Bank Sarasin & Cie

Coming through Geneva earlier in the summer I visited a half-dozen private banks and it was a real trying experience. Inflexible, secretive and not very organized would be the words used to describe them. Only one admitted to having received my letter of introduction, which made me wonder as to their expertise in handling correspondence.

Bank Sarasin, with an estimated $26 billion in assets under management, has called Basel its home for over 150 years. Headquarters is a seven-story building a few blocks from Basel's city center. Built in 1993, over 350 employees work here.

It's a traditional bank lobby/reception area with bank tellers standing behind counters. Four very large paintings hang from walls and customers can take a seat on a half dozen blue padded chairs placed around several coffee tables. Reading material includes several Swiss/German newspapers and four large coffee table books on paintings-including one on Claude Monet's works.

Benedikt Gratzl, Director of Corporate Communications, greets me in the lobby and says they never received my letter of introduction mailed a month earlier to Peter Merian, Chairman of the Board. But, I'm in luck as Gratzl agrees to answer questions and show me around.

Smoking is allowed in offices, there's no on-site recreational facilities, if you drive to work you have to pay to park here, there isn't a cafeteria-though break areas are scattered about. It's six miles to Basel Airport, a mile to the nearest freeway and the company's art collection is primarily modern and limited to Swiss artists.
I can't see the CEO's sixth floor office due to "he's in a meeting". The boardroom on the top floor features an elongated table that seats 16 and commands a view of a nearby park.

Gratzl mentioned commuting cyclists having covered parking for their bikes. However, he neglected to mention he's a cyclist. Later in the day I ran into the suit-clad Gratzl pedaling home from work.