George Mallinckrodt, banker who oversaw the transformation of Schroders – obituary

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George Mallinckrodt at the World Economic Forum in Warsaw in 2004 - Wojtek Rzazewski/Bloomberg News
George Mallinckrodt at the World Economic Forum in Warsaw in 2004 - Wojtek Rzazewski/Bloomberg News

George Mallinckrodt, who has died aged 90, presided over the transformation of the family-owned firm of Schroders into which he married from a traditional City merchant bank to a major international investment house.

The scion of a German industrial dynasty, “Gowi” Mallinckrodt joined Schroders in New York in 1954. Four years later he married Charmaine, only daughter of the bank’s patriarch Baron Helmut Schroder – a great-grandson of Johann Heinrich Schröder, who migrated from Hamburg to found a London banking business in 1818.

Mallinckrodt was thereby also the brother-in-law of Helmut’s only son Bruno, the billionaire major shareholder of Schroders in the current generation. But while Bruno Schroder (who died in 2019) was on the whole a hands-off proprietor, much taken up with other interests but maintaining a benign overview of the bank’s affairs, Mallinckrodt was intensely engaged as a cultivator of international clients and a steward of the family’s interests.

He succeeded the Earl of Airlie as chairman of the group in 1984 at a time when new opportunities and pitfalls were afoot in the City’s forthcoming “Big Bang” reforms, which would allow banks to expand into large-scale securities trading. Having expended some of its capital in Latin American lending earlier in the decade, and having no wish to see the family’s control diluted, Schroders’ board had already decided not to follow rivals such as SG Warburg and Kleinwort Benson, and the larger commercial banks, in buying expensive London Stock Exchange firms.

Mallinckrodt was fond of saying “we did not have the money to waste”: it was a choice that suited his frugal management style, which extended to policing the number of taxis kept waiting outside the bank’s offices. In consequence, Schroders was sometimes seen as a wallflower at the City’s extravagant take-your-partner dance of that era – and Mallinckrodt’s own rather subfusc reputation never placed him on a par with the peacocking big-hitters of the 1980s investment banking scene.

Mallinckrodt, right, with Win Bischoff in 1994 - Philip Hollis
Mallinckrodt, right, with Win Bischoff in 1994 - Philip Hollis

But the strategy pursued during his chairmanship – of remaining a tight-knit advisory and investment business with a modest securities arm, and allowing capable division heads to run their businesses with little interference from above – paid off handsomely. Over the post-Big Bang decade in which the City’s other home-grown investment banks ran short of capital and retreated, Schroders’ profits multiplied tenfold, its market value growing from £300 million to around £5 billion as its reputation as an adviser to blue-chip clients stood high.

One commentator called it: “the last of the great independent merchant banks”, commending its “refined collegiate atmosphere” redolent of an earlier era. Also admired was the “seamless continuity” with which Sir Win Bischoff (also, as it happened, of German origins) succeeded as group chairman when Mallinckrodt stepped aside to become president in 1995.

Remaining on the board, he was a party in January 2000 to the decision to sell Schroders’ banking and corporate advisory business to Salomon Smith Barney, part of the giant Citigroup of the US, for a rich price of £1.35 billion – recognition that for a competitor at the highest level of investment banking there were obvious advantages in coming under the umbrella of a globally connected parent.

Meanwhile the family retained control of the other half of the business – the investment arm, which in recent years, following a merger with Cazenove Capital, has looked after more than £400 billion of assets on behalf of institutional and private clients; its market capitalisation topped £7 billion, and the Schroder family fortune was estimated in 2018 at more than £5 billion.

Georg Wilhelm Gustav von Mallinckrodt – widely known as “Gowi”, pronounced “Govi” – was born in Germany on August 19 1930, the son of Arnold von Mallinckrodt and his wife Valentine, née von Joest.

Mallinckrodt with Dai Xianglong, governor of the People's Bank of China, in 1996 - Robyn BECK/AFP
Mallinckrodt with Dai Xianglong, governor of the People's Bank of China, in 1996 - Robyn BECK/AFP

As Westphalian landowners, river toll collectors and burgermeisters, the Mallinckrodts proudly traced a direct line of descent from 1156. Georg’s great-grandfather Gustav was an early industrialist in Cologne; his grandfather Wilhelm (brother-in-law of Herman Kleinwort of the London banking family) established his own trading and banking venture at Antwerp, while another branch of the family emigrated to St Louis, Missouri, to built a substantial chemicals business there.

Georg and his two sisters spent much of their childhood in Paris, where Arnold was managing director of the French arm of the camera manufacturer Agfa, which was a subsidiary of the German industrial conglomerate I G Farben. Arnold facilitated the passage out of Germany of a number of I G Farben’s Jewish employees; the Mallinckrodts were anti-Nazi, and some of his family’s French relations were sent to concentration camps, though all survived.

A connection between the Mallinckrodt and Schroder families was made in the 1920s when Arnold and his banker brother Gustav became friends of the young Helmut Schroder. Gustav was appointed as Schroders’ agent in Berlin, and later representative in Frankfurt – as well as godfather to Bruno Schroder, who was born in 1933.

Georg was educated in Germany at Salem, the progressive co-educational school founded by Kurt Hahn; no academic, he began his working life as an apprentice precision mechanic with Agfa in Munich in 1948. But partly under the influence of his uncle Gustav he was drawn towards merchant banking, and after training stints with Münchmeyer (later part of Schroders) in Hamburg and Kleinworts in London, he crossed the Atlantic to join J Henry Schroder Banking Corp.

Having made his mark there, and spent a year on attachment to a Swiss bank, he moved to London in 1960 to develop links with continental corporate clients. He became a director of the main operating business, J Henry Schroder Wagg & Co, in 1967, taking an active role in international developments and joining the board of the parent company, Schroders Ltd, in 1977. He returned to New York as chief executive during a restructuring in the mid-1980s that resulted in the sale of the group’s lending business there and the reinvestment of the proceeds into a Wall Street securities firm, Wertheim & Co.

Mallinckrodt and Win Bischoff in 1996 - Richard Watt
Mallinckrodt and Win Bischoff in 1996 - Richard Watt

George Mallinckrodt was also a board member of Siemens, the German industrial group, and director or adviser of a number of other international companies. He was president of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce, a member of the CBI’s City advisory group, and chairman of the council of the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of political and business leaders in Davos.

He often spoke of his family’s tradition of “civic responsibility”, and approached his public and charitable commitments with the same Germanic seriousness that he applied to business. The portfolio included the presidency for 56 years of the German YMCA in London as well as membership of the Court of Benefactors of Oxford University, the council of the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the circle of patrons of INSEAD Business School.

He supported the National Art Collections Fund and the British Museum, and was a trustee of the Prague Heritage Fund. An adviser to the dean and canons of Windsor on financial matters, he was also a trustee of the charity Christian Responsibility in Public Affairs, a patron of the Three Faiths Forum, and a benefactor of German Lutheran churches in the UK.

Though his Christian name had long been anglicised, Mallinckrodt remained a German citizen and never shed the clipped accent of his upbringing. He received an honorary British knighthood in 1997 and a papal knighthood of the Order of St Gregory in 2012. He listed his recreations as “music and libraries”.

His wife Charmaine survives him with their two sons and two daughters. Their daughter Claire Fitzalan Howard represents the family on the board of Schroders.

George Mallinckrodt, born August 19 1930, died January 16 2021

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