Life after capital markets

If you're dreaming of a vacation or retirement, or thinking about the big picture of life, here are some places to consider.
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Life after bonds: Mark Leahy on a tractor
<div style="text-align: left;"> Life after bonds: Mark Leahy on a tractor </div>

As the end of the year draws near and more banks continue to downsize, many in the industry are surely thinking it’s time for a break. Perhaps just to recharge and fight the good fight. Or maybe to rethink the meaning of life.

Either way, people who were once active in the capital markets are likely to know precisely what their former peers need to de-stress — and a few have launched projects that aim to do just that.

Thanyamundra is one such resort. Owned by entrepreneur Klaus Hebben, this traditionally styled teak home is perched in a beautiful valley next to Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park, just two hours north of Phuket, with two compounds of nine suites — of which there are four that boast living rooms as well as bedrooms.

Phuket is known for its high-end resorts, pristine beachfronts, world-class golf courses and, for better or worse, the exuberant nightlife district of Patong. But Thanyamundra is the area’s first five-star “organic resort”, offering a peaceful sanctuary akin to a Himalayan monastery. Its staff are trained to accommodate travellers who expect a butler of the highest standards.

If, like most bankers I speak to, a constant consideration is where to retire, to what sort of home and how to make that decision a dividend-paying investment — this is a blueprint worth considering.

Hebben is a triathlon-competing, globe-trotting, 67-year-old financier. After more than 20 years heading up various ventures, including London-based investment management company CAL Investments, and standing out as a director on at least eight boards ranging from pharmaceutical companies to finance institutions, it’s difficult to say he’s slowing down. But his investment direction is yet again changing: now his focus is on developing Thanyapura, Phuket’s new world-class campus of wellness, health, sport and education.

Hebben has invested more than $100 million in the 23-hectare campus that comprises three centres: Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club, a world-class sports and fitness facility for elite athletes and amateur enthusiasts, Phuket International Academy Day School and the Thanyapura Mind Centre.

These state-of the-art facilities are located amid lush hills and bushland just 15 minutes from Phuket International Airport, and there are rooms to stay in here: the 77-room Thanyapura Sports Hotel (opening December 2012) and the 38-room Thanyapura Retreat.

But Thanyapura’s satellite resort two hours’ drive away in the stunning national park offers real exclusivity — with just nine rooms and personalised butler service, you are assured of no crowds.

No matter which of his resorts you choose, you’re effectively picking from one of the places he built for his retirement and a business. And as a business, it’s an admirable blueprint for success. His organic farm feeds him — but also his businesses. He hires locally and from abroad, so he also built a school, to ensure he can attract the best staff and get support from the local community.

As a guide for how you should retire — it’s worth a visit to his home-cum-resort, which reflects Hebben’s philosophy. Every inch of the set-up and design encourages a calm, mindful approach to life. The melodic Thai music ever-present in the background of the living room (even in the mini-van that picks you up from the airport) is perhaps de rigueur at all resorts in Thailand, maybe even passé, but with the Tibetan thankas hanging in most rooms, and a library of Buddhist teachings, it’s clear the ambiance is a lifestyle choice. (Indeed, Hebben is a sponsor of many Tibetan Buddhist projects, including translating ancient texts.)

As a weekend-getaway choice, it also stands out. I challenge you to find better food anywhere in Thailand. If you do, I’d wager it actually came from his organic farm. His gym — with state-of the-art aerobic equipment, stretching machines, an inversion table (for stretching the back) and aesthetically pleasing to the eye (and hands) dumbbells — surpasses most gyms I have used in Hong Kong. The jasmine planted along the side and far end of the 50-metre infinity pool will transform your swim. With free wifi in all the rooms, it’s easy to stay connected to the office and given the mist-filled rolling hills visible from the rooms, you may not even mind working on a Sunday.

When former Deutsche Bank and Nomura DCM banker Mark Leahy sent around details about Legacy Retreat — a high-end coaching and therapy-based programme that caters for “cosmopolitan clientele who lead busy lives and crave a pause to get some perspective and balance, away from the noise” — emails went buzzing. Is this really what he’s up to? And do I have to pay top dollar to meditate?

Really, it’s what he and his wife Crystal Lim Leahy are up to — Crystal is also an ex-banker, who worked at UBS and CLSA. They are working in conjunction with the co-heads of Integrated Therapy, Jutka Freiman and Volker Krohn, who together have five decades of experience coaching clientele.

If you’re sceptical about self-improvement, the sales pitch is an uphill battle. If you’re not, here’s one huge selling point: this is for you. The guest list for last week’s Hong Kong roadshow to showcase the project was a who’s who of bankers.

If you’re involved in capital markets, I’m willing to wager you don’t want to explore self-development themes with the founders of Occupy Wall Street. Chances are, though, they won’t be at a retreat at the uber-glamorous Alila Villas Soori in Bali, which was voted as one of the top 10 new resorts in the world by Traveller Magazine this year, and is where the next retreat will be located (one five day/ four night session starting on December 7; the second one beginning on April 17, 2013).

You can expect life-coaching sessions with a focus on mindfulness and spiritual awareness — not designed to “fix you” in a weekend, but rather to refocus your outlook so that you have skills to cope with stressful issues later on. There are group sessions and private counselling meetings, as well as a custom-tailored series of Ayurvedic and Oriental medicine consultations with leading Sydney-based expert Mark Phillips. And if you’re inclined, there are meditation and visualisation sessions, as well as yoga and Qi Gong. And of course, gourmet meals and a luxurious setting.

For more information (before you get back to work) contact:
[email protected]

[email protected]

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