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Top 10 banks for family businesses

By David Bain

Banks need to try harder, say family businesses. But 10 banks come out on top when rated by family businesses in Europe. CampdenFB looks at the winners in more detail.

UK bank with a huge corporate client base, many of them family businesses

Barclays has built up many relationships with family businesses through its corporate banking expertise – it is one of the biggest bankers to small and medium-sized businesses in the UK. The bank offers many products and services to family businesses, giving families access to the latest private banking products and also investment banking services like merger & acquisition, and funding advice. The wealth management unit of the bank, Barclays Wealth, is the biggest private bank in the UK in terms of assets under management and – as might be expected from its size – offers an array of services. Barclays is well represented around the world, which helps when businesses are looking to grow their operations outside of the UK. In its domestic market, the bank has reacted to criticism that it hasn’t done enough to support smaller businesses by recently launching loan clinics throughout the UK.

Many of Germany’s powerful Mittelstand corporations bank with Berenberg

The Hamburg-based bank works with many of Germany’s family-owned companies. It has a specialist unit that deals with private companies called its Unternehmer office, which deals especially with family businesses.
The office employs six full-time staff that, beyond visiting family businesses throughout the country, also helps to coordinate services within the bank for the benefit of family businesses. Berenberg also hosts an annual symposium to engage with family businesses and discuss the most pressing issues they are currently facing with senior bankers. It sponsors the German language quarterly magazine on family business called Wir Magazin. If heritage helps to build trust with multi-generational family businesses then Berenberg scores well – it is one of the oldest banks in Europe and the Berenberg family has had
a continuous relationship with the bank ever since, and still owns 25%. The bank is beginning to go more international with its model, expanding recently in the UK.

BNP Paribas
Size and unprecedented access to the French family business world

France’s biggest bank in terms of market capitalisation and one of the biggest banks in the world works closely with family business clients both through its investment banking and private banking units. Huge in France, BNP has more than 60,000 corporate clients, many of them family businesses.
The bank hosts a number of families in business conferences around the world. BNP bankers were consulted by the Hermès family to devise a plan to fend off acquisition interest from rival LVMH and the bank has relations with many of the country’s largest family businesses. BNP has a big global presence and can draw on expertise across banking, investment and advisory fields.

Coutts/Royal Bank of Scotland
Corporate relations built up over years; depth of specialist knowledge.

Coutts, the biggest private banking business of the Royal Bank of Scotland, has had a long relationship with the UK corporate sector, many of them family businesses. It has a specialist unit that works with many of the UK’s best-known family businesses and until recently hosted an annual award for family businesses. The bank also organises regulator forums for family businesses where subjects like the next-generation, and the advantages and disadvantages of being a family business are discussed. Mark Evans, who heads up the unit, has one of the highest profiles in the UK financial services sector when it comes to family businesses, helped by the fact that he is president of the FamilyFirm Institute, a global membership group promoting the family business model.

Credit Suisse
Swiss excellence with a creditable private investment offering.

Credit Suisse pioneered the “one bank” concept, which it says gives family businesses access to some of the best financial services and products available. The Swiss bank’s solutions partners unit, which sits inside Credit Suisse’s wealth management business, is designed to give entrepreneurs and family businesses access to specialists in areas like merger & acquisition, restructuring, private placements and strategic advice. The unit employs around 90 professionals around the world, most with investment and corporate-banking backgrounds. Global presence and sizable staff help Credit Suisse offer an array of services for family businesses and offices that a smaller wealth manager could not, says the bank. Unlike many of its big competitors, Credit Suisse has managed to steer clear of the worst problems besetting the financial services sector since 2008.

Hauck & Aufhäuser
Partnership bank with strong entrepreneurial pedigree.

Frankfurt and Munich- based Hauck & Aufhäuser is a partnership bank 100% owned by private investors, including some well-known German entrepreneurs like Frank Asbeck, founder of SolarWorld, and family businesses, such as the pharmaceutical group Merck and the trading company Heraeus – each owns 10% of the bank. Hauck & Aufhäuser says that it does a lot of debt structuring for family businesses, issuing debt on the Stuttgart Stock Exchange to the value of €500 million for typically the mid-market corporate sector in Germany. It can also organise private placements and co-investing opportunities for family businesses. The bank has a large institutional research unit that specialises in the mid-cap sector.

The world’s local bank has size and considerable expertise to offer family businesses.

HSBC has a pretty good pedigree with the global corporate sector and works with many of the world’s best-known family businesses. The bank says that it has been around at the beginning of many family businesses and stayed with them through multiple generations. HSBC has a dedicated family governance advisory unit, based in its private banking operations in Geneva, which it says assists businesses in separating family matters from business matters. The private bank can also provide host of wealth and estate planning options, and the usual array of products and services a family business would expect from one of the biggest financial institutions in the world. Like Credit Suisse, HSBC has been relatively unscathed by the ongoing banking crisis, or at least it is viewed as being well capitalised.

JP Morgan
Strongest US bank with substantial resources.

The US bank has built strong relations with European businesses through its investment-banking arm and deals with some of the region’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and family businesses. The bank’s sizable institutional research unit produces a number of research reports every year that focus on family business issues from an investment perspective; for example, it recently did a piece on shipping families, looking at investment opportunities for them set against the particular liquidity constraints associated with their businesses. JP Morgan Private Bank in the UK has worked with the Institute for Family Business in presenting awards to top family businesses. Global presence also offers family businesses a multitude of opportunities to network with like-minded businesses outside of where they are based.

Rothschild Bank
A brand like no other in banking with a huge network of contacts.

Few brands in finance conjure up grandeur like Rothschild. The banking group’s links to arguably Europe’s most famous financiers goes back as far as the late 18th century and the bank is still owned by the family – a big plus point when it comes to family businesses. Corporate finance has always been a speciality of Rothschild and it has established many links with Europe’s top family businesses over its 200-plus history. The family’s connection to two of the most famous Bordeaux wine producers – Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild – also helps with a broader understanding of family businesses. There is probably no better bank in Europe in terms of contacts and Rothschild has more than 40 offices around the world, giving it global reach.

Expertise across the board – and increasingly its investment bank is only serving wealth owners.

Europe’s biggest wealth manager has had its share of problems in recent years – not least a recent rogue-trading scandal. But it can still use its size as an incentive for multi-generational family businesses, working across its wealth management, asset management and investment banking arms to offer a comprehensive service. UBS offers a number of specialist client advisers to support family businesses and entrepreneurs. They work with the corporate advisory group, which sits in the wealth management unit of UBS and comprises a team of investment bankers providing a financial advisory service to private business-owning clients. The bank emphasises the importance of building long- term relationships with family businesses, moving away from the product-push mentality of the pre-financial crisis period.

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