How can this be? I go around the globe visiting the worlds biggest
companies yet I'm visiting Bondpartners, with only $10 million
in revenues and 40 employees? While researching Swiss companies
to visit I happened upon Bondpartners' website (bpl-bondpartners.ch)
and was intrigued to read that their head office in Lausanne
was located in the Queen of Spain's former residence. Hmm, sounds
like good corporate trivia to me.
Back in the early part of the 1900's the very wealthy built large
ornate mansions along Lausanne's lakefront area. Quite a few
are still around and they look just as grand now as back then.
It's in this residential area that I find Bondpartners. No big
signs here, only a small plaque on an outside wall. Oops, my
mistake, it turns out that the small plaque says this is the
way to the service entrance. I continue along this street lined
with huge trees and dense plant growth until finding the correct
driveway entrance. You can't just enter the property uninvited
though, due to the large black wrought iron gates standing guard.
I buzz the buzzer box and after identifying myself the gates
are swung open.
Wow, walking up the driveway I marvel at the gorgeous grounds.
Colorful flowers, lush plant growth and mature trees encircle
the property. Built in 1935, the four-story green-colored villa
sits at the end of the circular driveway. In the far corner of
the property a guesthouse is visible.
Once inside the house, you don't feel like you're in an office
but inside someone's home. I'm meeting with Christian Plomb,
Executive Vice President and take a seat in the waiting area.
The wood floor creaks as you walk. There's a huge bookcase behind
where I'm sitting filled with what seems to be reference books
and to the side there's an ornate spiral staircase leading upstairs.
There's an aquarium by the staircase so I check out the fish-only
a few fish and nothing exotic looking.
After introductions Plomb and I hike up four floors to a meeting
room (there is an elevator but he likes the exercise) where he
clears up some confusion. I had assumed this place was used as
a summer residence for the Queen of Spain. Wrong. Remember General
Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1936-1975? The monarchy
was forced into exile and this place became her home (she's now
deceased). In 1975 when Franco died the monarchy was restored
and her son, King Juan Carlos l, has been reigning ever since.
Bondpartners bought the place in 1986 and has done a great job
in keeping the interior looking like a home. The exterior of
the building is protected (similar to a historic structure in
the USA or a listed building in the UK)) and can't be changed.
Bondpartners, founded in 1972, performs various dealing and brokerage
services oriented primarily to institutional investors and professional
operators (banks, insurance companies, pension funds, stockbrokers).
During my various treks I've been shown many a trading floor
but this is a first: a trading floor complete with a built in
fireplace. Yep, it used to be the main living room but now it's
home to about a dozen traders and a slew of computers. Actually,
they did a great job of putting the computer wiring and such
in the ceiling so the room doesn't look so clogged up.
Founder and CEO of Bondpartners is Henri Plomb so, it's not that
difficult getting permission to see his office and the boardroom.
Why? Remember Christian Plomb, the fellow showing me around?
The CEO is his father.
CEO Plomb's corner office on the first floor is not so much wide
as it is long. Why is that? It used to be the formal dining room.
Walking in I catch CEO Plomb hard at work. He's not sitting behind
his desk but at an elegant table, which turns out to be the boardroom
table. Two items in his office catch my eye. First, there's a
framed photo hanging on a wall with a woman wearing a crown and
yep, I guess right that it's not his wife but the Queen of Spain.
The second item is in a huge glass display case built into the
wall that evidently used to be filled with the queen's good china.
Now, it's completely filled with all kinds of interesting nik-naks
including a football. Not just any football but a football with
writing on it saying it's from the 1995 Super Bowl game between
the San Francisco 49er's and the San Diego Chargers (my hometown).
"How the heck did that get here", I ask CEO Plomb.
He says some family members live in the US and sent it to him.
Smoking is allowed, there's no formal dress code but ties are
required and shorts are banned. Parking isn't a problem plus
there're designated spots for bicycles. According to Christian
Plomb the cafeteria food is good. The company's art collection
is limited to Swiss artists and consists primarily of paintings
showing scenic lake scenes. The company's logo (a stylized letter
"B" with a "P" inside it) is the color blue.
Why? C. Plomb says it's his father's favorite color.
Funny story. Christian Plomb told me how the Queen of Spain was
fond of taking taxis around town so, she became pretty well known
to the drivers. After Bondpartners moved into the building Plomb
one day took a taxi to the office. When the driver pulled up
to the residence he asked Plomb what he was doing here. Plomb
explained what his company did and how they had moved into the
place. Well, the driver became very vocal and went on and on
about how they were desecrating the place by putting in computers
and making it offices. The berating continued even after Plomb
got out of the taxi so, as you would imagine the driver wasn't
given a tip..