As the financial crisis has deepened there has been a rise in sales of safes as people question the safety of banks and put their faith in the “Bank of the Mattress”. In the popular imagination, the safe is usually a grey bulky object hidden behind an ornately framed painting. Imagine if there was a safe as beautiful as the prestige watches and jewellery it contained, with a lock, like in Homer’s Iliad, “that no God knew how to open.” This is the vision of German company Stockinger Safety First Class, engineers of luxury safes. CEO Dominik von Ribbentrop is the man behind that vision. Dominik von Ribbentrop’s story is a very timely one as he started in investment banking and private equity, grew disillusioned and became an entrepreneur. In acquiring the Stockinger company he discovered a nugget of gold in the gravel deposits at the bottom of the stock market.
I meet Dominik for lunch at 1 Lombard Street in the City in mid- October. He’s just flown in for business meetings from Munich to City Airport. We are surrounded by bankers and financial professionals in frenzied discussion about the credit crunch, their chatter echoing around the neoclassical interior up to the domed skylights by Pietro Agostini. The restaurant is appropriately housed in a former banking hall. Dominik does not regret leaving the world of private equity and investment banking. “I enjoyed it very much but it never gave me 100 per cent fulfilment,” he says.“I see myself as an entrepreneur and I really like discovering great stories and great companies, seeing value where people don’t see it. I would rather spend a day with my employees at
the Octoberfest and hear that they enjoy working for me than carry out those soulless transactions.”