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The origins of Swiss wealth management? Genevan private banking, 1800–1840

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2018

Stefano Ugolini*
University of Toulouse
S. Ugolini, University of Toulouse (Sciences Po Toulouse and LEREPS):


Geneva is host to the most ancient and venerable private banks of Switzerland, but not much is known about the circumstances in which the city allegedly developed an early competitive advantage in wealth management. Using an extraordinary qualitative source (Jacques Mirabaud's papers, and especially his memoirs), this article outlines the microstructure of Genevan private banking at the time of its emergence in the early nineteenth century. It finds that in those years, wealth managers’ ‘raw material’ did not consist of foreign capital, but of a remarkably abundant stock of domestic capital. Financial and social factors were intertwined in producing a very hierarchical division of labour in the origination and distribution of international sovereign loans.

Copyright © European Association for Banking and Financial History e.V. 2018 

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For their useful comments on an earlier draft, I thank Vincent Bignon, Damian Clavel, Marc Flandreau, Kim Oosterlinck, Tobias Straumann and participants at presentations in Geneva and Bern. I am also indebted to Rui Pedro Esteves and two anonymous referees for their help in improving the text. Financial support from Yves Mirabaud is gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimers apply.


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