Keeping it in the family business
There aren’t too many family owned businesses that successfully pass the company on from generation to generation. Then there is the Zerbini’s. This family’s life has been a circus for 250 years — that’s ten consecutive generations. 70 year old Tarzan Zerbini pitched the family big top on a patch of asphalt in the NE this week. The family patriarch spoke with the Herald’s Valerie Fortney about circus life, famous co-workers, animal rights activists and an all too revealing kiss from an elephant.
Family Governance Explained
How is family governance relevant to investment professionals and Family Offices? What is a family constitution and how can it help avoid family conflicts? What lessons can we learn from the recent family conflicts that have been in the media in Asia? How should a family start if they want to form a family constitution?”
J.D. Neuhaus has been shifting loads for more than 260 years.
When Johann Diederich Neuhaus built his first wooden shaft winch in 1745, he presumably had no idea how decisive it would later become for the effortless movement of heavy loads. This masterpiece, however, did allow him to be registered as a “fabricator” in the “Masters’ roll of Sprockhoevel manufactories”.
Thus, the foundation stone for the J.D. Neuhaus company was laid. We initially produced winches for the locks and the many horse-drawn barges on the Ruhr river. Later, the winches were used for lifting railway carriages onto the tracks and for loading goods. Use in coal mines in the German Ruhr area became increasingly significant and in around 1880, our winches were already capable of moving loads of up to 7,500 kg. As the quality of the available materials improved, our products became increasingly compact and high-performance.
A historic innovation was made by us in 1952, with the construction of a hoist with a compressed-air driven vane motor. For our principal customers, who were from the underground mining industry, this represented a decisive advance. With the new J.D. Neuhaus air hoists, it was possible to work significantly more effectively, economically and safely. This marked the start of our very own economic miracle.
Still today, seven generations after its foundation, J.D. Neuhaus remains in family hands. The hoist museum at our Witten location demonstrates that history is a living part of our corporate culture. Since the mid-nineties, we have been a member of the “Les Hénokiens”, an association of companies that have been in business for at least 200 years, are still family-owned and managed by the descendents of the original founder. In the case of J.D. Neuhaus, this is Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé. Under his management, the course of the family-owned business was adapted to the changed conditions predominant in global markets.
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The origins of today’s expertise
Toward the middle of the 18th century, Geneva was profiting from the rise of the textile and watch-making industries, which triggered a process of capital accumulation and a concomitant demand for skilled bankers. Henri Hentsch established a silk-trading and commission business on January 11, 1796, before joining forces with his second cousin, Jean Gédéon Lombard on June 19, 1798.
The two men described their principal business as “commissions operations” – the exchange transactions necessitated by the multiple currencies in use during the period. Despite the upheaval caused by the Napoleonic occupation of Geneva, the Firm was able to develop its business, moving increasingly into asset management and advisory services.
Open to the world’s opportunities
During the Restoration, Geneva, now part of Switzerland, saw a return to stability and growth. Beginning in 1830, Jean-Eloi Lombard took over the Bank’s internal development, acting as director for the next 40 years. His brother Alexandre, meanwhile, struck out for new horizons as one of the first to recognize the potential of North America. Their new Partner, Charles Odier, attended to international financing operations, particularly in maritime, river, and railway transport. For their part, Charles and Albert Hentsch carried on the work of their father Henri, who had since set up business in Paris.
Committed to the rise of Switzerland’s financial sector
In the mid-19th century, Alexis Lombard and James Odier took over the management of the Firm and, over the next 50 years, helped to make it one of Geneva’s leading institutions. Testament to the Bank’s contemporary celebrity can be found in Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon (1865), in which the Firm is listed among the backers of a fictional interplanetary project.
Driven by their entrepreneurial spirit, the Partners of the time helped to create the Geneva Stock Exchange, Switzerland’s first such institution, in 1857, and the Swiss National Bank in 1907. They also pioneered the field of pensions: James Odier and Jules Darier Rey founded the first local life insurance company, La Genevoise, in 1872, and the Bank established a pension fund for its employees in 1910, whereas Switzerland itself only began considering a social security program in 1925.
Riding out crises
As dark clouds were massing on the political horizon at the dawn of the 20th century, Emile Odier, Albert Lombard, Jean Lombard, and Edmond Odier were busy making sure that everything remained on an even keel at the Bank. Although the First World War left Geneva unscathed, it had serious repercussions on business.
At an international level, the end of the war also brought new challenges in the form of restrictions imposed on free trade by the former combatants. Moreover, the crisis that struck the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 quickly spread to Europe and then Geneva. The Firm rode out this difficult period, which saw a slowdown in its activities that lasted until the end of the Second World War.
Pioneers in an everchanging world
After the Second World War, Geneva’s financial sector took part in the reconstruction efforts of the Thirty Glorious Years, which produced a major demand for capital as well as considerable wealth.
At the instigation of Marcel Odier, the Firm became the first private bank to open a branch abroad, in Montreal in 1951, and it installed the Bank’s first IT system in 1957.
The Firm also pioneered the creation and distribution of mutual funds in Europe and established a department dedicated to institutional investors in the early 1970s. It became the first European bank with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1979 and it helped set up the Swiss Electronic Exchange in 1993.
It was this same spirit of innovation that led to its launch in 1995 of the very first industry fund with its own Scientific Advisory Board.
Two centuries of expertise oriented toward the future
Faithful to the principles that have ensured the transmission of their ancestors’ values from generation to generation, the current Partners of Lombard Odier head a firm of private bankers that is the oldest in Geneva and has a presence in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and the Americas.
Lombard Odier continues to be an innovator in the field of investment and to design bespoke banking solutions.