Comment: Families, firms and the role of private banking

In 2018, we all face both opportunities and challenges to business growth, says Hartop. Picture: submitted
In 2018, we all face both opportunities and challenges to business growth, says Hartop. Picture: submitted
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When sharing stories with friends recently about opening our first current accounts, we collectively recalled some shared experiences.

The sights, sounds and smells of the old banking halls, the stern bank manager with a firm handshake, and the unexpected feeling of being “grown up” all of a sudden were some of the common things we all remembered.

While I believe much has improved in banking since those days, the role of banks in supporting families has, to my mind, fallen away.

At Hampden & Co it is important for us that our clients know that we care about families as well as individuals.

To do this to the best of our ability, we have got to have an emotional, caring side as well as a practical one.

Families are at the centre of most people’s emotional lives. Many of us grow old with our partners, we want our children to reach their full potential, and as we live longer the future of our grandchildren becomes a real concern too.

As our world moves evermore into all things digital, banking risks losing the personal connection and forgetting about the importance of the family, with all the practical and emotional considerations that entails.

While advances in technology have undoubtedly enhanced banking in many ways, the wholesale move of the industry in the direction of automation and digital self-service loses the subtleties that a more personal, professional and human service can embrace.

One good example of the kind of practical support banks can offer families are so-called guarantor mortgages, allowing parents to stand behind – and typically, actively contribute to - mortgage payments for their children or grandchildren, enabling the child to own a property at an earlier stage than it would otherwise have been possible to do.

Guarantor mortgages used to be fairly standard and were provided by most of the high street banks but are now increasingly the proviso of a few specialist lenders.

That this relatively simple service has disappeared during an era of sustained house price inflation is unfortunate and we offer them. It squares with our overall family ethos and vision and we can see that this provides a material and positive impact for our clients.

Earlier this summer, we reached a milestone by reporting our second full year of trading since we opened in June 2015 and became the first UK private bank established in a quarter of a century. With banking teams based in both Edinburgh and London, we do business across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

In addition to building long-term relationships with our clients, collaboration across the business community and the advisory scene is part of our makeup at Hampden & Co. It is also true that we are something of a rarity as private banks go because we focus entirely on providing a high quality relationship-driven service.

This week, in conjunction with venture capital firm Par Equity and Scottish chartered accountants Anderson Anderson & Brown, we are hosting an event for business leaders and investors focused on the different ways in which organisations can accelerate their growth. We are set to hear from a few of our SME success stories in Scotland and will be discussing subjects ranging from funding, technology and business diversification, and we are expecting more events like this in partnership with other companies and firms over the coming months.

In 2018, we all face both opportunities and challenges to business growth. Above all, we will make sure that we are supporting clients and their families in whatever way we can. And, from the beginning, we will try not to be too stern with an overly firm handshake.

Graeme Hartop, chief executive at Hampden & Co