SG Kleinwort Hambros Bank Limited Jersey branch manager Phil McIlwraith and group head of client solutions Delyth Richards tells Emily Moore how the organisation is progressing its ambition to be a leading responsible bank in all areas from its investment approach to staff wellbeing and client relationships
HOW do you know whether you are a leader or a follower?
It may sound like a strange question, especially when you consider that the two words are antonyms of one another and yet, in a constantly evolving world, it is one complicated by multiple layers and nuances.
It is also a question which Kleinwort Hambros Jersey Branch manager Phil McIlwraith was pondering as the bank celebrated its 60th anniversary in the Channel Islands.
‘It is sometimes hard to say whether you are a leader or a follower,’ he reflected, ‘but, at Kleinwort Hambros, we maintain our ambition to be a leading responsible bank. We are leading in the responsible investment field. This doesn’t mean that we have cracked it, as it is a complex area, and one which is constantly changing and evolving, but our credentials in this field are very strong.’
Indeed, the topic of responsibility is at the core of the business’s vision, shaping its strategy and supporting its purpose of ‘simplifying life’s financial challenges’.
‘Underpinning our vision of being a leading responsible bank is our “Four Cs” framework, which focuses on our core values of clients, colleagues, community and climate,’ explains group head of client solutions Delyth Richards. ‘Within this is a strong focus on ESG, as, to offer responsible solutions in a credible way, you have to embody those values and be a responsible organisation.’
Accordingly, Kleinwort Hambros – which has been owned by the Société Générale Group in various guises since 1998 – applies a number of strategies to its investment approach.
‘While we use a mix of exclusion policies, impact investments, best of class and shareholder investments, the one consistent factor is that we know the carbon footprint and ESG score of every client’s portfolio,’ added Ms Richards. ‘This is critical to our approach because it reaffirms that even if we have not fully achieved every objective, we are committed to doing so, and can demonstrate the impact of any investment at any time.’
It is also important, she adds, not just for highlighting the bank’s values but for raising awareness of ESG issues and helping to address the critical area of climate change.
‘These are topics on which we have been engaging with clients for many years and interest and understanding is growing, particularly among younger and female investors,’ she said. ‘Having said that, philanthropy is evident across all age groups and genders and many clients are reassured by our responsible framework.
‘Our transparency in highlighting the ESG score of each investment also avoids any “greenwashing”. We are still a long way from reaching net zero and, as an industry, a lot more work and consolidated effort will be required if we are to reach this goal.’
While environmental concerns are understandably high, the bank is also leading the way in social and governance issues.
‘Gender parity is another hugely important area for us, both within Kleinwort Hambros and within the companies in which we invest,’ explained Ms Richards. ‘The ESG ratings also reflect areas such as the gender make-up of a board and the pay gap between the chief executive and other staff members. By looking at companies’ MSCI ratings and S&P 500 climate-exchange-traded funds, we are using our voice to try to influence better social practices in governance and environmental behaviour.’
In keeping with its vision of being a leading responsible bank, Kleinwort Hambros is applying these principles to itself, assessing its own carbon footprint.
‘This extends not just to the footprint of the buildings that we occupy but also to the way our treasury book is made up, the energy efficiency of the residential properties against which we lend and the impact of our investment portfolios,’ Ms Richards added.
‘We also carry out a number of cultural initiatives, which include encouraging staff to attend regular Gender Equity and Culture and Allies internal events, from “lunch and learns” to forums and training. Essentially, it’s about creating an inclusive environment where colleagues feel they can have quality conversations, challenge and debate without fear or consequence. All help to engage and involve staff on our journey.’
It is a journey which began more than two centuries ago but which, as Mr McIlwraith explains, is constantly evolving.
‘Our legacy and heritage shape who we are today, and the personal service and client relationships at the core of the business are just as important now as they were 200 years ago. However, while retaining those core values, we are constantly transforming and innovating in the way that we simplify our clients’ financial challenges.’
One of the greatest changes has been in technology, with new solutions enhancing the ways in which clients can engage with the bank.
‘While many clients still appreciate the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with an adviser – something we are always very happy to offer – others prefer communication methods which they can access at any time that suits their busy lifestyle,’ explained Ms Richards. ‘Accordingly, we have developed digital brochures, podcasts, webinars and EVA, a digital tool which we created internally to enable us to engage with existing and potential clients in a dynamic way.
‘As well as discussing their aims and ambitions, EVA allows us to show cashflow projections and different levels of risk associated with potential investment scenarios. This allows us to engage with people in an interactive way, while enabling them to see wealth-planning illustrations and the impact of deposit rates and borrowing.’
In a similar vein, the bank’s app, KH Online, allows clients to access their accounts and portfolio valuations in real time, while its newly launched Instagram account gives people an insight into the bank’s ‘wider context and community initiatives’.
Such community initiatives are, says Mr McIlwraith, another area in which the business is demonstrating its leadership credentials, partnering with Jersey Women’s Refuge and GROW in Guernsey both to raise money and awareness of the organisations’ needs, something which JWR committee chair Terry Morel says has helped the charity to continue providing its services.
‘Jersey Women’s Refuge is extremely grateful to Kleinwort Hambros for its ongoing support of us and the work we do here in Jersey,’ she said.
‘Since the start of our partnership in 2021, the funds donated for training have contributed to helping women re-establish and build new lives for themselves and their children. The programmes provide women with an opportunity to analyse and reflect on physically and emotionally abusive relationships through one-to-one support or group work, when feasible, and to recognise the warning signs as well as the destructive impact on their self-esteem of such behaviour.
‘This work is a critical step in helping survivors start afresh. Our outreach education programme, which promotes respectful relationships in schools, reached some 2,695 students last year. In 2022, 42 women and 32 children stayed at our safe house; it was at full capacity in the last months of 2022 although the first quarter of 2023 has seen a slowdown in the number of new residents.
We continue to work closely in partnership with other agencies and charities to advocate and seek solutions for women. The Kleinwort Hambros team has shown great kindness through its fundraising for JWR, including donations and charity auctions. We, and our service users, are ever grateful for the bank’s contribution to us.
‘With continued reports of domestic abuse, including coercive behaviour, partnerships such as this are vital both in helping sustain the work of JWR and in raising awareness about domestic abuse in Jersey’.
But while such community endeavours may have increased Kleinwort Hambros’ prominence in the local marketplace, Mr McIlwraith stresses that this is not the key goal.
‘Last year was a milestone year for the business and it gave us an opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate our achievements,’ he said. ‘In doing that, we have looked at the history of the business and also considered where we want to go and how we see the future. Naturally, a lot of that future is shaped by the past and our legacy and framework. Over the past couple of years, we have really focused on our infrastructure and on ensuring that we have the right foundations in place to move forward. Now, we are in a great position do that and one of the things we want to build on is our role in the community in ways which have a positive impact. In doing that, our profile may rise but it is the impact which is the priority.’
And charities are not the only area in which the firm is keen to make an impact.
‘We have also done a lot of work to raise awareness about the impacts of the menopause, something which I think has been very important and powerful,’ added Mr McIlwraith.
‘Not only have we signed up to the 51 Employers Pledge but we have also worked with life coach Trudi Roscouet to increase understanding of this important topic. This has included internal seminars and supporting The Time to Talk campaign, which ran in Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar, to start women – and men – talking about the menopause.’
Commenting on the response, Ms Roscouet added: ‘It’s been great to see the public’s interest and I really believe the word in the corporate sector is now out. We need to educate staff, as behind every man, there are normally ten women – and nine of them could be perimenopausal.’
And the benefits of highlighting this issue have, says Mr McIlwraith, extended beyond raising the profile of menopause in the workplace.
‘Menopause is undoubtedly an important topic and, by addressing this area, we have created a culture shift within the workplace so that those traditionally more challenging conversations are now a lot more normal,’ he reflected. ‘Whether the topic is the menopause or mental health, fostering that open dialogue has really helped staff to feel more connected and supported, which is so important.’
And that focus on workplace culture is also vital, he says, to help the business to attract and retain talented individuals. As part of a wider Kleinwort Hambros programme, the firm intends to take on a new cohort of trainees and summer interns of which between two and four are expected this year.
‘We promote talent and diversity through initiatives such as our apprenticeship scheme, and support the next generation through our Nexco programme, which matches junior talent with our leadership team to facilitate valuable feedback and perspective, as well as engaging talent succession,’ Mr McIlwraith said. ‘As we look at the next five or ten years, we need to build on our legacy but also transition and move forward. When we talk about making a positive impact, we also need to look at the challenges facing the industry and find ways of overcoming these so that financial services continue to flourish in the Channel Islands.
‘As an island, we also need to be fully prepared for the Moneyval visit later this year. The robust regulatory framework we have in the Island is key to ensuring that Jersey remains top of the list for international financial centres.’
These ambitions sit alongside the global challenges with which the finance industry has had to contend over the past 12 months.
‘It was undoubtedly quite a rocky ride last year,’ Mr McIlwraith acknowledged, ‘and one which ended with double-digit inflation in many developed economies, higher interest rates and ongoing concerns about political stability on the global stage. This turmoil has demonstrated, even more than ever before, the importance of strong leadership and communication for both staff and clients.
‘Reassuring clients and keeping those channels of communication open have been critical and I think that is where Kleinwort Hambros, with its blend of local expertise, group resources, legacy and forward-thinking outlook is very powerful.’
lThis document is a marketing communication provided for information purposes and does not constitute investment advice or a recommendation.