Our clients always come first

For more than 430 years, Berenberg has been committed to accountability to its clients.

Our Corporate history

1590 - The early years

In 1590, the brothers Hans and Paul Berenberg founded their company in Hamburg. The company was originally involved in the cloth trade and the import and export business.

Around 1660, Cornelius Berenberg was already the third generation to run the company. He intensified the trade in goods far beyond the borders of Germany, deepening relations with the Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal in the west, Scandinavia in the north, Russia in the east and northern Italy in the south.

Johann Berenberg III 1718-1772 | © Berenberg

1711 - From trading house to bank

Given the lack of a functioning banking system the traders took on the financing the commodities transactions themselves.

They granted loans to their customers and made advance payments on the deliveries of their suppliers. Cornelius Berenberg increases the assets he had earned through trading by taking on money and insurance transactions, so becoming increasingly active as a banker.

1798 - New challenges

As "Discount and Acceptance House" Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. enjoyed an excellent reputation way beyond the Hamburg city limits.

Shipping and insurance formed a natural complement to the traditional business. When Amsterdam went out of commission as an exchange centre because of the armies of the French Revolution, Hamburg took over. The Hanseatic finance houses, the money, fund and exchange brokers such as Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co., had new areas of activity as a result.

Senator Johann Heinrich Gossler II 1798-1842 | © Berenberg
Johann Heinrich Gossler III 1830-1879 | © Berenberg

1847 - Expansion in the founding era

Trade in the Hanseatic city was blossoming. The increasing importance of shipping and industry was reflected in the formation of many new joint stock companies.

Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. was in these years one of the founders of Hapag (1847), of North German Lloyd (1857), of Ilseder Hütte (1858), of the Norddeutsche Versicherungs AG (1857) and of the Vereinsbank in Hamburg (1856). By virtue of the activities of the bank abroad it became amongst other things a founding shareholder of the Bergens private bank in Bergen (1855), the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation HSBC (1865), Den Danske Landmandsbank in Copenhagen (1871) and the Svenska Handelsbanken Stockholm (1871).

1913 - Two World Wars

Cornelius Freiherr v. Berenberg-Gossler had the difficult task both of leading the business through two world wars and of organising its rebuilding.

Given the political and economic circumstances in which he saw no scope for a traditional bank active in the export trade, he decided in 1932 to withdraw the business from active banking. The company Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. survived the era of national socialist rule as a holding company. Numerous diary entries demonstrate that Cornelius Freiherr v. Berenberg-Gossler decisively rejected national socialism.

Cornelius Freiherr von Berenberg-Gossler 1898-1953 | © Berenberg

1948 - The new start

After the end of the Second World War Cornelius Freiherr v. Berenberg-Gossler and his son Heinrich, who had already joined the business as partner in 1935, decided to begin active banking with the now more than 350-year old company once more.

In the stormy reconstruction years Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. was active in many fields. Industrial regeneration and the start of export trade brought a large number of the old customers back and it was possible to take up quickly the foreign connections of earlier years.

Berenberg today

The personal liability of the owners ensures particular independence from corporate interests, strict risk management and and a high level of management continuity. In the 430 years of its existence, Berenberg has been run by only 40 managing partners with personal liability. As an independent private bank, Berenberg still feels exclusively committed to its clients.