Few people’s claims to have had a baptism of fire when starting their job ring as true as those of Société Générale Private Banking Hambros' (SGPB) Tracey Reddings.
Joining as head of UK private banking in the week after Lehman Brothers collapsed, she was immediately faced with the challenge of how to reassure clients that the group’s parent company remained on a sure footing.
‘My timing was perfect,’ she quips. ‘While you do have that feeling of vulnerability being a new person, I learnt more about the organisation in a week than I would have at any other time.
‘I was fascinated by SGPB Hambros,’ she adds. ‘It had seen a lot of growth since it was acquired by Société Générale, but it still hadn’t reached its full potential.
‘Here was an excellent proposition with a staff of people very passionate about SGPB Hambros as a bank, but there was still so much more to achieve.’
Reddings says her mission is to make SGPB Hambros the private bank of choice for both advisers and clients and, after initially carrying out a review of the business, she devised a three-year plan for its growth.
The pillar of the strategy was to harness the opportunities thrown up by the retail distribution review (RDR) through establishing closer relationships with high end financial advisers in order to grow the legacy private banking business.
SGPB Hambros has carried out extensive research, effectively asking advisers how they would devise their business model ahead of the RDR if they had a blank sheet of paper.
Much has been made of the likelihood of many intermediaries seeking to outsource investment management and Reddings is keen to ensure the adviser community is aware of SGPB Hambros and the breadth of its capabilities.
‘If we are moving into an environment of lower levels of wealth creation, you cannot rely on the cannibalisation of business from other wealth managers,’ she says. ‘We have got a very strong proposition but we need to work harder on telling people.’
Reddings says the company is keen to leverage its heritage and tradition, but stresses this is only part of the story and in such a fast-moving industry as finance, the emphasis is very much more on the depth of its research capabilities.
The second growth strategy is to build up the firm’s own financial planning capabilities. One of Reddings’ first moves was to put its financial planning team at the heart of its proposition, having previously been an almost separate division. The advisory team is now anticipated to be a key source of referrals for the group’s discretionary management team.
Allied to this is Reddings’ plan to further grow and build on its regional presence. This third strand of her plan to make SGPB Hambros the dominant mid-tier player is already well under way, with the private bank now having offices in London and Edinburgh as well as Manchester, Leeds, Cambridge, Southampton and Newbury.
‘It is important that we can serve clients where they want to be served, although I am very keen to grow the regional teams further, we will do it in a steady manner. It is an important year for the regional strategy,’ she says. ‘We have invested heavily in resources and infrastructure and 2011 is the year for delivery.
The fourth strand of Reddings’ three-year plan kicked off last October with the launch of what SGPB Hambros believes to be the first open architecture, full service platform for the clients of high end intermediaries.
Obviously tying in with the group’s plans to grasp the opportunities thrown up by the RDR, Reddings says the private bank has invested heavily in the infrastructure of the platform, which is being offered to a select number of IFA firms. It has already signed up several intermediaries and is also being targeted at family offices and wealth managers with more than £50 million in assets under management.
She says it provides a fully integrated suite of private banking services, including lending, foreign exchange, fiduciary and portfolio management. It was more than a year in development and follows on from the launch of similar services by the group in a number of European countries.
‘The banks that are most successful are those that change with the times and adapt their models. With this platform we have worked closely with advisers to ensure that we build what they want rather than what we think they want,’ she says.
‘We have had a difficult couple of years as an industry but there really are more opportunities than ever for the right organisation,’ she adds.
One of these, she highlights, is the growing wealth of women and the widespread belief among successful professional females that private banks do not cater for their needs.
‘One of the things I have been very keen on is delivering a women’s initiative,’ she says. ‘It is important the industry understands what they want and understands that women think and view life differently,’ she says.
‘We have done a lot of research with very successful professional women and the overriding response was that they do not want to be patronised. One even said that she was sent correspondence on pink paper. It is challenging juggling a career and family, and women want to be given the knowledge to be confident and really challenge their advisers about how they are going to manage their wealth.’