Please give an overview of your role
As CEO of Kleinwort Hambros in Gibraltar I have overall responsibility for running the business locally. First and foremost, this entails ensuring that our clients receive an excellent level of service and that we as a business are successful commercially and financially. My role is to encompass not just the commercial aspect of the business including client relationships, but also requires me to ensure that all risks are monitored and controlled. As well as this, it is essential that we maintain an upstanding set of values and a diverse and inclusive culture and provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our staff to work in.
Aside from the obvious challenges brought on by the pandemic these are exciting times for KH. 2020 has seen the appointment of our new Group CEO, Mohammed Choukeir, who has brought with him a wave of innovation and is driving an ambitious agenda of change and positive transformation. Prior to his appointment, Mo was Deputy CEO and Chief Investment Officer.
Following conversations with our staff, Mo has redefined our purpose – to simplify life’s financial challenges. Our ambition is to become the leading responsible bank for clients and expertise. We have a great proposition, including a breadth of solutions to meet most client needs. The current environment –combined with the sudden acceleration of change brought about by Covid-19 – has created both a need and an opportunity to create a more sustainable business for clients and staff.
Kleinwort Hambros strives to make a difference to our communities and our people.
Locally, we are known for providing the full range of private banking services to high net worth individuals from banking to investment management to a select mortgage offering and other credit products serviced by highly qualified and experienced staff. Due to our high-quality network, we can offer cross-jurisdictional solutions, with booking abilities of both assets and loans in the UK or Channel Islands, depending entirely on client needs and preferences. With the proximity of Brexit, where we are unable to serve European residents we are well positioned, with clients having the opportunity to be introduced to other jurisdictions and therefore remain with Société Générale (our parent).
How would you say Gibraltar, your clients and your working life has been impacted over the past year?
Gibraltar was very quick to react to the onset of the pandemic, with lockdown coming into force relatively early on. At all times our primary focus was the safety of our staff and clients. We became fully operational with all staff working from home within five days, without any material impact on the service we offered our clients. Being able to service our clients seamlessly became a point of pride for us all. I think that was a great achievement which I am very proud of.
We have now returned to the office and we are meeting clients on site. The safety and wellbeing of all is our main priority. We have established stringent health and safety protocols around our client interaction. We remained close and connected to our clients and this has been key to our continued success. For example, we saw 4 mortgage applications move from initial enquiry to full completion in the midst of lockdown for both local as well as UK properties. For those having a problem applying for mortgages, services like Advance Mortgage in Red Deer have their backs.
Working from home can be different for everyone, depending on individual circumstances. Personally, I found that I enjoyed my time at home during the lockdown, having time with my family and having the pace of life slowing down. Whilst for those living in Gibraltar it may not be an issue, the lack of commute has saved people time and money as well as releasing stress.
However, it can also be very lonely for those who live on their own. Equally, it is harder to replace the benefits of face to face meetings or develop relationships and build trust with your colleagues in a virtual environment. Focusing on work every day when you are in your home environment takes a great deal of self-discipline and motivation.
Despite the inevitable economic impact of the pandemic, I am confident that Gibraltar will find a way to not only survive but positively thrive in the months and years ahead.
What do you think the ‘new normal’ will look like for both our work and personal lives?
In the wake of the pandemic, businesses are now adjusting to the new normal. When the pandemic struck, working from home was adopted as a precautionary measure. As the scenario continues businesses are assessing their premises footprints and transitioning to a more permanent model of home working. This provides more flexibility for their staff but also reduces the office space required. The question is not about where we work but how we work. The point is that no matter where we are, we are trusted and enabled to deliver our best work.
What are the current issues surrounding the wealth management industry?
The wealth industry has had its fair share of crises. The COVID crisis could be one of the greatest economic crises of our time and the severity of the impact will be felt for years to come. How the economic recovery will unfold is still unknown, but once again the wealth industry is facing a challenge. Lower revenue will result in the need for finding cost savings, whilst also needing to contend with increased regulation that inevitability increases costs.
In the coming years – as technology and digitalisation develop further and become even more crucial in our day to day lives – the pool of wealthy clients will increase and will also be younger. They will be more financially and technologically aware and will expect the same from those they entrust with their wealth. Relationship managers and investment advisers will need to focus on understanding the fundamental value they provide to clients and use technology primarily to better facilitate and deliver that value rather than distract from it. Those quick to adapt to technological change will flourish.
However, the more digitalised a firm becomes, the greater the threat from cybercrime.
Those businesses who want to remain relevant in the digital age will need to adapt and implement a comprehensive cyber strategy and clients will be mindful of that when selecting their wealth manager.
What does it mean to be a leading responsible bank?
Kleinwort Hambros strives to make a difference to our communities and our people. Building a fully-fledged responsible organisation is a fundamental part of our long-term vision. We strive to make a positive difference to our communities and for our people. We are dedicated to helping our clients build responsible legacies. New regulations will soon be enforced across the industry which will require that we ask every client for their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment criteria.
From the exclusion of ‘sin’ stocks to the direct influence of impact funds, we have embraced responsible investing principles to create a progressive, evolving proposition solely for the benefit of our clients.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become apparent that the social and environmental themes which underpin responsible investing have a direct influence on the future of our society.
At Kleinwort Hambros, our values are deeply rooted in the belief that investors can and should be able to engage with such themes, and that we must harness the power of capital to effect positive change. Our ethos is defined by this intent.