Nowadays, just about all bankers covet the private banking business. The ultimate private banker was Edmond Safra, who died last month owning about 30% of Republic New York Corp. and Safra Republic Holdings of Geneva.

His forte was safeguarding the funds of the world's wealthiest people. He never offered high rates, instead promising a haven for their funds. He sought only 5% of his rich clients' portfolios -- the portion they wanted kept safe and secret.

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