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The challenge of living next door to a senior banker

Living in close proximity to anyone can be hard, but as Tidjane Thiam and Iqbal Khan appear to have found out, living next to a senior financial services professional can be particularly 'challenging.'

Following yesterday's lurid reports of an argument at a Thiam house party, the Financial Times says the dispute had history. It was apparently about house renovations.

Bizarrely, the two men are neighbors and share a 'fence.' This seems to have been fate rather than intention: Khan's wife's family owned his house 'for years' and Thiam just happened to live next door. 

The FT says the neighbors (and they presumably are still neighors), live in the Herrliberg area of Zurich. You can see the two men's houses in a photograph here and it turns out they're rather more proximate than 'sharing a fence' implies.

The Herrliberg residences of Khan and Thiam are not exactly fancy London mansions or Manhattan condos. Thiam's reportedly cost him CHF10m when he bought it around 2015 but appears to be a 1960s-style bungalow with solar panels. Khan has an actual house. 

Having achieved his wife's family residence, the FT says Khan set about renovating it. For two entire years, he upgraded his bungalow with building work even taking place at weekends. It's not clear what Khan's place looked like by the end of it all, but presumably it was even more fancy and looked down on Thiam's. In retaliation, Thiam planted some large trees.

Irrespective of what happened at the drinks party where tensions over Khan's renovations seem to have bubbled over, it's worth bearing in mind that bankers and finance professionals don't have a great track record as neighbors anywhere.

The inherent problem is that senior people tend to have money and money tends to mean upgrading with all its attendant noise and disruption. In London, hedge fund managers are regularly renovating basements and hedge fund manager Sebastian Eisler caused an outcry during the construction a 440 square foot below his seven bedroomed house in Haringey which allegedly involved lorries driving through a local nature reserve. In the U.S., there's the ongoing complex dispute between hedge fund manager Louis Bacon and neighbor Peter Nygard, who are not the best of friends. 

A confluence of finance people in one place can therefore be a problem. It's not that unusual for people from the same firm to live nearby. London's South Kensington is alive with MDs from BNP Paribas. In 2015, Lloyd Blankfein, then CEO of Goldman Sachs bought himself a Florida condo for $9.5m and Michael Sherwood, then head of Goldman Sachs International bought himself a condo downstairs for $10.5m.

People who work for the same firm like the same things.

Khan and Thiam both seem to have liked Herrliberg. Whether Herrliberg likes them, however, is another matter. Khan might presume some kind of ancestral right to the village given his wife's family's connections, but when Thiam arrived in 2015 there were concerns that he might attract fans and disturb the peace. At the time, residents said Thiam would be welcome if he were to shop in the local Volg supermarket. He and Khan might need to rather more to ingratiate themselves with their neighbors now.

For anyone else in finance, there is surely a moral in this story. - Find out where your boss lives and avoid it like the plague. Especially if you are thinking of home improvements.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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