The Business Year

Gonzalo Rodriguez

SPAIN - Finance

Gonzalo Rodríguez-Fraile

CEO, A&G

Bio

Gonzalo Rodríguez-Fraile Huete has been Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of A&G Banco, S.A.U. since 2019, and a member of its Board of Directors since 2018. He holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from CUNEF (Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros), and a Certificate in Financial Advice (CAF). He began his career as an Analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, first at the London headquarters and later at the Madrid headquarters. In 2003 he founded Ropel Financial Services, S.L. (Agent of the A&G Group), being also CEO and Senior Partner with a team of 5 people under his charge. Since 2018, he is also sole director of this company.

"It is easy for a company to say it is client-focused but it needs to show it."
TBY talks to Gonzalo Rodríguez-Fraile, CEO of A&G, about the evolution of the company, competition, and the advantages of investing in Spain.
How has A&G’s journey in Spain evolved since its establishment in 1987?

We were established in 1987 with the vision of pioneering a multi-family office concept. Recognizing the advanced financial landscape of the US compared to Spain at the time, we aimed to provide families with comprehensive financial guidance. Over the years, our growth trajectory expanded as we integrated a Swiss private bank, initially a Swiss cantonal bank known as BCV, into our operations around 2000. This partnership marked a significant milestone, increasing our credibility with clients due to the esteemed reputation associated with Swiss banking. As our collaboration with BCV deepened, we capitalized on opportunities to diversify our services. This included the establishment of a mutual fund company, enabling us to further cater to evolving client needs. However, as banking institutions encountered challenges, particularly with local government involvement, we remained steadfast in our commitment to international standards and practices. This stance set us apart within the BCV network, ultimately leading to strategic discussions with EFG, a prominent Swiss bank specializing in private banking. EFG’s acquisition of a stake in BCV facilitated our expansion into Luxembourg, where we secured a banking license, further enhancing our global footprint. Despite our growth, our commitment to being a multi-family office remained. Obtaining a Spanish banking license was pivotal. This license not only allows us to offer lending services against portfolios but also strengthens our position within the regulated Spanish financial landscape, overseen by the esteemed Bank of Spain. At present, A&G manages approximately EUR14 billion in assets across 10 offices in Spain and our Luxembourg asset management company, with a workforce of around 80 individuals who are also shareholders in our company. This partnership model reinforces our dedication to collaborative success and distinguishes us within the industry.

How does A&G’s client-focused approach set it apart from competitors in the industry?

It is easy for a company to say it is client-focused but it needs to show it. Most of the people in front of clients are partners who are here for the long run, not just for a bonus. They are thinking 10-15 years down the line because they have a great deal of wealth invested in A&G. In our business, if something goes wrong, people will not forget. We ensure that our client-facing team is the best and that we do not rotate those people. We want clients to be comfortable, which is why we do not engage in product pushing or set objectives to sell a specific amount or produce a certain revenue. We think more long term. Many of our contracts are performance-based, so both the client and us stand to make more money.

What strategies or initiatives does A&G have in place to pursue expansion into new markets?

Our growth has never been strategic—it has always been based on having the right person. Once we do, we will expand into a location. For example, when we started expanding into Spain, we opened offices in Madrid, Barcelona, and Vallodolid, respectively. However, other consultants would say we should have prioritized cities like Bilbao, Valencia, or Seville. Still, we ultimately believe that with the right people in place, one can do business in any city. If you are with the wrong people in the right place you have a mess. We want our team to become partners who ensure that business operations proceed smoothly. They also safeguard against making regulatory mistakes that could lead to problems. As shareholders, they are fully invested in the company’s success. A&G is open to outside offers and is constantly refining its strategy. The most important thing is to maintain our DNA without losing our agility. We always prioritize agility and preserving our DNA.

With the substantial growth of cryptocurrency, how does the introduction of the FIL cryptocurrency fund align with this trend?

We have to serve our clients in the best way possible. Cryptocurrencies are an asset class that some investors like while others do not. We felt it was important to give our clients access to that asset class and that a FIL fund was the best way to proceed. It is regulated but gives one the flexibility to go into cryptocurrencies. It solved the issue of investor not knowing how to trade it. Younger generations find it easy to have a ledger and a wallet. It is also tax efficient for an investment fund. It makes sense, and many people have shown an interest in it. This product is only accessible to professional investors.

How has A&G responded to the growing interest in ESG criteria among clients, and what initiatives have been undertaken in this regard?

Institutions were implementing ESG regulations even before final clients had started requesting them. Now, many are expressing a greater interest in them. When talking to clients, we inquire about the importance of ESG to them, what they are willing to sacrifice for it, and how conscientious their portfolio should be in terms of ESG criteria. Since August, there has been a noticeable growing trend, and we are launching products accordingly. We previously launched a renewable energies fund before the pandemic and last year we launched an energy tech transition fund that invests in companies related to that transition or in venture capital at the pre-growth stage. There is increasing interest in products of this nature. On the advisory side, we consult our clients and adapt to their preferences.

What advice or guidance would you offer to a foreign investor considering investment opportunities in Spain?

Spain offers an appealing mix as a developed country with strong personal security and enforceable laws. The climate is exceptional, making it an ideal place to reside, with vibrant activity and opportunities abound. Spain, particularly Madrid, is gaining recognition for its remarkable growth and development, making it a prime destination for investment and lifestyle pursuits. Few places offer such a combination of amenities and opportunities simultaneously. Our clients seek more than just a service provider in Spain; they want a local partner. Whether it is a real estate transaction or investment, they prefer someone with deep local knowledge and presence. While we provide advice, we also invest our firm’s resources and our partners’ personal funds. This demonstrates our commitment and reinforces our credibility in the eyes of our clients. Our approach is performance-based, aiming to build long-term relationships spanning generations. They seek a partner with whom they can conduct business not just for the present but for decades to come, knowing that our legacy extends to our successors.

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