Of all the services available to the super-rich, that which is uttered by a Private Fixer of www.perfect-knowledge.com is perhaps the most intriguing. Even the job title carries an aura of mystery. I am reminded of the John Travolta character in the movie Pulp Fiction, or a Philip Marlowe-like figure skulking about in the shadows in classic film noir. But there is no cigar or bowler hat in sight as Ifzaal Khan, an articulate and charismatic thirty-something, settles in front of me in a luxury hotel in Chelsea.
“My clients are high net worth individuals,” explains Khan, from Perfect Knowledge Ltd “Mostly CEOs. MDs, titles and aristocracy. Yes, I look after a few celebrities too, but they tend to be too high profile, so normally I deal with people from the international high society. Most are English, but some are American, Arab, Russian, and a few are Asian. Many are not even listed in the Sunday Times Rich lists because they might have most of their money held in trusts or assets. They come to me because I’m not part of their staff, I’m on the outside, and they may not want their staff to know everything. They could just be visiting for three or four weeks, and there are often financial incentives in asking an outsider to do things.”
Khan explains that his job is part of a long tradition of private secretaries, PAs and courtiers, but it is not a concierge service. So what does a Private Fixer actually do? “It depends on what a client wants, really,” says Khan. “For example, I might help somebody source and buy a properties off market. One person asked me to find him an off-market property for £20 million, and I knew somebody who wanted to sell, so I liaised between the two. Another asked me to find a £4 million house in Chelsea for his daughter. Somebody has also asked me to set up a property company, so I’m currently in the process of doing that, Commercial property is where the money is, so I’ve been trying to get more involved in that and it’s really taken off in the last few months.”
The job isn’t only to do with property though; it also involves providing a personal courier service. Khan relays this wonderful anecdote: “A client left his rare 1930s £200,000 Rolex in the penthouse of a five star hotel in London, It had been in his wife’s family for generations and she had given it to him, so it had sentimental value. He asked me to pick it up and take it to Luton Airport. When I got there, I was directed to Harrods Aviation, which is a private aviation service for businesses. As! arrived, I was told to board a plane and was flown to Geneva, where a chauffer-drivcn car ‘vas wailing to take me to the client’s house. There I had dinner with him and handed over the watch personally.” So, not just a typical day in the office then.
Other jobs have involved picking up several expensive pieces of jewellery and watches to be repaired at Harrods; establishing a finance company; setting up a warehouse from scratch for a client who wanted to store high value goods; negotiating with yacht brokers, and chaperoning an extremely rich hut ill client to see her sister. “One gentleman has asked me to sell three Picassos. which he doesn’t want to do through the auction houses. I don’t know anything about art,” smiles Khan, “but I’m a fast learner.”
Khan offers these services through his Chelsea-based company, www.perfect-knowledge.com which he set up over a year and a half ago. Asked how long he has been a fixer for, he says mischievously, “Since I was 16 and growing up in Oxford. I was always fixing things for people — whether fellow students or visiting aunties.” Before setting up his company, he researched the job for two years and built up an enormous contacts book. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve is imperative, he says, as preparation met with opportunity is the key to success.
Khan works with six colleagues, who between them are based in London. Oxford, Geneva and Dubai. They are all childhood friends whom he trusts implicitly. “I would never reveal my clients’ names, not even to family or friends, and as each person is given a unique code even my colleagues don’t find out who they are. Privacy, confidentiality and discretion are key to this job. Many of my clients came to me via word of mouth recommendations, a few I approached myself when circumstances were right. It takes a long time to build up trust. We don’t want people selling stories to the papers.”
Other qualities needed for a job like this are diplomacy, the ability to get on with a wide range of people and, as Khan puts it, “Knowing when to listen and when to talk, These are highly successful individuals who know the industry they’re working in inside out. They don’t want unsolicited advice.” Indeed so important is the client-fixer relationship that Khan. who combines a deep knowledge of the super-rich lifestyle with street savvy and common sense, says he’s turned down projects from those who he believes would be demanding and make his job difficult in the long run.
So whether accompanying multi-millionaires to top venues like Cipriani’s, Scott’s, Mark’s Club, or Harry’s Bar — or indeed ‘summer season’ events like Ascot or Wimbledon – there is plenty of variety. “I juggle many things, sometimes working up to 20 hours a day, and I admit the job encroaches on my private life,” says Khan, who previously worked at the Home Office for seven years, “but I could never work nine to five again. This is a unique job in a small. niche market. It brings me lots of opportunities. .~ and I’m always learning something new. No two days are ever the same.”