Hoare & Co suffers profits downturn

C Hoare & Co, Britain's oldest private bank, has suffered a fall in pre-tax profits despite robust growth in its core business of servicing the financial needs of the country's richest people.

The bank, which opened for business in 1672 and has traded from its Fleet Street premises since 1690, saw pre-tax profits fall 12.5 per cent to £8.2m in the 12 months to the end of March. The bank's accounts, recently filed at Companies House, show it was hit by lower investment income and an undisclosed top-up payment to its pension fund.

However, continued growth in the ranks of the UK's wealthiest people meant that Hoare's operating income after expenses rose from £30m to £31.6m.

Alexander Hoare, the bank's chief executive and member of the eponymous family that still owns the venerable institution, said: "There are a lot of rich people around. It [Hoare & Co] was about old money until Margaret Thatcher came along. Now it's a combination of new and old money and non-British-domiciled internationals."

Interest receivable on loans jumped from £43.6m in 2004 to £53.7m this year, reflecting in part a near £50m rise in loans and advances to customers which reached £501.5m. Lending to other banks remained stable at £491m. It currently holds £971.3m in its customers' personal accounts, an increase of £43m on 2004.

Hoare & Co has remained a beacon of stability and continuity for 333 years while its main private banking rivals, including Coutts & Co, Drummonds, and Childs & Co, have all sold out to bigger clearing banks. It has resisted the temptation to diversify into wider financial services, such as insurance and estate agencies. It has a very limited online banking function.

It still trades using the sign of the golden bottle, reflecting British banking's roots in the London goldsmiths trade. Hoare & Co has a long history of providing savings and loans to the well known, including Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen and Lord Byron.

Potential customers are still interviewed to determine their suitability and prospects. There is no minimum level of liquid assets to qualify, although you do need to keep a minimum balance of £2,500 to avoid bank charges.

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