Wednesday, March 16, 2005

ABN AMRO: 40 Years on the Rock

Today, ABN AMRO is celebrating 40 years of Banking on the Rock.

The Bank initially opened its’ doors to the public on the 16th March 1965 under the name of Mediterranean Bank Limited.

The Bank was set up by a group of Gibraltarian businessmen and the Algemene Bank Nederland N.V. from Amsterdam. Local shareholders were Jorge Russo Limited; Turner and Company (Gibraltar) Limited; William Serfaty and Company Limited; and Elison Limited. Twelve years later the Management of ABN in Amsterdam decided that it was in the interest of the local branch to trade under the name of the Algemene Bank Nederland banking group.

“We did however feel that especially in an international context it has become desirable to show by our name that we belong to the Algemene Bank Nederland banking group who provide the financial expertise”.

Thus on 1 April 1977 the Algemene Bank Gibraltar Limited was incorporated, with a similar shareholding to it’s predecessor.

With European unification becoming a reality in the early 1990s, Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN) and Amsterdam - Rotterdam Bank (AMRO) announced in March 1990 that they were considering a merger. On September 22, 1991, the merger of ABN and AMRO was consummated and the articles of association amended to create ABN AMRO Bank N.V. As a result the local operation saw it’s third name change to ABN AMRO Bank (Gibraltar) Limited.

To facilitate the integration of the disparate but complementary pieces of the new organization, ABN AMRO’s core values message was created. The ABN AMRO Bank Board of Directors selected the four Core Corporate Values - integrity, respect, teamwork and professionalism - to represent the organization’s working values.

Finally, following the Bank’s policy to convert all subsidiaries in Europe to Branches of ABN AMRO Bank N.V., the local operation was licensed as a Branch in July 1998 and became ABN AMRO Bank N.V. - Gibraltar Branch, which is the name in which the Bank is still trading today.

So the local operation has seen four name changes in the last forty years, but this has not been the only change. During that time the local Branch has had eleven General Managers. The first Manager responsible for setting up the local operation was Wouter Ubbo Hazelhoff Roelfzema (1963-1972) who held the post for nearly ten years. He was followed by: Anthony Oortman Gerlings (1972-1974); Hendrick Frederick (Fritz) Michelsen (1974-1976); Julius Josef Terburg (1976-1980); Johannes Struik (1981-1982) Leendert Teunis (Teus) van Dijk (1983-1985); Robert Rene Jager Gerlings (1985-1990); Allard van Helbergen (1991-1993); Jos Huisman (1993-1995); Abraham Hendrick (Bram) Meulenberg (1995-2002); and finally Hans Diederen who is the current Country Representative since 2002.

The business has also seen it’s fair share of change over the last forty years. Initially, when the Bank opened it’s doors it offered a retail banking service aimed at the local population. It also offered commercial banking facilities to the local traders. Apart from offering the normal Cheque clearing accounts to local customers the Bank also participated in the local Mortgage market and also offered Car and Personal Loans to retail clients.

On the Commercial banking side the Bank played a leading role in the local Trade Financing market. When the frontier with Spain opened, the Bank started offering a Private Banking service with the primary market target being the expatriates living in the neighbouring Costa del Sol.

In the year 2000, ABN AMRO Bank N.V. broke up it’s business world-wide into three different Strategic Business Units, which comprised of Wholesale Clients (WCS); Commercial & Consumer Clients (CCC) and Private Clients and Asset Management (PC/AM).

Head office at the time decided that the Gibraltar operation was too small to properly serve two of these SBU’s (i.e. CCC and PC/AM) and as the Private Banking activity showed a more positive future growth potential, it was decided to stop all local Retail and Commercial Banking activity locally.

In the last 5 years the Branch has grown locally as a Private Bank with Assets under Management having doubled since 2000. The Banks premises has also seen a lot of change over the years.

The Bank opened its doors at the entrance of Main Street (2/6 Main Street) in 1965, and was in these premises until 2001. During that time the Bank took over a second floor in Cooperage Lane and when the Private Banking activity began, also took on extra premises on the 9th floor of the ICC building. During these years the Bank suffered quite a few floodings, as water would accumulate at the beginning of Main Street during particularly heavy downpours of rain. Finally with the decision to stop all retail banking activity and concentrate on Private Banking, the Branch decided to move to premises more attuned to the new business activity and thus in 2001 moved into the current premises at Suite 731-4 in Europort.

Forty years of Banking on the Rock has certainly seen forty years of change, but the Branch is going from strength to strength. Testimony to this is the recent investment in the new premises fit out at Europort and this is been followed up this year with further investment by the Branch of close to £ 1 million as we change our core computer system. The idea is to implement the Bank’s Private Clients Strategic Banking Platform, which will enable the Branch to improve its delivery of an excellent service to its client base in a way that reflects the technology of the 21st century.

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