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Berenberg Bank

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Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co.
Company typePrivate limited partnership with personally liable partners
IndustryFinancial services
FoundedSeptember 1590; 433 years ago (1590-09)
FoundersHans and Paul Berenberg
Area served
Key people
ProductsInvestment banking, wealth management, asset management, corporate banking
Number of employees
c. 1,600[1]

Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. KG, commonly known as Berenberg Bank and also branded as simply Berenberg, is a multinational full-service private and merchant bank headquartered in Hamburg, Germany. It is considered the world's oldest merchant bank.

It was founded around 1590 by Hans and Paul Berenberg, refugees from Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium). Their descendants, the Berenberg and Gossler families, belonged to the ruling elite of Hanseatic merchants of the city-republic of Hamburg and several family members served in the city-state's government from 1735. Like many other merchant bankers, the Berenbergs were originally cloth merchants.[2][3][4] The company involved itself in shipping, whaling and ship insurance from the late 17th century, and in extensive trade with colonial goods imported from the Americas and Asia. By the early 19th century the company was one of Northern Europe's leading sugar merchants. During the 18th and 19th centuries the company gradually focused increasingly on financial services. The company's name refers to Johann Berenberg, his son-in-law Johann Hinrich Gossler and the latter's son-in-law L.E. Seyler, and has remained unchanged since 1791. The bank has operated continuously since 1590 and is still part-owned by members of the Berenberg-Gossler family.

Berenberg Bank is active in investment banking, particularly pan-European equity research, brokerage and equity capital markets transactions, in addition to private banking for wealthy customers, asset management and corporate banking. Since the 2000s, the company has increasingly focused on investment banking. Berenberg Bank has around 1,600 employees; in addition to its headquarters in Hamburg, it has significant presences in London, Frankfurt and New York City, and 14 further offices in Europe and the Americas. After years of expanding its activities in London, which is now home to its second largest office with a staff of around 500 and seat of most of its investment banking activities, Berenberg Bank has recently focused on expanding in the United States and Asia.[5]

The bank is organized as a limited partnership with personally liable partners, and is noted for its conservative business strategy. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the bank has expanded rapidly.[6] The former senior partner and head of the bank Hans-Walter Peters was also president of the Association of German Banks, having succeeded Deutsche Bank CEO Jürgen Fitschen in 2016 (until 2021). In 2018 Berenberg Bank, in line with its increasing focus on investment banking, sold its Swiss private banking subsidiary Berenberg Bank (Schweiz) AG to a group of investors; the Swiss company became known as Bergos.[7] Today the bank is run by three managing partners: Hendrik Riehmer, David Mortlock, Christian Kühn.


Coat of arms of the Berenberg family (detail, 1710)

The Berenberg Company was founded in Hamburg in 1590 by the brothers Hans (1561–1626) and Paul Berenberg (1566–1645). In 1585, the Protestant Berenbergs left Antwerp in the Duchy of Brabant (today's Belgium), at the time one of Europe's commercial centres, as Protestants in the southern Low Countries were given the choice either to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. The bank has been continuously owned by their descendants ever since.

Cornelius Berenberg (1634–1711)

The Berenbergs were originally cloth merchants and quickly extended their business to other commodities. Hans Berenberg's grandson Cornelius Berenberg (1634–1711) was the first to engage in merchant banking and developed the company into a very successful merchant house and merchant bank. He forged trade links with France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Scandinavia and Russia. Family connections of the Berenbergs were instrumental to the development, especially in Livorno and Lisbon with their colonies of wealthy Dutch merchants. Members of the Berenberg family were also merchants in London from the 17th century.

Johann Berenberg (1718–1772)

Cornelius Berenberg's son, Rudolf Berenberg (1680–1746), was elected a senator, that is, a member of the government of the city-state, in 1735. By the mid 18th century, investment banking and acceptance credits comprised a significant part of the firm's activities. Rudolf Berenberg was married to Anna Elisabeth Amsinck (1690–1748), a daughter of the Lisbon and Hamburg merchant Paul Amsinck (1649–1706) and a descendant of the Welser family. Their sons, Senator Paul Berenberg (1716–1768) and Johann Berenberg (1718–1772), became owners of the Berenberg company.

Johann Hinrich Gossler (1738–1790)

In 1768 Senator Paul Berenberg died childless, while his brother Johann Berenberg lost his only son in the same year. To ensure the continuation of the firm, Johann Berenberg took on his son-in-law Johann Hinrich Gossler (1738–90) as a new partner in 1769; he had married Berenberg's only daughter Elisabeth Berenberg (1749–1822) the previous year. The Gossler family is known since the 17th century, when Johann Hinrich Gossler's great-grandfather was a Hamburg burgher.[8] Elisabeth Berenberg was the last member of the Hamburg Berenberg family, which became extinct in the male line upon her death in 1822. Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg were the founders of the Berenberg-Gossler family, which rose to great prominence in Hamburg from the late 18th century. In the 19th-century city republic of Hamburg the (Berenberg-)Gossler family and the closely related Amsinck family were widely regarded as the city state's two most prominent families.[9]

L.E. Seyler (1758–1836)

In 1788 Johann Hinrich Gossler took on a new partner, his son-in-law L.E. Seyler (1758–1836), who had married his eldest child Anna Henriette Gossler (1771–1836). From 1790, the company was led by L.E. Seyler, and his mother-in-law Elisabeth Berenberg was a partner in her own right from 1790 to 1800. L.E. Seyler, a son of the famous theatre director Abel Seyler, was one of Hamburg's foremost merchants in his lifetime, and served as president of the Commerz-Deputation and as a member of the city's government during the French rule of the city. To reflect Seyler joining the company, its name was changed to Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. from 1 January 1791, and has remained unchanged since.

As head of the Berenberg company L.E. Seyler greatly increased the company's international trade, and was one of the first merchants and bankers from Germany who established trade relations with the newly independent United States and with East Asia. By 1800 the capital of the company had doubled since he became a partner. Seyler remained the company's senior partner for 46 years, and when he died in 1836 he had been with the company for 61 years. Seyler's seventeen years younger brother-in-law Johann Heinrich Gossler (1775–1842) joined the firm in 1798 and became a Hamburg senator in 1821. As of 1809 L.E. Seyler owned 5/12 (about 41%) of the Berenberg company and was the company's senior/managing partner and largest shareholder; his brother-in-law Johann Heinrich Gossler owned 4/12 (about 33%).[10] The two brothers-in-law jointly led the company for decades, with Seyler as the more experienced partner and Gossler gradually taking on more responsibilities as Seyler eventually retreated into semi-retirement in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

During the Napoleonic Wars the company lost half its capital, but it emerged stronger than ever and quickly regained and surpassed its former size once the war ended. Astrid Petersson highlights Joh. Berenberg, Goßler & Co. as "an example of a significant Hamburg trading house that achieved prosperity, among other things, due to its extensive sugar imports (...) their diverse sugar import business after 1814, especially with Brazil, the U.S., and East Asia, which in part continued their trade relations from the late 18th century, likely contributed significantly to the acquisition of their wealth. In conjunction with their position as merchant bankers, this firm acquired a prestigious standing beyond the borders of Germany, a status that few trading houses had around 1830."[11]

Anna Henriette Gossler and L.E. Seyler's children were briefly co-owners of Berenberg Bank; they have many prominent descendants in Hamburg and Norway, e.g. in the family Paus. Berenberg Bank was also involved in financing Norway's leading industrial enterprise, Blaafarveværket, whose CEO and co-owner Benjamin Wegner was Anna Henriette Gossler and L.E. Seyler's son-in-law.[12] Anna Henriette Gossler's younger brother Johann Heinrich Gossler (II)'s son Hermann Gossler (1802–1877) was a senator and First Mayor of Hamburg. The latter's younger brother Johann Heinrich Gossler (III) (1805–1879) became a partner in the bank and was the father of Baron Johann von Berenberg-Gossler (1839–1913), who also became a partner in the bank. In 1880 the Hamburg Senate granted the latter the name of Berenberg-Gossler, and in 1888, he was ennobled in the Kingdom of Prussia as von Berenberg-Gossler. In 1910 Johann von Berenberg-Gossler was given the title baron. Baron Johann von Berenberg-Gossler was the father of John von Berenberg-Gossler (1866–1943), a senator and German ambassador in Rome.[13][14]

Mortzenhaus, the company's seat from 1788

In the 19th century, the bank financed the industrialisation process in Hamburg and transportation activities, and was strongly involved in the North American trade and its finance. The company was (together with the merchant house H.J. Merck & Co.) one of the main founders of Germany's largest shipping companies, the Hamburg America Line (HAPAG) in 1847 and Norddeutscher Lloyd in 1857. They were also one of the main founders of Vereinsbank Hamburg (now the HypoVereinsbank) (1857), the Ilseder Hütte ironworks (1858), and the Norddeutsche Versicherungs AG (1857). The houses of Berenberg-Gossler, H.J. Merck and Salomon Heine were also the main founders of the Norddeutsche Bank in 1856, the first joint-stock bank in northern Germany and one of the predecessors of Deutsche Bank.[15] Furthermore, Berenberg Bank was among the founding shareholders of Bergens Privatbank (1855), the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (1865), Den Danske Landmandsbank (1871) and Svenska Handelsbanken (1871).[16] Berenberg Bank had a close cooperation with Barings Bank of London and was Baring's representative in Germany.

The Berenberg family and company had branches in Portugal, Italy and London from the 17th century. A branch of the Berenberg family also established the London firm Meyer & Berenberg in the 17th century and were among London's prominent West Indies merchants. In recent years Berenberg's London office in Threadneedle Street has grown rapidly to become Berenberg's second largest office, focusing on investment banking and private banking for the ultra wealthy.[17]


The company's logo is a stylized version of the combined coat of arms of the Berenberg and Gossler families, featuring the Berenberg bear (adopted in the 16th century in Belgium) and the Gossler goose foot (adopted in 1773 by Johann Hinrich Gossler).

Business segments[edit]

The bank is active in the following business segments:


Berenberg Bank has its head office in Hamburg and significant presences in London, Frankfurt and New York City, as well as offices in Düsseldorf, Munich, Münster, Stuttgart, Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. In Zürich, the previous subsidiary Berenberg Bank (Schweiz) AG, has established itself as an independent Swiss Private Bank, Bergos AG, in September 2018. In 2017 Berenberg Capital Markets rented the entire 53rd floor of 1251 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan.[19]

Philanthropy and donations[edit]

The Berenberg Bank Stiftung is a philanthropic foundation founded in 1990 on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Berenberg Bank. The chairman of the board is Hans-Walter Peters. The foundation awards several prizes, including the Berenberg Culture Prize to younger artists and the Berenberg Scholarships to individual artists and groups. From 2009, the Universitäts-Gesellschaft Hamburg has awarded the Berenberg Prize for Scientific Language, that promotes German as a scientific language.[20]

Berenberg Bank is the largest Hamburg donor to the CDU.[21]


Berenberg Bank is currently run by three personally liable partners, Hendrik Riehmer, David Mortlock and Christian Kühn.


Berenberg family
No Picture Name and lifespan Period Head of the company Notes
1 Hans Berenberg
2 Paul Berenberg
3 Hans Berenberg
4 Johann Berenberg
5 Rudolf Berenberg (1623–1672) 1645–1672
6 Cornelius Berenberg
7 Johann Berenberg
8 Senator Rudolf Berenberg
9 Rudolf Berenberg
10 Senator Paul Berenberg
11 Johann Berenberg
12 Johann Hinrich Gossler
1769‒1790 1772–1790 Husband of Elisabeth Berenberg; son-in-law of Johann Berenberg
14 Ludwig Erdwin Seyler
1788–1836 1790–1836 Husband of Anna Henriette Gossler; son-in-law of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg. Johann Hinrich Gossler named him a partner when he married his daughter, in the same way he himself had become a partner. Seyler succeeded his father-in-law as head of the company in 1790. For many years Seyler owned 5/12 (about 41%) of the company and was the company's senior partner and largest owner. After his death, his children briefly were co-owners of the Berenberg company from 26 October to 31 December 1836[22]
15 Elisabeth Gossler née Berenberg
1790‒1800 Daughter of Johann Berenberg; the last member of the Berenberg family in the male line; wife of Johann Hinrich Gossler
16 Senator Johann Heinrich Gossler
1798 ‒1842 1836–1842 Son of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
17 Johann Heinrich Gossler
1830‒1879 Son of Johann Heinrich Gossler; grandson of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
18 Elisabeth von Hosstrup
1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg; wife of Gerhard von Hosstrup
19 Johann Hinrich Seyler 1836 Son of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; grandson of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
20 Emilie Homann 1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
21 Louise Auguste Seyler 1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
22 Maria Seyler 1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
23 Louise Pinckernelle 1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
24 Henriette Wegner
1836 Daughter of L.E. Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler; granddaughter of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg; wife of Norwegian industrialist Benjamin Wegner
25 Wilhelm Gossler
1837–1858 Son of Johann Heinrich Gossler; grandson of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
26 Baron John von Berenberg-Gossler
1864–1913 Son of Johann Heinrich Gossler (1805–1879), great-grandson of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg
27 Ernst Gossler 1873–1893
28 Senator John von Berenberg-Gossler
29 Baron Cornelius von Berenberg-Gossler (1874–1953) 1898–1953
30 Andreas von Berenberg-Gossler (1880–1938) 1908–1923
33 Baron Heinrich von Berenberg-Gossler
Non-family partners
No Picture Name Period Head of the company Notes
13 Franz Friedrich Kruckenberg
1777‒1819 Joined Berenberg as an accountant and later became a partner. He was married to Johann Hinrich Gossler's younger sister Margaretha Katharina Gossler (1749–1795) and was thus the brother-in-law of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg, but not on the Berenberg side of the family. As of 1809 Kruckenberg owned 3/12 of the Berenberg company and was one of three partners alongside L.E. Seyler and Johann Heinrich Gossler
31 Heinrich Burchard 1920‒1930
32 Walter Gleich 1923–1930
34 August Rohdewald 1948–1961
35 Heinz A. Lessing 1961–1979
36 Karl-Theodor Lindemann 1964–1972
37 Joachim H. Wetzel 1968–1998
38 Baron Peter von Kap-Herr 1976–1999
39 Joachim von Berenberg-Consbruch 1978‒2005 He was born Joachim Consbruch in 1940 and assumed the name von Berenberg-Consbruch in Hamburg in 1976 after his stepfather Cornelius von Berenberg-Gossler. He is not himself descended from the Berenberg family.
40 Claus-G. Budelmann 1988–2008
41 Andreas Odefey 1998–2000
42 Hans-Walter Peters 2000–2021 2009–2021
43 Guido M. Sollors 2004–2008
44 Andreas Brodtmann 2009–2015
45 Hendrik Riehmer Since 2009
46 David Mortlock Since 2021
47 Christian Kühn Since 2021

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Berenberg's rapid expansion shows no sign of letting". The Financial Times.
  2. ^ Gail Rolland, Market Players: A Guide to the Institutions in Today's Financial Markets, Wiley, 2011, ISBN 047097687X, p. 110.
  3. ^ Christian Siedenbiedel (24.10.2009), "Die Bank der feinen Hanseaten," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
  4. ^ Volker Mester (24.07.2003), "Deutschlands älteste Bank," Hamburger Abendblatt
  5. ^ "Berenberg sets its sights on aggressive U.S. recruitment after London build-out". eFinancialCareers. March 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "Privatbanken profitieren von der Finanzkrise". Süddeutsche.de. 6 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Privatbank Berenberg verkauft Schweizer Tochtergesellschaft". September 17, 2018 – via www.welt.de.
  8. ^ "Genealogie der Familie Gossler," in: Vierteljahrsschrift für Heraldik, Sphragistik und Genealogie, vol. 9, pp. 17–25, 1881
  9. ^ Richard J. Evans, Death in Hamburg, 1987
  10. ^ Percy Ernst Schramm (1963), Neun Generationen, vol. 1, p. 249
  11. ^ Petersson, Astrid (1998). "Die wirtschaftliche Situation des Zuckersiedergewerbes und Zuckerhandels". Zuckersiedergewerbe und Zuckerhandel in Hamburg im Zeitraum von 1814 bis 1834: Entwicklung und Struktur zweier wichtiger Hamburger Wirtschaftszweige des vorindustriellen Zeitalters. Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 978-3-515-07265-6.
  12. ^ Ingerid Hagen (2022). Blåfargen fra Modum: storhetstiden: Blaafarveværket 1822–1848 [The blue color from Modum: the time of greatness: Blaafarveværket 1822–1848]. Stiftelsen Modums Blaafarveværk. ISBN 9788290734584.
  13. ^ Johann Heinrich Goßler II, Neue Deutsche Biographie
  14. ^ Manfred Pohl, Sabine Freitag, Handbook on the History of European Banks, European Association for Banking History, 1994
  15. ^ Michael North: "The Great German Banking Houses and International Merchants, Sixteenth to Nineteenth Century", in: Alice Teichova, Ginette Kurgan-Van Hentenryk and Dieter Ziegler (eds.), Banking, Trade and Industry: Europe, America and Asia from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 9780521188876, p. 46
  16. ^ The banking house in the period of promoterism Archived December 21, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, berenberg.de
  17. ^ "Berenberg expands UK private banking team to serve ultra wealthy". Reuters India.
  18. ^ Berenberg will nur Millionäre, Handelsblatt
  19. ^ "German bank Berenberg, law firm McGuireWoods sign leases at 1251 Sixth Ave". Archived from the original on 2017-04-01.
  20. ^ "Berenberg Bank Stiftung". Archived from the original on December 21, 2010.
  21. ^ "80 Prozent aller Spenden gehen an die CDU". July 13, 2018.
  22. ^ Hamburger Nachrichten, 19 April 1837, p. 5


  • Clarita Bernstorff, Hartwig Bernstorff, Emanuel Eckardt, Change is the only constant: Berenberg; a history of one of the world's oldest banks, Hanser Literaturverlage, 336 pages, ISBN 978-1-56990-601-9
  • Maria Möring, Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. Hamburg, Hamburg, Wirtschaftsgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle, 1961
  • Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co.: Die Geschichte eines deutschen Privatbankhauses, Berenberg Bank, Hamburg 1990

External links[edit]