The Business On: Preben Prebensen, Chief Executive, Close Brothers

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The Independent Online

Probably not a bad idea for a bank to hire an insurance man?

Well, the insurance sector has largely fixed the problems it went through a few years ago and managed alright during the downturn. Mr Prebensen, who took the helm of Close this spring, was the boss of Wellington Underwriting, the Lloyd's of London insurer, before it was bought up by Catlin. He pitched up at Wellington just after Hurricane Katrina hit and is credited with turning the company around before selling up. However, before this he was a banker for more than 20 years with JP Morgan.



I see. What did he do at JP?

Well, he was quite the big hitter in his day. Mr Prebensen, a 52-year-old British Norwegian, held various roles with grandiose sounding titles in both London and New York, including being co-head of European investment banking and chairman of JP's London management committee.



Does this mean he'll sell Close then? That's what bankers do

No, no, no, no, no. It's true that Close is rather unique, being a hotchpotch of second-tier investment banking, wealth management and share dealing, even insurance premium financing, that's perennially the subject of takeover rumours. But Close insisted Prebensen wasn't hired with a mandate to sell. In fact yesterday, unveiling a 13 per cent rise in operating profits to £131m, Mr Prebensen said he was looking to buy businesses.



Is he one of those all-work bankers with no personality?

Now stop that. Mr Prebensen, as you might expect given his Norwegian background, is fond of the wilds. He's a lover of the countryside and has a home near Exmoor.



Presumably he's no fool, what's he looking to buy?

Are you alluding to the fact he assumed the role on 1 April? But no, he's no fool. He was hired after an extensive search for his "experience in banking and the range of senior management roles he's occupied". Although according to the gossips he wasn't exactly the first person to be approached. Now he's looking to add an independent financial adviser or two to Close's diverse portfolio.

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