Kleinwort Benson to Hire Bankers in Bid to Compete With Rothschild, Lazard

Kleinwort Benson, the U.K. private bank that traces its roots to 1786, plans to hire bankers in the next 12 to 24 months as it expands its funds management and financial advisory units.

The decision follows the completion today of Kleinwort Benson’s sale to Brussels-based RHJ International SA, the publicly traded investment company started by Timothy Collins, founder of private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC.

“We want to grow in all of these areas,” said Robert Taylor, 50, Kleinwort Benson’s chief executive officer said in an interview in London today. “We definitely want to hire, particularly in the front-end of relationship management, asset management and the advisory side.”

RHJ bought Kleinwort Benson from Commerzbank AG for 225 million pounds ($334 million) in October as it seeks growth in financial services and to decrease its reliance on the automotive-components industry. London-based Kleinwort Benson, which also has offices in the Channel Islands, will have more than 10 billion euros ($12.3 billion) of assets under management after RHJ also decided to buy KBC Groep NV’s funds business in Ireland last month.

The bank has not yet decided how many bankers to hire as it’s reviewing its business plan, Taylor said. In September 2008, Commerzbank announced it was cutting more than 1,000 jobs at Dresdner Kleinwort in London after buying the firm’s Dresdner Bank AG parent. In February 2009, Dresdner Kleinwort said it would cut as many as 150 jobs from its equity research and cash equities units.

Photographer: Gian Vaitl/Bloomberg

The Kleinwort transaction marks RHJ CEO Leonhard Fischer’s return to Kleinwort Benson. Close

The Kleinwort transaction marks RHJ CEO Leonhard Fischer’s return to Kleinwort Benson.

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Photographer: Gian Vaitl/Bloomberg

The Kleinwort transaction marks RHJ CEO Leonhard Fischer’s return to Kleinwort Benson.

‘Ambitious Plans’

The firm may end up competing with companies including NM Rothschild & Sons Ltd. and Lazard Ltd., Taylor said, adding that “we have ambitious plans.” The bank may expand into some non- European emerging markets in the next three years to five years, he said.

The Kleinwort transaction marks RHJ Chief Executive Officer Leonhard Fischer’s return to Kleinwort Benson. He led the company for 2 ½ years while it was owned by Dresdner Bank and then quit in 2002 over what Dresdner called “differences of opinion” about how to run the company. Kleinwort said in a statement today that Fischer will become chairman of Kleinwort Benson Private Bank Ltd.

“We are looking to expand our business prudently but aggressively,” Taylor said. “We’d like to see what’s in the marketplace,” he said, referring to potential acquisitions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ambereen Choudhury in London at achoudhury@bloomberg.net

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