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ECONOMIC TIMES – Savneet Singh’s GBI helps investors buy, trade & store precious metals

By Ishani Duttagupta
August 26, 2013

Economic Times

Savneet Singh’s Gold Bullion International helps investors buy, trade & store precious metals

It was not just the entrepreneurial bug; Savneet Singh also wanted to create something beyond an ordinary business, a start-up that was unique. And so in 2009, Gold Bullion International (GBI) was set up. It was the first electronic platform for investors to buy, trade and store physical precious metals.

“There has been no innovation in the precious metals market for over 50 years. We believed we could be the first to do so. The opportunity excited me enough to take the plunge,” says the 29-year-old former investment banker.

The New York-headquartered company is the largest independent provider of precious metals and has clients ranging from individuals to hedge funds, mutual funds, pension funds and endowments.

The way the exchange functions is unique — precious metals are acquired from dealers who sell brands recognised by the London Bullion Market Association and stored on behalf of clients in protected and insured vaults in New York, Salt Lake City, London, Zurich, Singapore and Melbourne.

Tech Effect

For the Cornell-educated Singh the entrepreneurial journey has been a tough one. “It took us 18 months to get our first customer, and many more months to start making revenue,” he says. At the heart of his business plan was the idea of being a value investor.

“I have grown up reading, following and analysing the great value investors of our time — Warren Buffett, Seth Klarman and David Einhorn. I’ve always looked to find business models that would pass the test of these investors. Our goal has been to use technology to create a platform that drives down costs and brings in new clients,” he says.

Singh whose parents immigrated to the US, visits India every few years and likes to attribute his achievements partly to the fact that he was born into the Sikh faith that encourages him to work hard and give back.

“Being a Sikh in America isn’t easy today. Knowing that you look different or that others don’t know where you come from can be scary,” says Singh who is an active member of the community and serves on the boards of the Manhattan Sikh Association and International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination.

Hobbies & Family

For him, the Indian heritage and culture helps create resiliency and success in business and philanthropy. “Sometimes I see a young Sikh entrepreneur and want to bet on him, because I know he’s gone through some very tough times in life and starting a business won’t be nearly as hard,” adds Singh.

And personally he hopes that in the next five years, he will either be working on building the next enterprise or focusing full time on investing and helping grow a unique set of businesses. Big on fitness, a member of the local basketball team, an avid reader and fond of cooking, he manages time for all his hobbies.

“I’m also a collector of koi fish which I help raise along with my dad upstate [New York],” he says. The inspiration to get involved with hobbies came from his father, who felt that the problem with Indian men is they don’t develop hobbies early in life. “My greatest joy in life is spending time with my family. When I have free time I choose to spend it with them,” he says.

Though not here yet, GBI has plans for a foray into India eventually. “India is the largest gold market in the world and we are looking for firms to partner with and launch in the region. At the moment, though, we are taking a step back given the government’s restriction on imports, but will make a push when regulation changes,” Singh says. Amidst the hectic pace of Wall Street life, Singh is learning to find the perfect work life balance.

“I make an effort to be active in my personal life like I am with work. I try to engage and stay up to date with my friends and family and not make them second fiddle to work. Life is short and I’m quite sure that while business pays the bills and provides temporary fun, it’s the love of family and friends that makes life real.”

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