Hambros Bank

Hambros Bank

Hambros Bank was a British bank based in London. It was established there in 1839 by the Danish merchant and banker Carl Joachim Hambro as C. J. Hambro & Son. The bank was a specialist in Anglo-Scandinavian business with expertise in trade finance and investment banking, and was the sole banker to the Scandinavian kingdoms for many years. The Bank was sold in 1998, and today survives only in the name of the private banking division of the French group Société Générale, which is called SG Hambros Bank Ltd.

Pre-war and World War II

After merging with the British Bank of Northern Commerce (owned by Enskilda Banken and a number of Scandinavian savings banks) in 1921 the name was changed to Hambros Bank, and the firm expanded. As a result, in 1926 a bigger head office was constructed at 41 Bishopsgate, where the bank remainded until 1988. The 1930 depression affected the bank's international business and it concentrated on domestic lending and Scandinavia. During World War II, Sir Charles Hambro raised finance for the exile Norwegian government and was also the head of the SOE (the Special Operations Executive), running a network of agents in Europe, including Operation Gunnerside, the sabotage of the Rjukan heavy water factory in Norway (featured in the film "The Heroes of Telemark"). He had good connections to the Swedish Wallenberg family and its Stockholms Enskilda Bank, eventually marrying the widow of Marcus Wallenberg.

Post War Development

After World War II, Hambros became also known as the 'diamond bank' with its thriving activity in financing the diamond industry and its trade. Hambros was one of the top three banks in the Euromarket by the mid 1960s. In 1967 the private banking and trust operations were expanded offshore and new offices were opened in Jersey and Guernsey to take advantage of the offshore tax benefits.The 1970s marked Hambros' expansion into new areas of financial services - in particular, asset management, investment management for third parties, investment funds and insurance. An offshore private banking and trust operation was established in 1981 in Gibraltar to complement the offices in London, Jersey and Guernsey.

hipping Crises and Hilmar Reksten

In the mid 1970's the Bank was badly hit by the shipping crises and repeatedly hindered by its relationship with the Norwegian magnate Hilmar Reksten. Under the direction of Charles Perrin, who started his career in the Bank as Assistant Company Secretary, the Bank defended itself against litigation from his Trustees in Bankruptcy and the Norwegian Government on and off for nearly 25 years, including two substantial out of court settlements, both in the Bank's disfavour. Altogether, the affairs of Hilmar Reksten was a disaster for Hambros Bank, both financially and in terms of wasted time and opportunities.

Hambro Family Break Up

In 1986, the Hambro Trust, the majority shareholder in the bank, was dissolved and the family went their separate ways. Sir Charles' son, Charles Hambro (with his children Clare, Charles and Alex) stayed with the bank and Jocelyn Hambro (with his children Rupert, Richard and James) set up JO Hambro and Sons. This resulted in substantially less Hambro family influence in the banking group and promotion of Chips Keswick to Chairman of the Bank and Charles Perrin (of Reksten fame) to Vice Chairman and later CEO. Jocelyn Hambro and his sons were very successful in their new businesses, more than making up for the "loss" of the bank.


By the end of the decade Hambros had 1,400 staff, 900 of whom were based at 41 Tower Hill in London, where the head office is still based today. In February 1998 the Hambros PLC board recommended a sale of Hambors Bank Ltd to the French bank Société Générale, which the majority of the shareholders accepted. Hambros PLC, including the private equity and investment side, was later sold to Investec, a South African bank. In November 1998, the Hambros core private banking activities were renamed SG Hambros Bank & Trust Limited. As well as the London, Jersey, Guernsey and Gibraltar operations, a subsidiary of Coutts Bank in the Bahamas also became part of the SG Hambros Group.

Lord Hambro

Lord Hambro of Dixton and Dumbleton (Charles Eric Alexander Hambro) was the last family Chairman of the Group. In 1997, on the retirement of Lord Hambro, his position was taken over by Sir Chips Keswick, who remained in the chair as the last Chairman until the sale of the bank. He was the prime promotor of the Société Générale takeover together with his Vice Chairmen Charles Perrin, who was the last CEO of Hambros Bank Ltd, and Michael Sorkin. Charles Hambro Jr substantially developed and was the Chairman of the Private Banking business until 1998. Lord Hambro was also treasurer of the Conservative Party during the early 1990s. Lord Hambro died at the age of 72 on the November 7, 2003.

Boutiques and Spin-Offs

Several boutiques and spin-offs originated from or arose out of the ashes of Hambros Banking Group, including JO Hambro and Sons (Jocelyn Hambro and his sons), Hambro Magan Corporate Finance (JO Hambro and Mr Magan), J O Hambro Capital Management (James Hambro), JO Hambro Investment Management (Rupert, Richard and James Hambro), Rupert Hambro & Partners, Firecrest Hambro (Charles Edward Hambro Jr), EC Hambro Rabben & Partners (Clare Hambro), Duke Street Capital (Edmund Truell, ex Hambro European Ventures CEO), Star Capital Partners (Tony Mallin, ex Vice Chairman of Hambros Bank), and Getty Images (Paul Getty/Jonathan Klein, both ex Hambros Bank Corporate Finance Directors), to mention a few. One of the largest companies being formed by the family has been the highly successful Peter Hambro Mining and Gold - now one of the largest companies listed on the AIM exchange in London

Wiltons Restaurant, of Jermyn Street, London, near St James' (owned by Richard Hambro) is still the favourite wateringhole for ex-Hambro Directors/Employees, their families, clients and friends.

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