Why Nicolas Van Patrick is truly international
By Nic Pejacsevich
Recently, on two occasions, I have been asked by vendors considering listing their properties with Nicolas Van Patrick what I think about some other agents having more of an international reach. I know what they mean – they see those large firms with plenty of offices overseas as perhaps better placed to sell their Knightsbridge property because of their perceived wide reach.
But while I understand what they are getting at, such enquiries make me chuckle as you will struggle to find a more international agent than Patrick or myself. Put us together with the ‘Van’ between us – John Fentener Van Vlissingen, our Dutch industrial partner – and in NVP, you have a formidable level of international-ness.
I am of Austrian-Hungarian and Italian heritage, born in Caracas, moving to Rome at the age of nine, then onto New York and back to Rome before finally settling in London 24 years ago. In the mid-nineties, London was morphing into a global international city, full of opportunity and I chose to stay and make my life here.
Patrick has Spanish-French heritage and his journey was not dissimilar in that he was born elsewhere, travelled for his studies and then settled in PCL. Patrick was born in Madrid before moving to London as a young boy to attend the Knightsbridge Prep school Hill House, partly because it was so international. London wasn’t quite as global in its outlook in the eighties as it is now and Patrick studied in Paris and Switzerland before settling in London and building a career and family here. Patrick may have been born overseas but he has grown up in the neighbourhood in which he now works so has a unique understanding of Knightsbridge and has built an impressive network here over a long period of time. Yet crucially he also ‘gets’ what it means to be an international domestic foreigner as many of our clients are – someone from abroad who settled in London some time ago and made it their home.
Understanding the culture
All these travel and life experiences mean we are fluent in five languages between us and most of our clients are international. Indeed, it is not exaggerating to say that our international-ness really is our USP. On those valuations where our international reach is questioned, we feel we are right to push back and argue that on the contrary, we are very international indeed. Many people who weren’t born in the UK speak English but what puts them at ease is someone who can also converse in their native dialogue and understands their culture. Terms of reference, being able to draw on our experience of living in other countries – all these are important when we speak to clients. Take, for example, a recent instruction we won on a property in Ennismore Gardens, where the vendor is a Hungarian Baron. I have no doubt that our background helped in winning that business.
Ultra-high-net-worth buyers who are looking at London are unlikely to attend an international trade show in Beijing; rather they will have advisers on the ground which are recommended to them. They will have local property finders already in London, doing the groundwork for them. When we meet them, they can relate to us as we are truly international.
Knightsbridge – a truly international borough
Knightsbridge appeals to Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern buyers in particular, as well as European and domestic clients. Being based in Knightsbridge for so long has helped Patrick receive many referrals over the years. Growing up in London in an international environment and attending an international school means many of his contemporaries who are now in their late-40s and mid-50s have taken over the family business and come to him for advice. They all speak English as their mother tongue but understand the Middle East as well, particularly the culture. It all boils down to trust, as the Middle Easterns are very sophisticated buyers and have good advisers.
We firmly believe that one of the reasons we have done well in this market is down to our heritage, the fact that we have travelled a lot, our sensibility to foreign buyers and being English almost by default because we have lived here such a long time. We have a level of sensitivity which is really important. I am hugely grateful to London for giving me what I have today – a family and a business. But at the same time, not being English has helped us grow the business the way we wanted to and believed we should.
Indeed, I look forward to when we are asked the question about our international-ness because I am quite relaxed about it: if you want international reach, you have it right here.