA’ locations and high quality.
Is now the time to stick or sell your prime property in PCL and in Surrey/Berkshire?
More and more, we are seeing people holding onto their properties and not selling. Supply is limited in AAA locations of high quality; there is plenty of stock in secondary locations where prices are softer, than last year. In Surrey, f you need to sell in the next 12 months, get in touch with Hanover Private Office, as it is best to crack on with the sale.
You’re clearly passionate about property, but what other pursuits and passions do you enjoy – fast cars, yachts, racehorses, golf?
A lot of our clients enjoy shooting, impressive and rare cars and racehorses. Lots of them enjoy yachting, but personally I like horse racing, shooting and spending time with family and friends. Racing is best at Royal Ascot in June and where every year I attend with my family and friends. I know the area so well, having sold so many properties there over the years.
We seem to bump into so many clients and friends between the Royal Enclosure, our box and the drinks parties in the Owners’ and Trainers’ or Number 1 car parks afterwards. Being able to go into the winner’s enclosure at Royal Ascot has to be one of the best sporting experiences.
My favourite living race horse is the great Frankel, trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil and owned by Khalid ibn Abdullah Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. Frankel won all his races including the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot in 2012 and is now at stud at Juddmonte in Newmarket.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Name your top five London developments?
- The Knightsbridge
- Candy & Candy’s One Hyde Park development, for their foresight at the time in the market to create a product which met most needs.
- Finchatton’s Grosvenor Square
- Chelsea Barracks by Qatari Diar
- Mike Spink’s development on Rutland Gate.
If you could own any property in prime Surrey what would it be?
- Either Kingsbourne or Inglestone House on Wentworth; both are exceptional houses on Wentworth.
For an estate – Fernhill Park at Ascot is totally out of this world.
Your top three houses for proximity to a sporting venue?
- Braydene near Ascot. This is a great family house, within a mile or so of Royal Ascot’s racecourse. It was built by respected developers Millgate, who have created a good layout and excellent quality for the price.
- Moon Ridge, on Wentworth: Situated at at the 18th of the West Course on Wentworth. It is a really trophy house for the golf lover.
- I love the houses in Chelsea on St Leonard’s Terrace overlooking the cricket pitch at Burton Court and tennis courts. Facing towards Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital and home to the RHS Chelsea Flower show, it has to be one of my favourite spots in central London – classically English.
Who do you most admire in business past or present?
- Richard Branson – Britain’s all-time favourite entrepreneur and the Grosvenor family, for managing to keep their wealth for generations and not lose it – a very well run operation.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
- If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Where would you go to celebrate a standout property deal in town or country?
- Scott’s on Mount Street in Mayfair: Exceptional fish and a very British atmosphere. Mount Street has so many great shops which can be enjoyed after lunch, not to mention the great apartments for sale, which are located above the retail units on Mount Street.
- The Fat Duck at Bray: Exceptional food and a wine list to die for. Being located right on the River Thames provides a wonderful relaxed setting and riverside views. The properties around Bray are very special and within an hour of the outskirts of London.
On the run – your favourite coffee stops?
- Apostrophe as a chain – I frequently go to the one on Grosvenor Street in Mayfair because it’s convenient for many of my contacts who have private offices on that road.
- Nordic Baker as an independent – it is just of Baker Street in the heart of Marylebone.
Five best London streets?
- Kensington Palace Gardens/Palace Green – I count them as one
- St Leonard’s Terrace in Chelsea
- Cadogan Square
- Eaton Square
- Cornwall Terrace in Regent’s Park.
All are beautiful in their way and have some amazing properties. Finding good properties on these streets can be tricky, be we know which doors to knock on.
Top three addresses in the Surrey/Berkshire?
- Wick Lane in Englefield Green
- Wentworth in Virginia Water
- Ascot in Berkshire.
Finally, what do you think your markets will be doing in a decade from now?
I believe that property prices will at least double in the next decade across the prime markets.