Several private bankers began their entrepreneurial careers in trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Louis Gonet followed suit by opening a commercial business in Nyon in 1842, whose activities included the transport of goods across Lake Geneva. The success of his venture meant that he soon needed the services of a bank, and he set up one of the first banks in the canton of Vaud.
Louis Gonet was joined by his son, Auguste-Edouard Gonet, who became a partner in 1892 and took over the reins in 1908 when his father died. Auguste-Edouard Gonet embodied the wise, prudent approach that has typified Gonet & Cie’s investment policy ever since. He foresaw the turbulent times in store for Europe, particularly the First World War, and, by selling the stocks and bonds held by the savings bank that he had set up, he made a fine profit for the depositors, in a pioneering version of the modern investment fund. He placed strict limits on risk, investing only in people and companies that he knew: businessmen, farmers and the region’s wine growers.
His son, Alfred Gonet, who joined the family bank in 1922, inherited the same strong sense of responsibility. Under his leadership, the firm focused increasingly on wealth management. By 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, it was free of all financing commitments.
As his own son had opted for another profession, Alfred Gonet suggested that his nephews, Pierre and Bernard Gonet, consider a career in banking. The two brothers studied economics, but their uncle died suddenly, before being able to take them into Gonet & Cie. As they were still young and inexperienced and lacked the requisite financial means, Pierre and Bernard Gonet had to give up the idea of taking over the family business, which was transformed into a limited liability company. This was finally sold, in 1964, to a large Swiss bank, which subsequently ceded part of its stake to a European banking group.
Gonet & Cie re-emerged – this time in Geneva – due entirely to the tenacity of Pierre and Bernard Gonet, who were determined to resurrect this deep-rooted family tradition. Having completed their training abroad, in England, Canada and America, they returned to Geneva armed with a sense of purpose and valuable experience.
In 1959, Bernard Gonet took up a position with Barrelet, Pidoux & Cie, a bank created in 1845 by Frédéric de Seigneux, a founding member of the Geneva Stock Exchange. The young man was quickly noticed for his outgoing personality, integrity and mastery of his profession, combined with innovative thinking. He became a partner in 1968.
Pierre Gonet joined his brother as a partner, bringing with him his training as an economist and a specialist in international stock markets, and his experience as a stockbroker and partner at Merrill Lynch. The bank –which was soon to benefit from his talents as both organiser and asset manager – was renamed Pidoux, Gonet & Cie, and then Gonet & Cie. True to the spirit of their predecessors the two brothers injected new life and energy into the business.
Following the death of Bernard Gonet, in 1980, Pierre Gonet continued to modernise the bank and substantially increased its equity capital. At the same time he gave it an international dimension, by setting up Gonet Bank & Trust (Bahamas). His constant involvement in the bank development continued until his death in June 2015.
In 1997, Nicolas Gonet joined his father to strengthen the growth of the family business, having trained for several years with leading banks in London, New York and Luxembourg. He became a partner in 2003 and represents the fifth generation of an authentic family tradition. Convinced that quality of service and human relations is more important than growth at any price, he perpetuates the family spirit of modesty and dedication to the client.