Duncan Lawrie has a baa-my idea... which works!
Few banks boast a flock of sheep among their staff.
But Duncan Lawrie, a private bank in the 15th century Wrotham
Place, likes to be different.
The elegant back office bought by DL in the late 1970s is set in
23 acres of attractive gardens, lake, woodland, orchard and a
vegetable patch tended by staff.
The grass is kept short by 32 Grey Faced Dartmoor sheep, one of
the hardiest of the longwool breeds and among the oldest in
They earn their keep by trimming the lawns and shedding their
coats. "The only income we get from them is when they are sheared,"
says Dina Henry, associate director. Nine lambs arrived this year
and remain a big draw for the firm's staff - and admiring urban
The wildlife also features honeybees and several bird species.
There is a sundial in the walled garden, and a ha ha to keep the
animals out and the view uninterrupted. A statue in the grounds
sums up the DL mission statement: "The deed is all, the glory
That so few know about this low-profile bank - "I've never
heard of it" is a frequent observation - has prompted DL to promote
its services to a wider public.
"If we can grow the business in Kent and the South East, that
would be wonderful," says Ms Henry
Peter Ostacchini, deputy managing director, adds: "We are trying
to make an effort to get our name better known. There are
misconceptions about a private bank. People think they are not
wealthy enough to be with us, and that it's expensive.
"But if they have incredibly busy lives and need someone to
phone and speak to, who knows them and doesn't ask for their
mother's maiden name or date of birth, this is a place to be."
Duncan Lawrie targets moderately wealthy business owners and
professionals, as well as owner-managed businesses with up to five
employees. "We try to encourage local businesses to bank with us
and find a reason to say yes," says Ostacchini.
Staff are not paid commission and investors with £5,000 in their
account do not pay bank charges, while those with lower balances
pay £25 a month.
The average age of a DL client is 54, and the bank aims to cut
this by one year every year. "We realise we have to appeal to the
High street banks plunged into a liquidity crisis by
over-lending. DL says it does not lend more than its share capital
reserves. "If depositors want their money, we can give it back,"
says Ostacchini, adding that it prides itself on cautious,
traditional banking. "Because we're cautious and safe, people like
that. It means quick decision-making."
"We will be working hard this year on making more of our
presence in Kent," adds Ms Henry, from Otford.
And for anyone who wants to see those rare sheep, DL staff will
be happy to help.