A group of polished-looking business executives in crisp-clean, dark designer suits and glowingly polished leather shoes gather around a table, keenly perusing an open page of daily newspapers. Neatly arranged copies of equally-esteemed international business dailies lies on an adjacent table. And an animated business executive, speaking English laced with heavy-Italian accent is doing a PowerPoint presentation from his laptop.
The place is busy, with managers either working their fingers off calculators or reading from spiral-bound projects. Some are on Skype loudly dictating banking instructions while others on the internet. In all these tables, there is a common feature. Opened bottles of very expensive, single-malt whiskies. There are also top beer brands, hotel signature drinks and assorted alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail drinks. These beverages are consumed while executives ears are caressed by soothing R&B music playing at the background.
Welcome to The Exchange Bar, Sarova Stanley. Here, Kenya’s respected businessmen, top entrepreneurs and business executives from around the world meet to share business ideas, network or explore investment opportunities while at the same time enjoying the pleasure of conducting business in a special bar where business and pleasure blend so seamlessly.
When you talk about history of money markets in Kenya, stock exchange and rest of financial jargons, The Exchange Bar features prominently because for 37 years, The Exchange Bar housed Nairobi’s first ever Stocks Exchange. Sarova Stanley being the first luxury hotel in Nairobi, attracted famous and ambitious entrepreneurs who had come to Africa to take advantage of great business opportunities in the emerging Kenya markets in the so-called scramble of Africa.
It followed therefore that countless and successful business concepts and investments ideas were hatched right inside The Exchange Bar. But stock exchanges then was nothing serious until in 1951 when an estate agent named of Francis Drummond established the first professional stock broking firm after approaching the then Kenya’s Finance Minister, Sir Ernest Vasey who agreed with his idea of setting up a stock exchange in East Africa.
The two approached London Stock Exchange officials in July 1953 who agreed to recognise the setting up of the Nairobi Stock Exchange as an overseas stock exchange. And this is how The Exchange Bar got its name! “Those years, stockbroking was a side job which was conducted by broke accountants, sly auctioneers, hungry estate agents and lawyers looking for quick bucks. They met and haggled on prices over a cup of coffee or cold beer.
And because practitioners in these profession had other full time jobs, the need to formalize their association did not arise,” says David Gachuru, Sarova Stanley General Manager. But there is more about the Exchange Bar. In 1922, The Long Bar, the precursor to The Exchange Bar, made history when it took delivery of the first crate of beer produced by the newly formed Kenya Breweries.
The few educated Africans and prominent white patrons savoured the brewing brilliance of Kenya breweries’ Tusker brand, which henceforth featured after conclusion of business deals at The Exchange Bar. To date, The Exchange Bar retains the feel of a traditional English gentleman’s club with its opulent decor while exuding a casual elegance and warm atmosphere.
This kind of business environment provides a lively meeting place for business men and women from all walks of life. “The Exchange Bar is a perfect place to enjoy single malt whiskies, other premiere beers, fine cigar or sensational cocktails accompanied with a variety of bar snacks while enjoying reading a collection of our informative business journals and newspapers which we source daily from around the world,” Gachuru says.
Indeed, The Exchange Bar stocks all major international business newspapers and magazines. In keeping on touch with its roots, there are large flat screens strategically-mounted on walls beaming ‘live’ Reuter’s news and stock exchanges movement from major world bourses. Another local one beams stocks movement and trading from Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).
A casual glance around the posh seating lounges, executive, mahogany tables and Victoria elegance carpet, you will see many familiar faces whose brains run major blue-chip companies who prefer unwinding, and treating their business clientele at The Exchange Bar. “We introduced a ‘Wall of Fame’ which is basically a collection of photographs depicting chairmen of the top twenty companies in the Nairobi Stock Exchange,” says Gachuru.