Company Profiles

Banking In Turbulent Times – In Conversation With Arbuthnot Latham

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 23 November 2023

Banking In Turbulent Times – In Conversation With Arbuthnot Latham

This publication recently sat down with Arbuthnot Latham, the venerable UK private banking group (it also does commercial and corporate banking) to discuss its strategy in what has been a volatile and difficult year for certain firms.

This news service recently joined a horde of Arbuthnot Latham bankers and clients at the UK private bank’s 190th birthday celebrations in the plush setting of the Institute of Directors, in Pall Mall. WealthBriefing also took the time to chat with senior figures at the bank about its wealth strategy. (The bank recently issued its financial results.)

A great deal has changed in the domestic and international private banking space. In 2023 alone, there have been the sagas of Silicon Valley Bank, the shotgun wedding of Credit Suisse and UBS, and the political furore over how Coutts and NatWest handled, or mishandled, UK broadcaster and former political leader Nigel Farage as a client. In terms of more regular news, in early April the firm appointed Helen Keen, who previously worked at Coutts, as head of UK private banking. In October it appointed former Hampden & Co figure John Hilson as head of entrepreneurs, private banking.

We spoke to Kevin Barrett (pictured), managing director, private and commercial banking. He has been in the sector for more than 18 years, starting as a graduate trainee at HSBC and later moving to Arbuthnot Latham.

Kevin Barrett

Arbuthnot Latham’s business covers a range of fields. How does the firm manage the inevitable complexity? 
Barrett: What is unique about us is our relentless focus on understanding our clients’ needs and supporting them on their financial journey. We are a full-service, human-scale relationship bank powered by modern technology and it’s the personalised service that clients tell us they value.

It’s a simple approach that enables us to seamlessly engage with a client who is being served by one part of the bank and discuss our capability in another. Our clients have the assurance that they will relate to another expert who understands their objectives and can help meet them; few banks have the breadth of offering we have and are still small enough to care.

How large a slice of the AL business is the private banking side? In rough percentage terms, what share of annual revenue does it deliver, versus the other parts? Has this share risen/fallen?  
We are approximately 50-50 across private and commercial banking, with both seeing strong double-digit growth in client acquisition in recent years. Private accounts are up 30 per cent since January 2020 and commercial accounts are up 40 per cent over the same period. 

What are your staffing/recruitment goals for the private bank? Is it mostly from internal hires that you find people, or are you looking at those from outside? Have some of the big changes, such as the HSBC-SVB merger, and issues at Coutts, etc, caused some bankers to come over? 
As a rapidly growing organisation, we want to nurture talent from within the business while also offering roles at different levels to external candidates. We value our existing colleagues' understanding of our unique culture and their dedication to client service. Because of this, we place a strong focus on entry-level positions, offering work experience, internships, and graduate programmes to develop the next generation of talent.

We recognise however that a fresh perspective can be invaluable, and we also look to hire experienced and dedicated bankers in the market who align with our values and goals. In the last couple of months, we have brought in new bankers and launched several new propositions including in the technology sector, e-gaming, and construction. We find that despite the recalibration in the banking sector, people are keen to work for Arbuthnot Latham because of our reputation for stability, permanence, and putting clients first. 

You said the private bank has a net promotor score of 67 per cent and the commercial bank has a 69 per cent score. What do you think accounts for these scores and have they risen in the past few years? How much store do you set by such metrics? 
We take great pride in the improvement of our NPS in recent years. In 2020, it stood at 45 per cent, so achieving such an increase in our most recent client survey is very gratifying. One of our senior bankers consistently emphasises this point: people appreciate us because at the most basic level we answer the phone and are accessible. 

It may seem quite straightforward, but our clients know they can reach their relationship manager when they need to, which shouldn’t be a differentiator, but it is. Additionally, our clients value access to expert advice and bankers who actively listen to them, with a focus on assisting with their challenges rather than simply pushing products.

Our individual bankers and relationship managers play a huge role, but there is something institutional at play: not just our strong culture, but our investment in people, and technology to free up bankers to spend more time with clients. We have more work to do here though and we arekeen to make that happen.   

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