James Palmer and Mondex

James Palmer and Mondex

When James Palmer incorporated Mondex Corporation in 1993, in Toronto, Palmer knew that he wanted to do something different, but at the time James was not sure what.  James Palmer didn’t have much money to begin with, so he had to rely upon the earnings of the company in order to grow. 

James Palmer and Mondex in the Beginning

In the early days James Palmer of Mondex found himself continually using the word “we” even though it may have been more accurate to use “I”.  James found solace in the fact that when the HP computer company began in Hewlett and Packard’s garage, they named their first product the 200A, even though there had never been a previous product of any kind such as the 100A or 101A.  James supposed that by saying “we” rather than “I”, in a company initially consisting of one person, that this was analogous to HP’s first model being the 200A.

James Palmer soon realized that he had to hire people to help build the company but with little working capital my options were few.  Palmer then turned to an organization that gave new immigrants to Toronto the opportunity to gain real work experience.  Before long they had developed the first team with Hussein, Ahmed and Maryam from Somalia, Vasanti and Willi from Sri Lanka, and Halina from Poland and began helping families with the recovery of unclaimed bank accounts.  However, few of the new employees could speak English and this was becoming a challenge, to say the least.

As the company developed, James smiled when Halina, who in the beginning did not speak English well, had to answer the telephone.  When the phone rang she’d smile with considerable stress, pick up the telephone, do her best to understand the caller and then replace the receiver with a sigh of relief.  James always looked at the telephone handset immediately afterwards to see how wet it was with her perspiration.  Within a relatively short period of time Halina was doing well and the handset was remaining dry.

Mondex Grows Quickly

As Mondex grew and developed, it began to deal with unclaimed successions, which were more complex than unclaimed bank accounts, and where a more advanced set of skills was required.  This pressing need became abundantly clear when Hussein walked into the office one day, after about four years of service, and asked “James, what do we do?”. 

When the Washington Declaration was announced in 1998, which facilitated the restitution of looted property, James Palmer realized that the needs of many persecuted victims of the Second World War needed to be met but certainly the task of helping these families with the restitution of despoiled property was daunting.  It was time to learn as much as possible and the task was more complex than anything they had previously dealt with, but the satisfaction of helping people who were treated so unjustly was spurring James Palmer and Mondex on. 

They spent the next decade working hard to develop skills and within 13 years of the launch of the Washing Declaration Mondex had achieved its first restitution.  The staff were thrilled and so excited and they pushed on towards the next one, which took another two years.  The third restitution was achieved within just one year and before too long James Palmer and Mondex were having periods of multiple restitutions within the same year.

Finding the Perfect Balance

Nearly three decades after beginning this journey, James looked around the office one day during a Zoom meeting with the Canadian and European teams and proudly marveled at the progress made over the years.  Kamila, Mondex’s President, had done an amazing job with Waldemar, the Director of Provenance Research, in forming a team where everyone speaks English, as well as several other languages; where many of the team members hold PhD’s in their respective fields and where Mondex finally found the perfect balance between using highly innovative technological skills with traditional archival research techniques, while being very sensitive to the needs of the international legal team to develop highly successful restitution strategies.  What a proud moment that was and continues to be.  Now it’s time to get back to work because it needs to be done and because the Mondex team loves it.