25 JUNE 1994, Page 22

Courage and style

I FIRST MET Jocelyn Hambro (who died at the weekend) when he gave Hambros' first press conference. Thirty years ago that was a dashing thing for a family merchant bank to do, but here was the new sixth-gen- eration chairman, showing us around the balance sheet as if it were his garden: 'Unit trusts? Yes, we're going to start some. Why? Well, first of all, to improve our plac- ing power. Government stocks? We've got rid of them. I don't know what you think of the present Prime Minister — I think he's the worst since Lord North . . . ' That annoyed Harold Wilson's government into having Hambros investigated, but backing his judgment was part of his job. It had set him selling MG cars to Texans, who had not until then (so they told him) seen a malted milk machine with wheels on. It encouraged him to put him to put £1 mil- lion of the bank's money on Mark Wein- berg's ideas about life assurance — a bet that paid off at odds of 170 to 1. It led him and his sons to start again with a new family partnership, J.O. Hambro and Company — that bet, too has paid off. A merchant banker needs to have courage and ought to have style. He had both.