That ever-present zebra is running pretty well in the UK

Business

That ever-present zebra is running pretty well in the UK

Investec finds a fast-growing niche as a specialist ‘investment bank for individuals’

Hanna Ziady

Investec is gaining more traction in its UK specialist bank than the market has been giving it credit for. It had about 2,500 private banking clients in the UK and was aiming to grow this up to 10,000 in the next three to five years, said Ciaran Whelan, global joint head of the specialist bank.
That would be about 7.5% to 10% of the 100,000 people it estimated were in its target market – individuals earning at least £300,000 (R5-million) a year and with investable assets of at least £3-million (R50-million). 
Investec has only recently disclosed its progress in the UK specialist bank to analysts, some of whom doubted its ability to crack the UK private banking scene.
“Investec is doing better than I expected [in the UK],” said Harry Botha, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets.Botha was not alone in this view. But Whelan said only South African analysts, and not those in the UK, pressed Investec on whether it could “make it in the UK”.
Whelan, an Investec lifer, is to succeed Glynn Burger as director of risk on April 1 2019 as part of management changes that see joint founders Stephen Koseff and Bernard Kantor step down. 
Whelan said that Investec had initially planed to target the same market as it did in SA. This included young professionals, such as trainee accountants and lawyers.But regulations that limit the borrowing power of these individuals meant they generally qualified only for “vanilla mortgages” – a market already highly contested by UK high-street banks. Now Investec was going after entrepreneurs who were in the wealth creation phase and wanted something “non vanilla”, Whelan said.The bank’s approach was different to existing UK private banks, such as Coutts & Co., which were “wealth management led”, requiring clients to have a certain amount of money invested with their wealth management arms.
Investec was instead focused on specialised lending, a kind of “investment bank for individuals”, he said.
Investec had a further 55,000 British clients who had money on deposit but to whom it did not lend, as well as 10,000 predominantly South African clients banking with it in the UK.
The bank was moving beyond “brand building” in the UK, through its sponsorship of sporting events, by rolling out more product specific advertising, Whelan said.
While “people know the zebra”, many Britons thought Investec was a sports betting company, he said.

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