Coutts exec: We will not acquire firms at expense of service levels

Coutts exec: We will not acquire firms at expense of service levels
Credit: Financial Times

Coutts’ asset management head said the bank “can always go faster” in terms of growth, but that it will not be acquiring businesses at the expense of service levels.

Mo Kamal-Syed, who is also chief investment officer for Natwest, responded to questions regarding Sky News reports that the Natwest group is mulling a £3bn takeover bid of Tilney Smith & Williamson - soon to be Evelyn Partners.

So far, Coutts’ path has been to grow internally, rather than acquire businesses. “What we have been doing is pivoting as a business to be more than just a bank,” Kamal-Syed told FTAdviser. “A bank is more of a utility function.”

Asked whether the Natwest Group was interested in a firm like Tilney, against the backdrop of advice firm consolidation, Kamal-Syed said: “Even internally, we can always go faster. But we should go faster not at the expense of our controlled environment or our clients. Or taking risk where we don’t need to take risk. So pace, absolutely.”

As a result of such thinking, Coutts has increased its investment management credentials over the last five years, and expanded services such as succession planning to better preserve its clients’ wealth.

“This growth is all internal and wholly organic, as opposed to deciding to acquire a business and that continues to be the case,” Kamal-Syed explained. 

“In terms of growth, it’s all been internal. Our advisers, our relationship managers. We now have a client director that brings the best of the firm for the client.

“We are very fortunate to have the best brand in the marketplace. So it’s just a question of what’s the best way to increase our conversations and meet more clients’ needs.”

Historically, the bank managed clients through a team of bankers and wealth managers which meant clients would look at Coutts as one firm. Now, Kamal-Syed said the client director works a lot like a “conductor” in linking the banks’ various services - be that philanthropy, succession planning, or investment management.

“It’s more what I call a joined up approach to a client,” he said. Coutts offers banking, lending, and wealth management services through one app.

But the asset management boss suggested there was still more which could be done for Coutts’ existing clients, in terms of serving more of their needs.

“We have plenty of clients. Do we do enough with the existing client base? Let alone what we do for new bank clients,” said Kamal-Syed.

“As you develop that internal capability and develop your propositions, then you start to see that pace automatically increase. Now, we have to get the proposition right.