Kleinwort, Benson: A History of Two Families in Banking

Kleinwort, Benson: A History of Two Families in Banking

Kleinwort, Benson: A History of Two Families in Banking

Kleinwort, Benson: A History of Two Families in Banking

Synopsis

Kleinwort Benson is one of the most distinguished international investment banks in the City of London, becoming part of the Dresdner Bank Group in 1995. This is the story of how two families, the Kleinworts and the Bensons, emerged from medieval beginnings in Holstein and the Lake District to seek their fortunes in Hamburg, Cuba, and Liverpool, before arriving in the 1850s in London. There they founded two very different merchant banks, which merged in 1967 to create Kleinwort Benson Lonsdale, later Kleinwort Benson. The Kleinwort Benson story mirrors both the spectacular growth of English capital and its often turbulent side-effects. It shows how the two families survived the collapse of the Benson bank in 1875, the freezing of Kleinwort assets and business by the European financial crisis of 1931, and two World Wars, and how they established their banks as powerful City players in the postwar period. Their story is as much a human drama as a financial history. Brimming with generations of Kleinworts, Bensons, and the families with whom they married and formed partnerships, the book evokes their feuds and friendships, their successes and failures, set against the background of more than two hundred years of social and business history. This is the first full history of Kleinwort Benson. It contributes to our understanding of the way in which business is carried out in the City of London, and provides fascinating insights into the lives of those concerned. Jehanne Wake was given unrestricted access to the bank's archives and staff and has drawn upon a wealth of original sources to furnish this lively and readable history of the members of two banking dynasties and their boardroom successors.

Excerpt

Alexander Friedrich Kleinwort and Robert Bensonjnr. had much in common, despite their dissimilar backgrounds. They shared the experience of early disappointment. Alexander Friedrich had been denied the education, wealth, and situation in Hamburg fitting to the station that his family's social standing had led him to expect. They both served apprenticeships at firms which, for different reasons, had not led to partnerships. This had been more unlucky in Robert jnr.'s case: as the son of the senior proprietor at Cropper, Benson, a partnership would automatically have been his. Instead he and Alexander Friedrich had had to spend years in what to them were clearly unsatisfactory working milieux, at Worthington & Benson and at Drakes, unable to do exactly as they wanted.

Both men, moreover, were quick to identify opportunities in business and to act upon them. Each by his thirties had demonstrated a proven flair for finance and for setting up deals. Alexander Friedrich had undoubtedly come furthest since he lacked inherited wealth and standing. To compensate, he was far more ambitious, a man driven to achieve his goals by whatever means necessary. Robert jnr. was less single-minded and certainly did not possess the same degree of motivation. Whereas Alexander Friedrich had ruthlessly cut all outside interests and distractions from his life, Robertjnr. had allowed the gentlemanly pursuits of connoisseurship, club membership, and authorship to permeate his. Most importantly they had one ambition in common: to have their own banking businesses. in order to achieve this they required capital and suitable partners. in both cases their marital partnerships led to their business partnerships.

Alexander Friedrich's marriage to Sophie Charlotte Greverushad taken place at the beginning of 1852. Her father and mother were first cousins and on both sides she was descended from a long line of learned, pious clerics. 'So many', a cousin wrote of their ancestors, 'from both Greverus and Kuhlmann dedicated themselves to Theology and exercised their holy office with great devotion and ability.' the earliest ancestor, Gerhard Greverus, was a preacher in Oldenburg from 1636 to 1677 and it took over 150 years before the ecclesiastical chain was broken by Sophie's father, Hermann Diederich Greverus.

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