Sir Ernest Cassel, banker and royal financial advisor
Sir Ernest Cassel was born on 3 March 1852 in Cologne, although you would never guess that from his name. He was the son of Jewish parents and his father had a small money-lending business in Cologne. At fourteen he apprenticed himself to a bank, but less than two years later he left Germany for England and worked for several private banks in Liverpool, Paris and later even in London.
Talented and clever
Thanks to his quick mind, his persistence, and his unerring financial judgment, he became manager of a renowned bank within a very short time. Here, he was not only able to secure some risky investments that were thought to be lost a long time ago, but also to increase his salary from £200 to £5,000 within one year. Of course, he also knew how to invest his own money profitably and before his 30th birthday his private means had reached the considerable amount of more than £150,000.
Soon after this, he went into business independently, investing in gold mines in Siberia and ore mining in Sweden. He had shares in steel concerns and railroad companies, financed irrigation projects in Egypt and government bonds for Mexico, China and Uruguay. When he died in 1921, he left 400 million Swiss Francs.
The Right Honorable Sir Ernest Cassel
The numerous decorations and honors bestowed upon him are testimony to Sir Cassel’s high social status. In 1878, he married the Englishwoman Annette Maxwell and was soon moving in London’s highest aristocratic, political and business circles. After becoming «The Right Honorable Sir Ernest Cassel» at the turn of the century, the British King Edward VII made the German Ernest Cassel his private financial advisor and treasurer in 1902.
So what made this Englishman leave his comfortable life in London at that particular time to visit an almost inaccessible and unknown alp...?