Kerr's People: Simon Robertson, Former chairman, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson
When the story broke it caused more excitement than the time when everyone was asking, "who shot Roger Rabbit?" Suddenly every banker from Frankfurt to Hong Kong wanted to know, "who at Dresdner Bank shot Simon Robertson?"
Yet only a few months before financial observers marked out Simon Robertson as the UK merchant banker most likely to succeed working under new German ownership. Like a Mercedes 600 SEL Robertson almost came with a five-year guarantee. The meshing of Anglo and German cultures requires patience, flexibility and diplomacy. Robertson had them all in spades and could then add the charm and unflappability which seem to come naturally to establishment City of London merchant bankers.
Robertson's laid-back approach has sometimes been mistaken by opponents as a sign of weakness. "When you meet him he's so disarmingly casual that you think he's an easy touch," says a US investment banker in London who has known Robertson for more than 15 years. Those who underestimated him have usually done so at their own cost. In terms of corporate finance deal-making skills he is ranked among the best in Europe. "Right up there with John Nelson and Nick Jones at Lazards, John Thornton at Goldman Sachs, Joe Perella of Morgan Stanley or George Magan, formerly with Hambro Magan," adds the US investment banker.
Underneath Robertson's cool exterior there is a blunt determination and resolve which carried him through 34 years at Kleinwort Benson, beginning in 1963, when very briefly Robertson worked in the bank's foreign bond department.