Société Générale Private Banking Hambros’ planned acquisition of Kleinwort Benson Wealth Management will combine two historic merchant banks and is important step for the French bank in the UK.
Eric Barnett (pictured), chief executive of SGPB Hambros, said once complete, the move will prove to be a ‘powerful combination’ and a good cultural fit.
‘It has a personal resonance for me to do the transaction, having worked 30 years at a merchant bank, and I think it will be a great deal,’ he said.
The planned merger follows SGPB Hambros’ buys of Barings’ private client arm and ABN Amro’s private banking division in recent years, which Barnett classifies as bolt-on acquisitions.
The business has also renewed its focus on core Europe over the last three years, he said.
‘We trimmed our sales to focus on core European assets. We’ve restructured our IT set-up, which is still going on, but it’s an area where most banks probably have not done enough and we are trying to rectify that at the moment,’ he added.
‘I think the last three to four years has been about putting our house in order. Having cleared the decks, where do you go from here?’
Regional growth in the UK is also high on Barnett’s agenda. It is a strategy that he is personally involved with, as he is disappointed the bank does not have a greater regional presence. SGPB Hambros has offices in Edinburgh, Leeds, Cambridge, Newbury alongside London.
‘We are missing in some of the bigger western areas. We are not in Bristol, Birmingham or Manchester and I would like to grow that. There is a lot of wealth all over the country. Unfortunately, private banking can be a bit London-centric,’ he said.
‘But I find with the regions, it is quite hard to get the staff. Most of the private banking staff tend to be based in London. If we can find more teams, I think we would be keen to carry on growing.’
The private bank is also developing its digital proposition.
‘We are looking at an app to cover the full spectrum of private banking, wealth management, family office and concierge services. We’re trying to broaden it,’ Barnett added.