Rathbone reviews banking licence as profits dive 30pc

RATHBONE Brothers has kicked off a formal review of the benefits of holding a banking licence as the prospect of tough regulatory changes looms.

Chief executive Andy Pomfret told City A.M. the issue had been “on the radar” for some time, but explained: “What’s changing is there are likely to be changes in capital requirements. The regulatory environment is changing very quickly.”

The process is expected to conclude in the second half of this year.

The news came as Rathbone revealed full-year profits before tax fell 30 per cent in 2009 after the Bank of England’s prolonged dovish spell impacted on interest income. The figure slumped to £29.5m for the 12 months ending December, in line with market expectations. Interest income was down by a hefty 40 per cent, outbalancing modest progress in fee and commission earnings.

Rathbones’s integration of part of Lloyds Banking Group’s private client operation took effect. Around 2,500 customers and £500m in funds have been transferred, with total funds under management rising 12 per cent to £13.1bn.

Like Hargreaves Lansdown, Rathbone will help investors beat the jump in the top rate of income tax by paying its second interim dividend of 26p before April. The full-year payout is unchanged at 42p.

Pomfret said: “We will still be under some financial pressures in 2010, but the amount of business we have got has gone up.”

Shares in Rathbone closed 0.3 per cent down at 820p.