We are all attracted to culture and heritage. It is built in our psyche that an old structure will have an interesting story about it or a long-standing organization will be a successful one simply because they have been around for such a long time. People want to be associated with such organizations and become a part of their stories. With the rapid change in times, however, heritage must keep up with modernity if it wants to stay ahead in its league.
In the private banking industry, there is no denying the legacy of Hauck & Aufhäuser, Germany. With roots planted as far back as 1796 and with the merger between Hauck and Aufhäuser more than 2 decades ago, this private bank has been through all changes possible, traditional and modern, and successfully kept up with changing times and trends.
Michael Bentlage, CEO; Hauck & Aufhäuser (H&A) has been in the finance industry all his life and has held various financial management posts before joining H&A in 2009 as a partner. Initially responsible for the Financial Markets and Asset servicing divisions, he was promoted to CEO in 2017. Michael demonstrates how his company has a definitive edge on an international level, making them extremely unique in this market segment. In essence, this bank is a perfect amalgamation of orthodox values such as reliability, a strong sense of responsibility, and loyalty, blended with the modern-day technological advancements for seamless service.
“H&A stands for two elements that combine their strengths: over 225 years of tradition in first-class personal advice meets contemporary technology.”
The path of “Challenge and Change”
Although the bank started in 1796, it has gone through a complete transformation over the last 5 years. Michael says, “Since 2016 we have been looking into the future together with our Chinese partner and investor Fosun, and a lot has changed since then.” Ever since this merger, the bank has rapidly grown organically and inorganically in all business areas.
On the path to growth and operational excellence, in 2017, the new and improved H&A completed their acquisition of Sal. Oppenheim, a German private bank founded in 1789. This further increased their customer service reach and product offering range. Later in the same year, H&A acquired Crossroads Capital Management in Ireland to spread their reach even further.
Keeping up with changing times, the bank made a move away from the run-of-the-mill private banking practices and launched a digital wealth management platform called Zeedin in 2018. With Zeedin, the bank got recognition as a modern financial institution following new technologies for better asset and customer service management.
Despite all these mergers, acquisitions, and digital enhancements, the biggest announcement for H&A came last year. They acquired Bankhaus Lampe, an independent private bank operating since 1852 in Germany. This has placed H&A all the way at the top in the asset management industry, making it one of the biggest and best private banks in all of Germany due to its increased service portfolio and geographical reach.
In the last five years, H&A has gone through a lot of calculated changes and developments. Today, the bank’s range of products and services includes fund services in countries like Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, and, more recently, China. Their expertise lies in investment banking, asset management, financial markets, and private banking divisions operating out of branches in Frankfurt (headquarter), Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Hamburg. In addition to these places, they operate an investment banking division from Zurich and London as well. In his years, Michael has witnessed unprecedented change and continuous magnification and eagerly looks forward to what’s next.
“The huge changes that have taken place in recent years have been both a challenge and a change. And that is exactly why our motto "Challenge & Change Banking" best describes us.”
Traditional values and the modern innovative spirit
H&A is where 225 years of experience in first-class personal advice meets contemporary digital technology to provide easier access and faster turnaround time. As CEO of H&A, Michael follows a flat-hierarchy policy. This means that there are very few to no levels of middle management between the staff and the executives. Not only does having fewer levels of management simplify internal communication and goal setting but it also gives the necessary freedom to the employees to develop themselves further and increase their area of expertise.
With regular training programs and transformation measures at H&A, the company promotes a culture of openness, engagement, and self-development. There is a sense of responsibility that every employee shoulder toward their organization and their clients. They get every chance to display their own ideas, commitment, and ambition and get due reward and recognition for their positive contributions. “Our corporate culture can be best summed up as follows: Short lines of service, room for innovation, and constant change,” says Michael.
Today the bank is recognized the world over due to its ability to maintain its long-standing customs combined with a high level of modernity and vitality in its service offerings. Ever since the partnership with Fosun International and the launch of Zeedin, they have expanded their product portfolio with regard to international asset management options.
An opulent future of sustained growth
Apart from being an experienced professional from the asset management wing of the financial industry all his life, Michael is a mathematician and portfolio manager at heart. During his initial years with H&A, he noticed how the bank was not as profitable as it could be. He decided to rethink their business model from scratch and come up with new and inventive ways to fast-track the bank’s growth. He found the opportunity to drive growth when Fosun took over in 2016. With the freedom that came along with that, Michael set things in motion towards rapid expansion and digitization.
In more recent times, Michael says that dealing with the Covid pandemic was a challenge and opportunity for the company. At the same time, they dealt with the sudden change successfully by adopting a hybrid work approach, something that they will continue in the future. He saw how quickly his teams adapted to this change all the while ensuring that their clients’ needs were met at every stage. With their digital wealth management platform Zeedin in place since 2018, and the company’s change embracing attitude, the bank shifted its focus on automating its service processes.
“It will be the degree of digitization and innovation that will decide the success of our industry.”
Michael maintains that it is imperative to keep up with changing times and digital trends. He foresees simple operations like credit ratings, customer analysis, product development, or even simple administrative processes becoming faster, more in-depth, and more precise thanks to AI. He hopes to see such continuous positive growth over the years to come. Lastly, as the leader of a leading universal private bank, Michael says that notwithstanding all the changes they have gone through over the centuries, at H&A, the employees have always been regarded as their most valuable asset. “Because without the right employees, any company would be just an empty shell. In the end, success depends only on them.”