Marvin Cartwright’s life could have taken a very different turn if he had followed his teenage interests of journalism and marine biology. Born in London in the swinging 60’s to a Gibraltarian father and English mother, Marvin came to Gibraltar at the age of 5. “My father Richard, who is Gibraltarian, left at a very young age to live his dream in the music industry, travelling to Casablanca, Madrid and subsequently London where he met my mum,” Marvin explains. Known as one-half of Gibraltarian musical royalty, Richard partnered his friend, singer and songwriter Albert Hammond, for more than 10 years. Later in his life, as a young banker with an entrepreneurial spirit, Marvin was supported by Albert Hammond when he created The Little Rock Café in Casemates Square, which they opened in April 2001 and which they owned together for fourteen years. “I sold it two and a half years ago for no other reason than my working demands were ever increasing, the hospitality sector was forever expanding and becoming more competitive and we came to a crossroads where I made the decision to concentrate solely on my banking career”
Contrary to popular folklore, Marvin was named after the film actor Lee Marvin and not the guitarist Hank Marvin!
Marvin attended St. Christopher’s, the MoD school, finding the experience in the seventies to be limiting for a local boy whose peer group lived on the RAF and Navy camps making it challenging to mix socially. Just missing out on the scholarship points needed for his reserved place at Southampton University, he took a summer job as a cashier at Gibraltar & Iberian Bank. This was the start of Marvin’s banking career.
During the boom phase of banking in the late 80’s, a number of the Spanish Banks came in to Gibraltar, one of those being Banesto, headed up by Marvin’s ex-general manager at Gibraltar & Iberian Bank. “He approached me to join forces again and that is when my career really took off.”
Banking has been one of the major pillars of the local economy and some of the major International banks have had offices in Gibraltar. “There are not many multi-national businesses in Gibraltar and for almost all of my professional life I have worked for global banks,” Marvin states. This includes Banesto, RBS and Credit Suisse. “When RBS merged with Nat West I was successful in becoming Head of Corporate for the enlarged operation and that was probably one of my most successful periods in banking, subsequently being made Regional Manager of Nat West in 2009.” In 2012, after a casual conversation with an ex-boss at RBS who had subsequently been heading up Credit Suisse, Marvin accepted an offer to become Head of Private Banking for Credit Suisse. Following the acquisition in 2016 of Credit Suisse in Gibraltar by J. Safra Sarasin, Marvin became CEO of Bank J. Safra Sarasin (Gibraltar) Ltd in 2017..
Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce
Up until recently Marvin was also on the Board of Directors of the GCC. “Unfortunately, I had to give up my seat on the Board to give all my attention to the Bank, although I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the GCC” he explains, going on to say that the Chamber was a very good sounding board. “It allowed me to understand clients from a different perspective, giving me an insight into some of the issues and challenges they experience but also strategically influence the development of Gibraltar and lobby the Government on important issues affecting business.”
It is widely known that Marvin’s mother, Terry Cartwright, was party secretary to the GSD for many years, being one of the founding members. “She left the AACR with Peter Montegriffo to form the GSD,” Marvin says, “and I was an activist in the 1996 election which I think was a game changing time for Gibraltar.”
However, and contrary to popular belief, Marvin has never been involved in politics. “Everybody believes that either by connection or from what they know of me, that I am involved somewhere in politics, and I am absolutely not,” he laughs as he says this.
“What I would say is that the little ‘gusano’, as we call it the little worm, is still wriggling inside so I guess that it is a case of ‘never say never’ in terms of an opportunity to go into politics.”
This is because Marvin would like to contribute to making a difference in Gibraltar, something about which he is fervent. “All governments do good things and all governments make mistakes, and that is not going to change,” he says, “but I do think that with my background and experience I can look at things objectively but with the same energy and desire to make Gibraltar as successful as the next person would – so watch this space, maybe I will put it to the test one day!”
“I think one of the challenges Gibraltar faces, broadly speaking politically, is that our system tends to mean that a lot of decision making is short term and if you take physical size as an issue, we cannot afford to be knee jerking our way through town planning, building and expanding.” Marvin would like to see decisions which impact future generations of Gibraltarians enshrined by referendum, especially in regard to town planning and zoning. Part of Marvin’s vision is that every new building should wherever possible, allow for a cycle lane and/or a wider tree lined pathway. Imagine if we had done so on every waterside development over the last 25 years. A pleasant walk from Westside to Coaling Island away from traffic and noise pollution!. “We could all be enjoying the waterfront, whereas now it is all carved up, making it less accessible for cyclists and walkers. We must take a longer term view on these issues to ensure a greater quality of life for future generations”
Marvin admits that tourism is something about which he has a particular passion. “As part of our work in the Chamber, I contributed a strategic paper on Tourism,” he states.
“The reality is that we do not have a polished product, we are not tourism friendly and are not fully realizing our potential. Such a policy must be long term and ambitious.”
Highlighting what he sees as an opportunity to create ‘a world class hub’ within the frontier area, Marvin would like to see a newly constructed ‘mega centre’ a one-stop shop with ticket booths, online purchasing and information officers. “This is all about first experience and branding. A warm welcome where tourists can plan, purchase and commence their Gibraltar experience. Secondly, it would be the pickup point for a much needed ‘Hop-On, Hop-Off’ operation,” he states. “We need to increase the average spend and not necessarily the number of visitors. If we encouraged every visitor to spend £25 more each, that would be a very marked impact on our economy – and such a visitor centre would generate greater sales as well as enhance the visitor experience.”
Marvin sees transport as the most significant key to unlocking greater potential for increased visitor numbers and an enhanced visitor experience. “It’s not rocket science,” he declares, “and every politician either publically or privately will accept that the right way to go is a ‘Hop-On, Hop-Off’ system.”
“We all accept that the Upper Rock is the jewel in the crown for our tourism product, and we all boast that we have ten million visitors coming over the border a year – well the number of visitors going up the Rock and paying for the last decade has been almost static at 750,000, so what are the other 9 million doing?”
As a jurisdiction, Gibraltar has defined the UK as their biggest market and Marvin agrees that the most relevant aspect to Brexit is the one which the government is working very hard on securing, and that is protecting the ability to passport services into the UK. He goes on to say that the jurisdiction will have to rely on the skill and entrepreneurialism that exists in Gibraltar to find new ways of doing business. “We are already seeing some of that coming into play in the crypto currency space,” he explains. “Gibraltar is trying to take a lead in terms of regulating it, taking the e-gaming model where we were leaders of industry working with commercial operators, but making sure that we had standards and set the goal bar.”
Although cautiously optimistic, Marvin’s only fear is that Gibraltar could be enjoying a honeymoon period, justified by the fact that there is quite a lot going on, whether it is in the crypto space or in the property sector. “That can lead us into a false sense of comfort because I think the hardest parts to Brexit are yet to come from a Gibraltar perspective – with the Spanish negotiations and with the bilateral with the UK.”
“If history teaches us any lessons, there are potentially very tough times ahead, so we are not out of the woods yet.”
What Makes you Tick?
What makes you happy: My daughter’s sense of humour and I thoroughly enjoy conversations with my twenty year old son who is starting to show a lot more interest in business and business opportunities
What makes you sad: I am a very proud Gibraltarian and what makes me sad is that we cannot engender the level of civic pride that I feel it is lacking, evidenced in part nowadays with dog fouling and grime, noise and dust pollution
Biggest fear: – Serious family sickness.
Best thing about Gibraltar: The community spirit
Best place that you have visited in the world: – South Africa
Most valuable possession: My family & my holiday pics!
Sport: – Football, padel tennis and golf
Favourite Song: You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry Marsden because I am a passionate Liverpool fan
Favourite Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Favourite Food: A great steak and chips!
Greatest Achievement: Succeeding in convincing the Executive of RBS Group to expand its proposition on the rock leading to significant investment in Gibraltar and representing Gibraltar at football for a number of years
Regrets: Not going to university (for the life experience)
Something that nobody knows about you: Nothing
Motto: ‘No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office’