Company Profiles

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Brown Shipley Private Banking Head Looks To Take Bank Profile Up A Level

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 6 June 2014

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The recently-appointed private banking head of Brown Shipley clearly relishes a challenge. His mission, having chosen to accept it, is to take a venerable brand and significantly raise its profile.

(Note: An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated that Titcomb was CEO of the bank; this has been corrected.)

The recently-appointed Head of Private Banking at UK’s Brown Shipley clearly relishes a challenge. His mission, having chosen to accept it, is to take a venerable, respected but not particularly visible brand and significantly raise its profile. It is a tale familiar in areas such as luxury goods.

Making Brown Shipley a bigger name is a challenge that Hugh Titcomb relishes, as he explained to WealthBriefing in a recent interview from his offices in the City. He is open to growing the business through appropriate acquisitions – an opinion shared by a good many of his peers.

“I believe that the wealth management sector offers significant opportunities for expansion and feel that Brown Shipley, with its supportive shareholder, is well placed and has strong growth potential,” he said.

The bank is interested in growth through acquisitions. “We have an approach to look at acquisitions ….we will only do so if it adds genuine value. My view in this case is to look at it from the client’s perspective,” he said.

“I think there will continue to be consolidation in the wealth management sector,” he said, stressing that the rising cost of doing business is a big issue, such as on the compliance and regulatory side.

Also, as banks seek more expertise, try to enter new markets and get multi-jurisdictional expertise, M&A is often an effective way to accomplish this rather than building such capabilities from scratch, he argued.

New challenge

Titcomb came to Brown Shipley at the start of this year, having spent some time out of the full-time private banking coalface and doing projects of his own. Clearly, though, the lure of taking up s Head of Private Banking role was too hard to resist. He’s spent several years as vice chairman and group chief executive at Sanlam Private Investments UK, as well as group CEO of the Ansbacher Banking Group and managing director positions at Bank of New York and Flemings/JP Morgan.

Besides Titcomb, one of the most high-profile appointments by the bank this year has been that of David Thompson, who used to head up the sports and entertainment client segment at Coutts. There have been appointments across the country and more, Titcomb says, are in the pipeline.

 There are certain themes in Titcomb’s career. For example, as at Ansbacher – which at the time he was there was owned by Qatar National Bank – he now works for a business that is ultimately backed by Middle East investors. Brown Shipley is owned by KBL European Banks; the latter firm was acquired by Luxembourg -based Precision Capital in 2012, providing this firm with, Titcomb says, a strong backer – an important consideration as clients today are mindful of how solid their banks are. This is a legacy of the 2008 financial crash to some extent. Brown Shipley has made a number of board changes and senior hires (see here).

KBL, as reported in March, restructured its business after suffering a €249.9 million ($343.9 million) loss in 2012; it swung back into a net profit for 2013 of €84.5 million.

When this publication went to the London offices of the firm a few weeks ago, in the Lothbury area a few yards from the Bank of England, some of the offices were screened off as building work was underway. The mood of change in the air is palpable. Brown Shipley’s London offices are getting a serious makeover and modernisation, something that this very traditional-sounding firm – it has a history going back to the late 18th century – needs.

It is not the largest player  in this sector, although sheer size of assets under management is less important than profitability. With a sole focus on the UK - at the moment at least - Brown Shipley has around £3.5 billion of AuM with a total of just over 240 staff across five offices in the UK. There are three broad business areas: private banking (lending, etc); investment management and wealth planning all delivered on an integrated basis with a client centric approach. There are five offices: London, Manchester, Edinburgh; Birmingham, and Leeds.

KBL’s owners have stated an ambition to be a top-20 European private bank, which means that there is a lot of work to do. Titcomb reckons that in Brown Shipley’s case, the bank can at least double or treble its AuM in the next few years.

With some large firms making cuts and changes, “I think there is talent available in the market,” Titcomb said.

Brown Shipley caters to clients such as professionals, entrepreneurs; existing business owners; sports and entertainment individuals, charities and some “old money”. It is looking at what it sees as a growth area among international, non-domiciled residents in the UK. (It is worth noting that this sort of client segment is being targeted by almost every boutique private bank that this publication has spoken to lately.)

Titcomb has stated his goals and there is movement in the right direction. Now the test will come as to whether he can meet them in a sector which faces all manner of headwinds. And as he embarks on his drive to raise the bank’s profile, this publication and others expects to be hearing a lot more from him.

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