When I meet Charles Hallatt at Banham’s 75-year-old flagship showroom in Kensington High Street I instantly get the feeling he’s not your ordinary corporate executive chairman.
The grandson of William F Banham, who established the security company in 1926 after inventing the automatic door bolt, Charles is incredibly passionate about the company he has built up and up over the past 37 years.
The Chinese have a philosophy that a family company normally goes down the drain by the time the grandchildren start running it but Charles has definitely proved them wrong. Current turnover stands at £30m and Banham has over 300 employees - most of this is due to Charles’ hard work.
It could have been very different because Charles was originally a banker but was persuaded by his grandmother, who lived in Allen Street, just off Kensington High Street, to do a stint in the family business. He never left.
Banham is one of the few security companies to have physical shops and Charles is adamant they will stay as he wants customers, who are often very wealthy, to witness for themselves how good their products are.
He said: “Customers call us up and say they want to make their homes secure but often they’ll only want security on the front door which we just won’t do. If somebody wants security at their house they need it everywhere - a burglar is more likely to use the backdoor than the front and the majority of the time customers will see the logic in this.”
Famous for their burglar alarms and unique identification keys, Banham does a lot more than that.
“Our safes have become very popular and we’ve put a lot of thought into design," he said. "Nobody wants to pay good money for a top security system for it to look ugly, so with many of our systems you wouldn’t even know they are there.
“We also have a key holding service which has become really popular. We have 30 motorbikes around London and the south east so we can be there very quickly if you forget your keys. We also do things like feed pets and water plants as well as respond to intruder alarms just to add to the security we provide.”
Security is now so ingrained in the way Charles lives that when he spotted two people he did not know on his driveway while on holiday through his iPhone’s special CCTV app he called his neighbour in a panic.
He said: “I called up my neighbour and he rushed out but it turned out to be quite innocent. It was just my architect who I didn’t recognise and his girlfriend coming to admire his work.”
Some have accused Charles directly (at a cocktail party) of Banham being overpriced but he is adamant that you get what you pay for: “You can go to some tiny security company to pay less and I’m sure they’ll do a fine job but we are the best.
"You may pay more at Banham’s but you get the best product. Top price, top product.”
And will his children carry on the family business? “We’ll have to wait and see, they’ve all got good careers at the moment and I’m not going to push them but obviously it would be great if they had an interest.”