Spear’s hears from Peter Gale, senior private banker and head of entrepreneurs at C Hoare & Co
How have the past 12 months been at C Hoare & Co, following the sale of the Hoare’s wealth management business?
Post the sale of Wealth Management to Cazenove Capital we are able to focus our efforts on building our banking and lending businesses particularly in the landed estates and entrepreneur sectors. These continue to be hugely successful areas for us.
What is your read on markets at the moment?
The world seems to get a bit more uncertain with each passing year. I am conscious of many possible headwinds out there – Brexit, Trump, North Korea and Syria, but I remain optimistic on the future overall.
It is more important than ever to ensure that you have good advisers around you, people you trust, to help you navigate the coming months and years.
When I take my customers around our museum here at Fleet Street it reminds me about how this particular institution has weathered many storms over the years, so I feel as though we are well positioned, regardless of what the world throws at us.
What trends are you noticing at the moment?
We are seeing a lot of competition in the entrepreneur space – banks have clearly targeted this as a revenue generator. We welcome the healthy competition. In truth we are very lucky as we sit in a very unique niche: we are a 100 per cent family-owned business which means we really do understand entrepreneurs and the challenges they face. We are the only bank I know of in the UK where an entrepreneur will meet one of our partners at the account opening stage – i.e. one ‘owner-manager’ meeting another. This is incredibly powerful and helps give us an edge.
We are also seeing a lot of competition when it comes to lending and deposits – lending rates are at historic lows and many banks are eager to offer market leading deposit rates. We have reacted to this by launching some genuinely competitive fixed rate and variable rate lending products. And we still retain the advantage of having the flexibility of family owned decision-making around how we serve our customers. We will always be a slight premium to the market as we feel that the extra high quality service warrants this, but we want to consign the idea that we are ‘expensive’ to the history books.
From a deposit perspective we continue to offer genuine safety and security, in a way that only a wholly owned family owned business with unlimited liability can.
What are the challenges and opportunities in wealth management at the moment? How is Hoare’s adapting?
We will always focus on exceptional service for our customers, staying close to their needs, not trying to sell them any specific ‘product’. Our lending, deposit and relationship banking businesses – the three things we have been doing for the last 350 years are there when we believe they are in the best interest of our customers.
How would do you see the state of play between challenger banks and the heavyweights?
I hope we see even more challenger banks enter the market over the coming years. I welcome competition as it helps hone the sector, drives up customer service and improves products and services, all of which are good for the end user. Sadly the barriers for entry in the banking world are very high, so it precludes all but the most ambitious. We are careful not to rest on our laurels and we remain cognisant that there could be a ‘challenger’ to Hoare’s just around the corner. I think the big banks are alive to the same challenges and hopefully it will force them to improve the overall experience for their customers. We are quietly confident in the uniqueness of how we serve our customers.
What separates the great firms from the good in banking today?
Our primary USP is our small size, our focus on customer relationships and the security and flexibility that family ownership can give our customers. We are small bank with a fairly flat architecture, which means we benefit from very short lines of communication – in short we can make difficult decisions quickly. We get things done. We also offer a proper ‘relationship banking’ service – we have no call centres and no voicemail, just real human beings talking to other human beings. This shouldn’t be unique in the modern banking sector, but sadly it is – that is great news for us. Whilst we have launched a mobile app and we are going to be investing in our online, these are secondary channels for our customers behind our people.
What do you do to relax?
I am a keen snowboarder and a bit of a film nerd – my idea of a great Saturday night is settling down with my family to watch a film.
Who has inspired you recently?
I am probably most inspired by Elon Musk. He is a fascinating technology entrepreneur and he has some truly mad ideas, but I love the fact that he doesn’t care about what anyone thinks – he just gets on with it.
Peter Gale, senior private banker and head of entrepreneurs at C Hoare and Co, was in conversation with Matthew Hardeman, Senior Researcher at Spear’s