Edward Heckels

Edward Heckels is an Executive Private Banker at Kleinwort Benson. His clients include a mix of City professionals and entrepreneurs. He first joined Kleinwort Benson nearly 30 years ago.

When did you join Kleinwort Benson?
I joined Kleinwort Benson on leaving Cambridge in 1987. A year earlier, the City had been de-regulated in the “Big Bang” and the banking and corporate advisory activities of Kleinwort Benson were combined with the securities and asset management operations of Grieveson Grant to form an American-style investment bank. The private bank was only a small part of Kleinwort Benson’s business – just two people from a graduate intake of more than 30 joined the private bank. Most of us, including me, joined the investment bank.

What was it like working for Kleinwort Benson in the 1980s?
The 1980s were a golden age for Kleinwort Benson. The City was still dominated by British banks. Kleinwort Benson was one of the “big three” along with SG Warburg and Morgan Grenfell. The US investment banks were not yet a major presence. One of my friends from university joined JP Morgan. They had to pay double the salary of the leading British banks to get him to do so! Kleinwort Benson was a household name because of our role as a pioneer of privatisations. When we acted as the lead adviser on the flotation of British Telecom, it was the largest public offering the world had ever seen. In the following years, Kleinwort Benson acted as adviser and underwriter on large and complex equity offerings and privatisations (including Harrods and Cable & Wireless) in more than 50 countries. We also regularly topped the global league tables for M&A transactions and bond issues.

How has your job changed in the last 30 years?
I spent my first 14 years at Kleinwort Benson working in the investment bank in corporate finance. This required great flexibility, continual re-invention and an ability to work well with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. My roles included industry specialist, privatisation adviser, client relationship manager and transaction execution specialist. I worked in 18 different countries from offices in the UK, Japan, China and Indonesia. I moved across to the private bank in 2001. The skills learned in corporate finance were readily transferable - giving advice, managing a client relationship, understanding financial markets. And a number of my former colleagues in the investment bank became my clients in the private bank.

What are the biggest differences in the working environment?
In the 1980s, London’s financial activities were still overwhelmingly concentrated on the City where Kleinwort Benson had operated from offices in Fenchurch Street since 1863. There were plenty of pubs but few retail shops. Once the bars closed, the only place for dinner was a sole Indian restaurant in Philpot Lane. Inside 20 Fenchurch Street, cigarette and cigar smoke drifted between the directors’ offices. Wine and port was served in the senior staff dining room. No one had computers on their desks. Work was dictated to a secretary or handwritten and passed to the Typing Pool for inputting on word processors. I used a mobile phone for the first time in 1989 – on a train – but was not given one for my exclusive use until 1995. Documents were transported by post or courier or sent by fax, the cost of which was often the biggest expense of an overseas business trip. Life became much easier with the introduction of e-mail in 1998.

This is a picture of the Kleinwort Benson trading floor in the 1980s. Does it evoke any interesting memories?
I started work at Kleinwort Benson on 1 October 1987. I first stepped onto the trading floor in the week of Monday 19 October - now known as “Black Monday,” when the FTSE 100 fell 10.84%. The next day was even worse – the FTSE fell 12.22%. Wednesday was better but on Thursday the market dropped 5.69%. After a weekend of reflection, the FTSE closed down another 6.19% on Monday 26 October. As is often the case, however, a time of blind market panic proved to be a good buying opportunity for those with a sound investment process. The FTSE 100 returned 4.3% in 1988 and 25.8% in 1989, excluding dividends.

Not a lot of people know this about me, but…
I have a degree in Japanese. In preparation for a posting to our Tokyo office in 1992, I was sent by Kleinwort Benson as a full time student to learn Japanese at Stirling and Saitama universities and graduated with a Masters in Japanese Studies. My most challenging role in my time at Kleinwort Benson was, aged 25, cold-calling senior management of Japanese companies – speaking in Japanese.


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