Interview of Mr. Patrick Héritier

CEO of PLEION

Patrick Héritier started his banking career in 1997 with SBS / UBS, where he held different Executive positions before finally becoming Head of Private Banking for Chablais. In 2007, he joined Julius Baer as Managing Director, where he launched and developed the Verbier branch of the firm. In 2013, he became a member of Julius Baer’s Swiss Executive Committee and was given the management of the branch in Bern and eventually the Central and Eastern Regions in Switzerland from Bern to Saint Moritz.

In addition to his airline and fighter pilot experience, Patrick holds an Executive MBA (EMBA) from Rochester-Bern, and completed his Advanced Management Program at INSEAD Singapore. He also holds a CAS as board member from Bern University.

In 2017, Patrick joined PLEION as CEO and became a Member of the Board of Directors in 2020.

PLEION is an important player in the Mauritius financial services landscape. Please tell us more about your Group and its activities.

PLEION started its operations in Mauritius in 2007, with its core activity being wealth management. This decision came from the conviction that Mauritius, with its well-regulated and structured financial services sector coupled with its strategic geographic positioning, has attractive features for wealth management.

We have made tremendous progress since we started our activities in Switzerland in 1980. We strengthened ourselves, both in terms of geographical reach and capabilities. Today, we have five offices in strategic locations in Switzerland, one office in Monaco, and we are in the process of establishing a presence in Luxembourg. Over the years, we have built close relationships with our clients who trust us to manage their affairs despite the change in generational ownership.

Since 1980, we have naturally diversified our global offering to cater for the needs of clients looking for an integrated approach. Our range of services includes the distribution of financial products, the setting up of international structures across multiple jurisdictions, fund administration, real estate, relocation of High-Net-Worth Individuals, wealth structuring, consulting, corporate finance and advisory, fund management, as well as business IT solutions.

In Mauritius, we count 120 collaborators in two locations, namely Trianon and Grand Bay. Our approach consists of leveraging our Swiss and international expertise and experience in the financial sector by adding the capabilities and knowledge gained in Mauritius for serving both developed and emerging markets.

Since PLEION has set its footprint in Mauritius, the group has expanded its operations. Can you tell us more on your accomplishments and the reasons behind your strategy in Mauritius?

Since our inception in Mauritius, we have developed our expertise and provide, through the Mauritius International Financial Centre, services and solutions to corporates and individuals that invest and do business in Mauritius and mainland Africa. With our clients at the centre of everything we do, our strategy is to act as a powerful enabler, allowing them to maximise both their return on investment and the value of their company. We allow our clients to focus on their core activities and help them achieve their objectives.

We have been able to add corporate finance and advisory capabilities to our range of services and disrupt the market with innovative offerings. Since starting its operations in 2019, PLEION Corporate Finance Ltd has successfully helped several Mauritian companies, raising MUR 6 billion of loan. Recently, PLEION Corporate Finance organised a Green Bond Boot Camp, a first in Mauritius, in collaboration with Climate Bonds Initiative. We are again leveraging on our international expertise.

We are also very happy to announce that we are in advanced merger talks with another group present in Switzerland, Russia, Thailand, and Dubai, engaged in wealth management, family office, and financial and estate planning. This move will strengthen our global reach and our position as the integrated wealth partner for our clients. It is important to understand that we see Mauritius and Dubai as complementary jurisdictions. In fact, through our offices in various jurisdictions, we are able to add an international dimension to the solutions we provide to our clients.

With our expertise and experience in wealth management and pension fund management in Switzerland, we have as objective to bring our know-how to the local market.

Does Mauritius have the prerequisites for global companies to domicile their business in the jurisdiction?

Since gaining its independence in the late 1960s and despite the odds, Mauritius has gone through an outstanding transformation. From being a monocrop economy dependent on sugarcane to transforming into a strong and diversified one, Mauritius today prides itself to be an ideal jurisdiction for global companies to domicile their business. Success and development have paved the way thanks to some key fundamentals: economic democratisation, inclusive growth, development of human capital and social mobility. This can be appreciated by looking at the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 report where Mauritius ranks 13th globally.

Over the years, Mauritius has put in place a good regulatory framework that has attracted many investors. Today, the jurisdiction faces the economic headwinds of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfavourable report from the EU. However, improvements are being made and the FATF recently praised the advances of Mauritius in the strengthening of the regulations pertaining to AML/CFT. In the short run, the Mauritian financial sector faces various challenges. In the long term however, Mauritius will benefit from the advantages of being at par with best international practices, especially in doing business with sub-Saharan Africa and the world.

In addition to its regulations, Mauritius ranks first among African countries in numerous international indices, including ICT development, good governance, ease of doing business, political & social stability and economic freedom, amongst others. Indeed, Mauritius provides a business and investment-friendly environment to corporates and investors with its multilingual population and strong hybrid legal system.

On top of being a conducive place to do business, Mauritius offers a secure living environment; the quality of life makes it worthwhile for family relocation. Mauritius has attracted many expatriates and highly qualified professionals who are continuously helping in shaping up the Mauritius International Financial Centre. Indeed, through PLEION Private Services Ltd, a company specialising in the sale of luxury villas and apartments in Mauritius, we noticed that many people who want to do business in Mauritius are interested to invest in the booming real estate sector of the island. In this respect, we hope that the current pandemic will soon be subdued.

Various companies are currently using Mauritius as the platform for African bound operations. What are your views, and is Mauritius a fit for African operations?

We have seen a growing interest for Mauritius from individuals and corporates from Africa, Europe and Asia, looking to work in a safe, COVID-free environment and cost-efficient jurisdiction, from where they can carry out their operations seamlessly.

According to Nitin Collappen, Managing Director of Sunibel Corporate Services Ltd, a provider of tailored corporate, trust, fund and fiduciary services – and one of our partner companies – in many cases, the features of Mauritius mentioned above constitute an ecosystem that international clients are looking for to conduct business. The certainty of the law, the ability to have 100% foreign ownership, the free movement of capital and dividends, the absence of exchange control and Investment Promotion & Protection Agreements (IPPAs) that Mauritius has with various African countries, are definitely a plus when deciding to do business from Mauritius.

The jurisdiction is keeping up with international business trends by adding more financial products to its portfolio and by regulating certain activities. These include Fintech related products (Custodian Services Licence for Digital Assets; Investment in cryptocurrency as a digital asset; Securities Token Offerings; and Peer to peer lending platforms) and Variable Capital Company structures, to name a few. New financial products are only going to attract more sophisticated investors.

Mauritius has an important role to play in channelling investments and business to Africa and remains the preferred investment platform at the confluence of Africa and Asia. The latest AfrAsia Bank Africa Wealth Report highlights what we already knew, which is that Mauritius has an untapped potential for wealth management in Africa. The reality is that emerging markets in Africa will definitely provide higher returns compared to traditional markets. This is where capital might flow more in the future and Mauritius is the ideal place to structure and manage those investments.

Interviewed by Nivesha Seebah