Globetrotter: Alexander Classen

The Coutts International chief executive on chasing millionaires in Asia - and being obliged to eat a live snake's bladder in Taipei.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Where do you travel?

Every week I fly between London, where my family is based, and headquarters in Zurich. I'm on the 6am flight every Monday and get the last flight to London on Thursday. I go to Asia every six weeks, the Middle East every few months and India about four times a year.

What do you do when you get there?

I manage 1,400 people worldwide. We're focusing on Asia, looking for investment opportunities. An international client of Coutts needs at least £1m in liquid assets.

How do you manage cultural differences?

In the east, how you receive a business card is crucial. You look at the card, acknowledge it and give eye contact. You certainly don't put it straight in your pocket. I saw a European colleague once scribbling on the back of one because he'd forgotten his notepad. I had to kick him under the table.

Do you travel alone?

Mostly. I spend the time catching up on work or sleep. Recently, I watched an intense documentary on motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna and I'm a chapter into the Steve Jobs biography.

Favourite airport?

Singapore. It's the most efficient and well-designed by a mile. It's almost more like a vacation place than an airport.

Most memorable experience?

In Asia it's rude to turn down a dish. I was given the ultimate test in Snake Alley in Taipei. A local tradition is to take a live snake, slice it open and remove its bladder and then offer it as a drink. It supposedly has strong medicinal virtues, but is the worst delicacy I've stomached.

Worst-ever travel experience?

Just over a year ago, I was due to fly to Zurich with my wife, who was coming through the UK from India. As she was due to land, the heavy snow started. After diversions through Manchester, a very uncomfortable Eurostar journey and another flight, we eventually made it back to Zurich and our six-year-old son three days later.

Jet lag remedy of choice?

Always pick night flights, so you can get some sleep. I drink lots of water, don't eat much and I'll head for the pool or gym after landing.

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