The secrets to success at Britain’s oldest privately-owned bank

Alexander Hoare, partner at C. Hoare & Co -- the country’s oldest privately-owned bank -- explains the business's independence is its key strength. And when you consider that the bank was founded back in 1672, it's easy to accept his take on the family-run concern.

Alexander is one of seven partners who own the private bank, all of whom are cousins descending from the founder, Sir Richard Hoare, a former goldsmith.

The bank boasts of "excellence in personal service”. Remaining small enough to offer customers a highly personalised private banking service, dedicated to building lasting relationships.

On the bank's website in a short video, Alexander explains:

"The key distinguishing feature of our ownership is that the seven of us are carrying on with joint and several unlimited liability, we are each of us personally liable for anything and everything the bank does. What that, of course means, is we keep a close eye on things, we take a lot of care, we are prudent and conservative in how we go about the business.

"It forces us to be selective - it means that we are fixing on long-term questions of quality and risk management over and above any short-term gains. So, there are a number of strands to managing the risks in our unlimited liability. One is to run a very strong balance sheet - it's strong by any measure, and very liquid, but another is to focus - so we are very clear we are pursuing a niche strategy and, yes, we could go and open branches all round Europe but that's not our territory. We are a UK private bank for UK people; and only deal with people who share our values.”

He adds that the vast majority of the banks profits go straight back in to the business to provide reserves for future balance sheet growth. He adds: "We also give a good share of the profits each year to our charitable trust, the Golden Bottle Trust, and there are number of merits doing that; one of them is that we have considerable experience to offer our customers in the field of philanthropy.”

The key strength, though is – as previously mentioned – independence: “We have no conflicts of interest, we have a huge community of interest with our customers so all of us want the bank to be sound and safe and efficient. Family businesses are different to public companies and we have many colleagues here who've worked 40 years or more; we have customers who have banked here for many generations, several generations. So, it really is a family business and it suits all of us to keep it that way."

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