Kleinwort Hambros' New CEO Sets Sights High

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 16 March 2021

Kleinwort Hambros' New CEO Sets Sights High

The CEO at the UK-based private bank sets out the kind of measures he thinks the firm must meet - and beat - in achieving success in a competitive marketplace.

Kleinwort Hambros’ chief executive has a lot of goals for the UK-based private bank, such as having a 50/50 male/female balance in its senior leadership and a high net promotor score, as it pushes forward through tumultuous times. 

Mouhammed Choukeir was made CEO at the bank, part of the Societe Generale group, in June last year. Prior to that, had been deputy CEO and chief investment officer.

Taking up his post a few months after the pandemic broke out and upended global markets was a difficult time to start (he replaced John Maitland). As part of the changes, Fahad Kamal took over as CIO.

“We continually measure performance and success through a variety of metrics, including feedback from our clients, staff, regulators, suppliers, shareholders and the wider community,” Choukeir told this news service.

A key metric which allows Kleinwort Hambros to measure progress with clients against its objectives is to have a high net promoter score (NPS) of above 50, he continued. (NPS is the percentage of customers rating their likelihood to recommend a company, a product, or a service to a friend or colleague as 9 or 10 minus the percentage rating this at 6 or below on a scale from 0 to 10.)

Gender and other forms of diversity are important metrics of progress, he said. 

“We are among the leaders in our industry and we are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. We have one of the smallest gender pay gaps in UK private wealth management and our executive committee is gender balanced. Our goal is that by 2025, 50 per cent of senior roles will be held by women,” he said. 

And Choukeir knows that citing issues such as gender isn’t enough, as there are far more reasons why diversity matters. “It is also important to have cognitive diversity…people bring different perspectives…some are very analytical while others have the skills to step back and see the bigger picture. The importance of diversity of thinking also underpins some of our initiatives to support and foster young talent as part of our apprenticeship and internship schemes, as well as the launch of our next generation executive committee (Nexco).”

It has been just over five years since the old Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros business in the UK was renamed to Kleinwort Hambros, following SocGen’s purchase of the Kleinwort Benson business. The very “British” look and feel of the name fits with the business, although the parentage of a large French bank is important. The bank competes against a handful of domestic UK private banks such as Barclays, Coutts and HSBC, alongside the Swiss houses such as UBS and Julius Baer, Germany’s Deutsche Bank and organisations such as JP Morgan. Kleinwort Hambros requires that on average, the minimum of investable assets required from a client is around £1.0 million ($1.4 million) - that might be less than is the case with some others that move towards double-digit million-size amounts.

Choukeir’s comment on the Net Promotor Score coincided with a recent report from Aon. A few days ago, the firm, which surveyed clients at 12 UK private banks and wealth managers, found that on average the NPS was 38 per cent in 2020, compared with 46 per cent in 2019. Share of wallet actually rose to 55 per cent from 54 per cent; client outcomes as measured were 92 per cent from 94 per cent; relationship manager satisfaction fell to 8.6 from 8.9, and overall client satisfaction inched down to 8.4 from 8.5.

Getting the client segmentation is important to the group’s continued success, Choukeir said. “We have a recognised domestic UK client channel, for onshore clients; international clients who have a base in the UK but who have significant international reach and come from outside the UK, and offshore client services offered from our Channel Islands and Gibraltar offices as well as B2B services, where we work with intermediaries (IFAs, external asset managers, etc) who can provide a wide range of services including custody and execution,” he said. Kleinwort Hambros offers full-service solutions including credit, trust, wealth planning and investments, and provides investment solutions across advisory, discretionary and execution-only channels.

Another point, Choukeir said, is that client segments are also reviewed by the type of client and their specific needs, such as senior executives, entrepreneurs, inheritors, among others.

What success is
Choukeir says one way to define what success looks like at the firm is for it to be a bank that simplifies life challenges.

“We recognise that this goal contributes not only to the financial wellbeing of our clients, but also to a well-functioning economy and community,” he said. 

Kleinwort Hambros is significantly investing in digital transformation for its core systems, processes and data programme to enhance the client experience, particularly as expectations have changed towards digital engagement as a result of the pandemic. This means implementing new ways to engage and connect with clients through webinars, podcasts and virtual events, whilst continuing to deliver high-quality and personalised advice, he added.  

“We’re seeing more opportunity for multi-generational wealth management and planning for the future.  We also expect to see more entrepreneurial millionaires who have created or refocused their businesses to serve the market, especially in segments of the market such as tech which have continued to thrive over the last six months,” he said. 

“We have skills in providing investment management and credit solutions for complex needs including clients whose professional requirements require investment exclusions or short-term liquidity needs.”

Choukeir is also keen for the firm to be known as a great place to work, and is unashamed about aiming to get that status validated in the press and elsewhere. The firm aims to be a leading employer in the UK, Channel Islands and Gibraltar, as measured by staff engagement surveys which examine a range of criteria including scope for employment development, leadership, management etc. “We want to be among the top 100 employers. That is a very high bar. We set ourselves the goal to be a fantastic place to work for our staff.”

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