INTERVIEW: Kleinwort Hambros CEO Discusses Rebrand, Future Strategy

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 1 December 2016

INTERVIEW: Kleinwort Hambros CEO Discusses Rebrand, Future Strategy

The chief executive of Kleinwort Hambros, the business born from a recent M&A deal, reflects on the decision to go with a very "British" moniker and discusses how the firm will position itself.

Earlier in November, the business known as Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros was reborn as Kleinwort Hambros following SGPBH’s purchase of Kleinwort Benson, a UK-based business with a venerable history. 

The rebrand has a distinctly “British” look to it – it is also welcome to journalists looking for shorter names in headlines. Following the rebrand, this publication interviewed Eric Barnett, chief executive of Kleinwort Hambros, about the change and future strategy.

Do you think some businesses have made a mistake in downgrading the heritage of traditional brands in the relaunches they have made after M&A deals? 
Yes, I would agree with that. A lot of very strong British private banking and wealth management brands have been submerged in global businesses to the detriment of the businesses, staff, and their clients.
What, so far, has been the reaction to the Kleinwort Hambros name from clients, intermediaries and others?
The Kleinwort Hambros name has been very warmly received by everyone so far and I am delighted with the positive reaction from staff, clients and intermediaries. Staff, in particular, are pleased that the names Kleinwort and Hambros are prominent in the new logo. Indeed, it was a brave decision for Societe Generale to step back, but one which I am convinced will reap benefits as Kleinwort and Hambros are naturally associated with expertise in private banking in the UK, Channel Islands and Gibraltar.
Can you go into a bit more detail about how your firm arrived at this new name? How was it decided?
A qualitative survey was conducted by an independent research agency with a representative sample of business stakeholders for both Hambros and Kleinwort Benson. The representative sample included clients, prospects and business introducers. This survey gave us a detailed understanding of what these people thought of brands in the private banking area, as well as testing logo options.

To complement our survey, there were individual interviews with board representatives from Kleinwort Benson and Hambros. The conclusions were shared and led to a clear consensus on the brand that was eventually chosen.
In your mind, what do the names Kleinwort and Hambros mean to those thinking of banking and investing with you?
Kleinwort and Hambros are two of the most recognised brands in private banking in the UK and Channel Islands. They share a long-standing history and convey similar values. The recognition and value of such heritage brands were clearly highlighted in the survey and throughout the interviews conducted with our clients and other key stakeholders.
The deal was conducted shortly before the Brexit vote. How do you think your firm and its brand is positioned for the new situation? 
Our business is not strongly EU-dependent and, therefore, we do not think Brexit will have a direct impact on the Kleinwort Hambros brand in the UK. It is important to add that, regardless of Brexit, the UK continues to be an integral part of Societe Generale’s growth strategy in private banking in its core markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

The Kleinwort Hambros brand in the UK is pivotal in cementing Societe Generale’s reputation as a leading player in wealth management and reinforcing its growth strategy in private banking in our core markets. The performance of the UK economy itself, however, will be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not Brexit was the right decision for the UK.
What sort of brand awareness campaign do you intend to conduct in the next few months? 
The full legal merger of our banks and trust businesses will not be complete until about the middle of next year. Once this is complete, we will be seeking to promote the Kleinwort Hambros brand through the usual channels of public relations, events and private banker activities.
Some private banking brands have disappeared over the years – do you think this creates opportunities among people who might want such a ‘traditional’ feel?
This is very much the case and the reason why we have launched a strong private banking brand with the combination of Kleinwort and Hambros. I feel there is a gap in the trust which has developed among clients and private banking brands, particularly since the financial crisis. However, our research showed that there is a strong trust in the traditional brands of Kleinwort and Hambros, and this is something we intend to build on going forward as we grow the business. As much as they tell us they want digital services, our clients continue to value the services provided by their private bankers.
In, say, five years’ time, where would you like to see Kleinwort Hambros in terms of its brand prominence and presence in the market? 
We have said that it is our aim to be the leading private bank in terms of brand reputation and client service, which means we won’t necessarily be the biggest. In five years’ time, we will be focusing on expanding our client base, strengthening our footprint, including in the UK regions, and growing our assets under management. All in all, the next five years will be very exciting for the brand and our staff.
How do you see this brand fitting alongside a strategy of embracing more digital technology and dealing with the whole supposed challenge of digital banking?
We aim to create a private bank that is as digital as it is physical. Although we recognise that our private bankers are fundamental to our business, we are developing a combination of digital and e-banking services for our clients to complement the full private banking services we offer. E-banking has already been launched in Hambros, and will be rolled out across the Kleinwort Hambros business in due course. We have teams across the Societe Generale Private Banking business who are working on developing a digital proposition.

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