The internet is humming with the news that George Osborne’s days of multi-tasking are behind him; as of April he will be joining the Mayfair boutique bank Robey Warshaw. Haven’t heard of it? Over the last five financial years, the firm has generated £187 million to be divided between its three founding partners. That’s about £12 million per year each – higher than many of the chief executives they advise.
With a new house to decorate in Bruton and divorce payments to keep up, one can see how Osborne might be tempted. Don’t forget that many of his Oxford chums have out-earned the former Chancellor of the Exchequer wildly: now’s his chance to catch up. “I think it will suit Osborne’s idea of himself to become a Master of the Universe and help close deals like a character in Succession,” says one City watcher. “He is a performative kind of guy.”
This performer will be in experienced hands. Sir Simon Robey, Philip Apostolides and Simon Warshaw have been famous “rainmakers” in previous roles at UBS and Morgan Stanley. According to one insider, Warshaw is ‘very hard working and intense’; Robey is known for his passion for the arts and music, and for eschewing (at least publicly) visible signs of wealth.
One major appeal for Osborne – aside from the presumably hefty pay packet – might be the quick commute from his home in Notting Hill to the office on Grosvenor Square. Working in Mayfair has its advantages: many boutique financial firms have access to garages in nearby mews where the Maseratis (Osborne drives one) and Jaguars can safely be parked. The bespoke tailor Thom Sweeney – a fashion mecca to hedge funders – is right around the corner on Old Burlington Street for lunchtime fittings, and John Lobb, another boutique-banker favourite for shoes, is not far away.
Then there’s the close proximity to the Lanserhof health clinic at the Arts Club London, not to mention Scott’s on Mount Street where Osborne will entertain regularly if and when lockdown ends. “Currently,” says a former colleague of Warshaw, “they’re all holed up in their chalets in Gstaad and Verbier but I don’t see them not wanting to come in after”. Large investment banks, mostly located in the City or Canary Wharf, might have ‘brand appeal’ but boutique firms offer a better lifestyle – depending of course on the ethos of the founding partners.
“Osborne will hardly be free of politics,” says a banker with a large American firm, “rather than an organisational view, small firms are about the personalities of its owners. Osborne will have to work harder I think, and really hammer at those contacts in his Rolodex. His future will depend on which doors he is able to open to get on the M&A [mergers and acquisitions] ticket. Then it will be ‘you eat what you kill’. The beauty is it will be very direct in a boutique”.
“Boutique M&A can be an exciting game,” says one financial writer. “And it’s a firm on a roll (for now).” It will be harder work than Osborne has been used to in his portfolio career but long hours will be made less painful by the opulence of the interior design, nice art on the walls and perks such as in-house chefs and even dog beds (one firm invites its staff to bring the pooches for the calming effect).
A designer who was involved with the refurbishment of the office at 9 Grosvenor Square says, “The brief was more to give a feel of Establishment and security with luxurious finishes and materials as opposed to a homey feeling.” The Grade-II listed townhouse was formerly John Adams’ home when he was first minister from the United States to the Court of St James’s in the 1780s; recently it housed Tony Blair’s private office.
Having a small staff – Robey Warshaw is thought to have no more than 13 in total – means more intimacy and banter. “It is definitely a better lifestyle and I expect much better pay these days given constraints on high-profile public company pay,” says one former Morgan Stanley banker who previously worked with Sir Simon.
“They have built up a fabulous team of key people and work the way they want to work, without the suffocating eye of compliance killing off all hope of nurturing the relationships they truly value. And for Robey Warshaw, Osborne is a totally complementary fit I would think. Win-win.” Investment banks have long hired politicians to make introductions. “Osborne will not be slaving over a spreadsheet,” says another banker, “he will be making calls, and people will take them.”
Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion