Union Bancaire Privee

Just like the four other private banks visited in Geneva, Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) says they never received my letter of introduction mailed a month earlier from Lausanne, a measly 35 miles away. Sure sounds suspicious.

I drop by three times and on the third visit I meet with Michael Wyler, Member Executive Management, who isn't very happy with my dropping by without making an appointment. My visit lasts all of eight minutes as Wyler says he's extremely busy. Why so busy? Putting the final touches on UBP's acquisition of Discount Bank and Trust Company, a smaller Geneva rival. The enlarged bank will have 1,400 employees and 80 billion Swiss Francs of assets under management.

Headquarters is a small eight-story building built in the 1950's. This is Geneva's prime high-end shopping area with many big name boutiques nearby. A Hugo Boss store stands directly across the street. About 150 employees work in the building. UBP isn't a very old bank, founded in 1969 by Edgar de Picciotto. His son, Guy de Picciotto, is CEO of this family-owned bank.

Smoking is allowed in the offices, there's a corporate art collection that Wyler describes as contemporary and my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom is denied. Wyler answers my questions not from the head office but in the lobby of a nearby building. The closest I get to seeing the head office was during my first visit when I walked in and the security guard/receptionist mistook me for a delivery guy.