Family finance just lost a big beast

Bill Winters, the new CEO of Standard Chartered
Bill Winters, the new CEO of Standard Chartered

Bill Winters, the new CEO of Standard Chartered, was described by Jacob Rothschild as “among a handful of truly exceptional leaders in the finance community”. That’s a compliment indeed, coming from a scion of one of the great banking families.

Rothschild put his money where his mouth was and backed Winters when he set up fund management firm Renshaw Bay in 2011. Fellow family business giant Johann Rupert, who runs the Richemont luxury good group, also invested.

With all the problems of short-termism that plague finance, it was heartening to think that some good old-fashioned long-term family thinking was involved at Renshaw. Sure, it specialised in structured products, which are hardly the sort of thing you would recommend your grandmother to invest in. But it was a proper, entrepreneurial business, not some too-big-to-fail behemoth.

So it was a great shame to see that just four years into the adventure Winter re-crossed the floor to big finance earlier this year. He just became CEO. There is no doubt that Winter has talent and a head for it – as his time running JP Morgan’s investment bank proves. And the London-based American comes across more like the master of an Oxbridge college than a swaggering investment bank-type, which these days is good. He seems to have genuine humility.

Which all makes it more of a pity that Winters has been lured to StanChart – and so soon. Some had suggested that he might potentially have a bigger role in the Rothschild empire. Perhaps the buzz of reviving the bank’s fortunes – and that banker pay-packet – ultimately proved more of a draw.

True, having someone with family business contacts will perhaps help StanChart win more friends in that sector. But if bankers really want to win the trust of business families where the real money is, then they would be well advised to do what those families do – to show some entrepreneurial gumption, and stick with it.