Charlie Betts, Managing Director, Betts Group

Betts was founded in 1760 and is now in its third century of trading. Tell us a little about the history of Betts.

The business was founded to service the newly developed jewellery industry in Birmingham at the start of the industrial revolution. Obviously a lot has changed since then, with huge technological developments in both refining and manufacturing, but in many ways the business has continued in the same vein for over 250 years. Precious metals remain at the heart of everything we do even though we have hugely expanded our capabilities in terms of both efficient precious metal recycling and diverse product manufacture. 

You are the ninth-generation of the Betts family to lead the Betts Group. It’s pretty extraordinary for a company to be run by a single family for such a long time. What in the company’s culture or your family’s culture might have helped to make this possible?

Despite the long history of the business, I think it feels quite dynamic. We are good at embracing change as both a family and as a business and where we make mistakes (as we often have!), I think we are good at adapting and moving on. As a business, we put a lot focus on service and integrity, which I believe has helped us to retain really strong customer loyalty in a market which is increasingly commoditised. I’m sure there is also an element of good luck!

In your time as MD of the Betts Group, what has been your strategy to maintain the company’s leadership in the precious metals trade?

I have tried to ensure that the company remains adaptable to market conditions rather than sitting still. We have made several acquisitions in recent years to ensure that, as far as possible, we have very little dependency on external suppliers. I think we are now in a position where our capabilities for both refining and manufacturing are quite impressive, which certainly helps us to maintain our margins in what is a very competitive market. I have also tried to consistently maintain the ethos of family business and the focus on service which I think naturally sits with that; we aim to recruit and retain skilled and experienced staff who go the extra mile for our customers.

You recently co-founded Single Mine Origin Gold. What is SMO Gold?

Single Mine Origin Gold is gold with a transparent supply chain which has come from a single, ethically run mining operation. Virtually all of the gold investment products and gold jewellery produced in the UK are produced using gold of unknown provenance. SMO gold provides consumers with the knowledge that their gold has come from a single, responsibly operated source. This allows consumers the confidence that what can be a highly emotional purchase, such as a wedding ring, has no negative ramifications in terms of potential human rights abuses or conflict financing.  

What led you to co-found SMO Gold? 

SMO gold felt like a very natural progression from some of the work we have been doing for several years. We consider integrity to be one of the cornerstones of our business and have strategically promoted Fair Trade, Fair Mined and recycled products for some time. As a family, we are in a unique position of having access to every stage of the supply chain for gold, with my position in the Betts Group and my brother’s role as CEO of Hummingbird Resources PLC, which produces gold from the Yanfolila mine in Mali. Having visited that mine, it really demonstrated to me the positive impact a responsibly run mine can have on its host community. The mine operates to international best practice and I’m incredibly proud of the development work Hummingbird has done with the community in which it operates. Because we already have visibility of every part of the supply chain, putting in the assurances around that chain of custody and establishing the SMO product seemed a logical next step.

What do you see as the most important future trend in your sector?

I think consumers will increasingly wish to understand the provenance of the products they buy and know that they have been responsibly sourced. I believe SMO can play a really significant part in that within the precious metals market.  We are seeing this across all sorts of industries from food to clothing. Gemstone provenance is already important within the jewellery industry and I believe precious metal sourcing will follow suit. We intend to expand the SMO concept into the other major precious metals in the near future.

Much has been written of late about gold prices. What advice would you give precious metals investors?

I try not to make predictions about the gold price, despite often being asked to do so. I think a love of gold is almost hard-wired into my DNA, so I’m not the most objective person to comment. Having said that, gold has certainly stood the test of time over the centuries as a store of wealth and I personally think it is a sensible part of any balanced investment portfolio. Gold tends to perform well in times of economic and geopolitical turmoil and had a terrific run after 2008, reaching a peak in late 2011. Since then it has had a tricky few years, but has recently shown signs of recovery. I think it’s a fool’s game to predict the next big rally in gold, but I’m certainly bullish for its prospects in the long term.