The Baring name marks 250 years of business

This year, the fabled Barings name will have been around in banking for 250 years. It survives only through Baring Asset Management, whose CIO Marino Valensise has talked about the heritage and future of what is now called ‘brand value’

The Barings financial dynasty first came to life in 1762 and grew to be a global name in finance, until it was brought down in 1995 by ‘rogue’ derivatives trades amounting to twice the bank’s entire capitalisation. The name now lives on in Baring Asset Management, owned by the US life company MassMutual.

Marino Valensise, CIO of the firm since 1999, says he is proud of the name’s history, but the brand association does not weigh upon him.

“It is a fantastic name and provenance,” he explains, pointing to framed certificates of 19th century ­infrastructure agreements on the office walls and a placemat featuring the 22 February 1916 bond issue by the Russian Imperial Government.

“But events happen. The bank came close to breaking after a bad loan to Argentina once. Now we look to and act for the future.”

Three areas of growth

The lesson of the brand is endurance and resilience, he adds – quite appropriate for today’s unsettled times. The industry looks very different now than 20 years ago and Valensise identifies three growth areas, the most exciting of which is venture capital or private equity.

“We are not talking about 1980s-style buying ­private at the low, and selling public at a high, because that doesn’t work anymore. It is back to the traditional, basic skills of growing businesses, taking risks and creating something lasting.”

A second area Valensise considers increasingly attractive is non-bank financing. “The balance sheets of the mainstream banks are going to be c­ontracting for many years. But there are new players coming into the market, such as mezzanine lenders. That is an interesting proposition,” he says.

The third focus must be the core business of asset management: “There is still strong demand for it and there are all sorts of ways to engage. People can go passive through exchange-traded funds, or there are niche opportunities and the future in emerging markets.”

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