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History

BANKING ON ASIA

In 1792, George Earl Macartney set sail for Peking as Britain's fi rst ambassador to China. He returned two years later, and gave his friend and banker Th omas Coutts the wallpaper that now adorns the Coutts Board Room at 440 Strand in London. At the time of the gift , Th omas Coutts was living above the banking premises at 59 Strand and he hung the paper in his drawing room.

Hand-painted on mulberry paper, it is believed to have come from the Wuyi district in China's Fujian province. A wide range of industries is depicted on the paper: the tea industry, silk production, agriculture, pottery and recreation in the form of Chinese opera.

Today, a replica of the wallpaper greets visitors to the Coutts offi ce in Singapore. Th e Singapore branch of private bank Coutts & Co. was established in the mid-90s, but the bank's ties to Asia date back much further to the 1800s.
Like Lord Macartney, Coutts' earliest clients in this region were exceptional individuals who contributed to the development of Singapore and South East Asia. Th e historical part of the city is dotted with their names and monuments.
Singapore's Clarke Quay was named after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore's second Governor and Governor of the Straits Settlements from 1873 to 1875, who played a key role in the development of Singapore's port, one of the world's busiest today.
Another iconic Singapore landmark, Mount Faber, was named after Captain Charles Edward Faber. Aft er his arrival in 1844, he oversaw the building of Mount Faber's road and a signal station. He was also credited with creating important components of Singapore's infrastructure.
Some of the most recognizable monuments in Singapore are associated with Coutts clients. The Dalhousie Obelisk at Singapore's Empress Place commemorates the second visit of the Marquess of Dalhousie, Governor General of India, to Singapore in 1850. Similarly, a bronze statue of Sir Stamford Raffl es, the founding father of Singapore, was created by English sculptor Th omas Woolner in 1887.

The British Heritage

The bank that was to become Coutts was established "at the sign of the Th ree Crowns" in the Strand in London in 1692. Th e founder, John Campbell moved from Edinburgh to London to establish his goldsmithbanker's shop within sight of the bank's present head offi ce on the Strand. Th e bank fi rst acquired the name Coutts in 1755, when James Coutts married into the Campbell family and became a partner in the venture. Th e customers who banked with Coutts then were not only men and women of rank, power and infl uence, but people of distinction in the world of science, theatre and the arts, like Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Waldemar Kovalevsky and Frederic Chopin.

Connections with Russia

Th e bank's ties with Russia date back to the 18th century where Coutts had dealings with correspondent banks and agents in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Even then, extraordinary individuals, such as British ambassadors to Russia and the Russian royalty, banked with Coutts.
The 18th century politician, Hans Stanley was appointed ambassador extraordinary to Russia in 1766. Stanley was to achieve a special mission, a triple defensive alliance between Britain, Prussia and Russia. Th e secrecy behind the plans and the animosity of the Prussians led to the abandoning of the scheme and Stanley never had to make his Russian journey.
In 1764, George Macartney went to Russia as envoy extraordinary with the task of impressing Empress Catherine. He signed a treaty maintaining Britain's preferential status in the country and allowing merchants to settle anywhere. Th e secretive nature of Stanley's mission caused Macartney to return to England in 1767. In the same year, Macartney was appointed full ambassador to Russia but had to withdraw as he had seduced two Russian ladies thus damaging his standing as a diplomat.
Another notable client of Coutts was Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, later Duchess of Edinburgh who was the daughter of Tsar Alexander II and in 1874 married Queen Victoria's son, Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh. Th e couple returned to England and set up home at Clarence House where the Duke built a Russian Orthodox chapel for his wife.

Coutts in Asia

Today, Coutts Singapore branch serves clients based in Southeast Asia, including Russian and other Eastern European expatriates, professionals and business owners, providing access to investments, wealth structuring, wealth management services, family governance and philanthropy.
"While Singapore has traditionally been a popular tourist destination for the Russian and CIS community, it is increasingly becoming a launch base for the wealthy seeking exposure to growth opportunities in Asia," says Nick Pollard, CEO, Coutts Asia. "Coutts is well positioned to assist in this regard. We feel it is especially important for clients to have a banker who has a cultural affi nity with them, and who understands the culture and networks of Asia."

for 103rd Meridian

 

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