It has arguably been the greatest partnership in private banking of recent years, in the form of the formidable duo of the veteran Warwick Newbury and sidekick Eric Barnett. These are the men whom we have long contended to have made S G Hambros the greatest Anglo-French cooperative project since Concorde or the Chunnel.
Now, Eric has announced his retirement as chief executive of Kleinwort Hambros, the £16 billion assets entity formed in 2016 when poor old Kleinies was effectively rescued from years of Teutonic neglect and was merged by Societe Generale into Hambros. He will remain chairman of Kleinwort Hambros businesses in the Channel Islands as well as a member of the Kleinwort Hambros board.
Warwick of course gave up the chairmanship of Hambros last year to join Sandaire and Alex Scott, the founder of this private investment office, in a similar position. At Sandaire, Warwick will work with the recently-appointed chief executive James Fleming who started his career at Hambros, and like his new colleague, worked at Coutts before he went on to become the chief executive of Arbuthnot Latham.
Their like will not be seen again in our lifetime for their tenure at Hambros is a very model on how to run a successful private bank.
Happily, John Maitland, the commercial director of Kleinwort Hambros, will take over the chief executive role from Eric. John, who comes from a Hambros background, inherits a great bank from Eric and Warwick. Indeed, the merger itself proved a model of how to combine private banks with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of politics that can often accompany such a tie-up, as senior executives jockey for position.
As one banker close to the merger process in recent months observes, “In reality the amalgamation has worked out rather well by playing to each other’s relative strengths, with the Hambros team leading on banking , ops, IT, and financial planning but using KB’s better skills on investment and so on.”
John’s priorities, no doubt, will be to expand the bank’s footprint in the UK regions – something that his predecessor was very keen on. And digital services also need investment as the bank, like its peers, rises to the challenges of new entrants like robo-advisers.
Eric, meanwhile, should certainly not retire to a life on the golf course or leisurely board meetings in Jersey; or even spend time in pampering the pooches in his role as vice-chairman of the Royal Vetinary Service. In our humble opinion, he should do a “Warwick” in due course and take a senior elder statesman role in the City. He has a lot to contribute, in terms of experience and skills, and the City needs people of his calibre as we enter the difficult Brexit period for UK financial services.
Eric, after all, is respected and liked by the French - alors, a veritable triumph in itself these days. He has been with Hambros since 1986 after starting out in the City with NatWest.
So Eric and Warwick have certainly represented the greatest daring duo since, well, Batman and Robin or Laurel and Hardie? Or Morecambe and Wise? Even Lennon and McCartney?
Still not right, so we shall plump for Jeremy Morse and Brian Pitman. Those with longer memories will remember that these two were once the star turn at Lloyds Bank, in a time where UK retail banking actually made decent money honestly and consumers respected their banks. Happy memories but oh, so long, long ago.