HeraldScotland:

YOU'RE HIRED: Stephen Martin with three of the four graduate recruits – from left, Kyle Bailey, Clare Williamson and Murray Gillan

There’s an upbeat air at Brewin Dolphin’s Glasgow office on the city’s St Vincent Street. Part of it is explained by the new influx of youth: recently the wealth management company took on four graduate recruits to boost its presence there.

And part is undoubtedly because of the recent announcement of results which, both on a UK-wide and local basis, are enviably impressive in the financial services sector.

“The results were very strong, the business is doing extremely well, and that has given us a platform that allows us to invest in Glasgow,” says Head of Office Stephen Martin. For him, it’s a big plus. “We exceeded the billion-pound mark of money under management in the Autumn and funds grew by 18 per cent in Glasgow.”

This represents a significant increase over the previous year at 12 per cent growth. “That is why we have been expanding and taking people on,” he explains. “Without a strong business and a strong balance sheet we can’t do these crucial things as we need the cash generation to allow us to invest in the business.”

The four recent appointments were Emma Stobo, Murray Gillan, Clare Williamson and Kyle Bailey – all of whom are clearly delighted to have found a career path at Brewin Dolphin.

“I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Economics and subsequently worked in the arts, marketing and fund raising,” says Clare Williamson.  

“I was trying to move into the financial industry in some way and was fortunate as the timing was good. This allows me to go back to studying but without giving up full time employment and knowing that there is a job when I complete my professional exams.

“My degree is relevant but I also have a lot to learn. I started here in July and have been working here since then. I have been able to sit in on meetings when new marketing material for the Glasgow office is discussed and have been able to bring input from my previous experience while preparing for the exams for the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments, which all four graduates are involved in.”

This takes some two years on a post-grad route, says Martin.  “It was a vote of confidence in the growth of our business to bring these talented new people in. It’s a tremendous asset to involve people of the same ilk and age group to work with each other and to help them to network with other young professionals – because that’s not always been the case in this business early in your career.”

Divisional Director Vicky Drysdale agrees: “Half the graduate intake are females, which is a pretty big deal in the industry because we received some statistics recently showing that according to the Financial Conduct Authority qualifications, 15 per cent of those professionally qualified in the industry are female, meaning that currently it’s very male dominated.
“So for us to bring in four grads at a 50/50 ratio means, and adding our existing lady professionals in this office, we have more than double the professional female staff average”.

“There are opportunities being created and young women are now able to see a future in investment management in Scotland. This office in particular has been instrumental in changing the possibilities,” she says.
All the new graduates have contributed to a definite culture change, says Martin. “Networking as they do means they are in the position to grow their business in the future and we have the opportunity to build on that.”

There was a requirement for new talent, he adds. “As the business was growing we needed a long-term succession plan. We could gauge the level of enthusiasm when we received 80 applicants for these posts: it was a tough way in and there were several rounds to get through but there was a gap in the business in terms of age and we needed young people to fill that. Any business has to look to the future.

“And while the prospect might horrify some more conservative business people, it has resulted in reverse mentoring – from an IT and social media perspective you can become quite resistant to change but technological change and innovation needs to be embraced”

Resistance to change, in any way, is not a strategy to which Brewin Dolphin subscribes. In terms of regulation, Martin says that a lot of work has been done on the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive and associated regulation (known as MifID II).

“We have to be ready by January 3 and we have invested a lot of time, money and manpower as a company in making sure we are completely compliant so we are very confident that we are in a good place for that.” Similarly, regarding the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) where he notes: “We have a project team in the business and the office ready and prepared, so when there is a change in regulation they are able to apply it and adapt very quickly.”

Drysdale concurs: “The world that we work in changes continuously so ‘change’ really just means business as usual”.

Brewin Dolphin’s growth in Glasgow has come from areas that include new financial planning work, says Martin. “Our Financial Planning team have done exceptionally well and we have attracted new clients and providing additional services to our existing clients whilst we have developed a professional services proposition which covers partners, corporate exits and matrimonial work .”

Drysdale concentrates on IFA specialist services, where the adviser is the client, and that comes with its own special needs, providing full investment management while fully respecting the relationship the adviser has with his or her own clients.

The agency team was established last year and already one of the graduates is working with it to help us with the level of growth it is experiencing.  

“We differentiate ourselves in the marketplace because we treat the IFA as the client so we are respectful of that relationship. The growth levels have exceeded all our expectations,” says Drysdale.

This has resulted in large part from recent changes in the pension business, known as pensions freedoms announced in the 2015-2016 tax year, meaning that anyone aged 55 or over could access their pension pot as a lump sum, paying no tax on the first 25 per cent.

“Clients would have historically stayed in final salary schemes but because of pension freedoms we see a lot of those moving from traditional schemes to dealing with discretionary fund managers such as ourselves. That has been a big area of growth,” says Martin.

“It allows people to move into more flexible structures, ones more suited to the modern world after a full analysis of the risks and rewards of doing so.”

And at Brewin Dolphin in Glasgow, youth is the face of the modern world. “We have been very impressed at the level of talent we have recruited and the speed at which people have taken things up has been well beyond my expectations,” says Martin.

“It’s not good for business or indeed commercially sensible to continue to do things the same way – and I think we’re definitely ahead of the game.”

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New recruit grabs opportunity to put theory into good practise

Emma Stobo is one of the group of new graduates that Brewin Dolphin took on in Glasgow this year.

After graduating in July from Glasgow Caledonian University, where she studied Finance, Investment and Risk, she began a summer internship at the office on St Vincent Street.

“I saw this as the perfect step to follow on from my studies as I was given the opportunity to put my degree into practise and gain an insight into working in the investment industry,” says Emma.

“I was then fortunate enough to be offered a full-time position as an Investment Management Assistant, joining the portfolio management team, which allows me to play a significant role.

“As the youngest member of the office I can’t speak highly enough of the working environment and the opportunities open to new graduates.”
Emma has begun her first professional CISI (Chartered Institute for

Securities and Investment) exam which she will sit next year. “Since joining I have gained good experience in portfolio management from my training and I continue to learn from the more experienced members of the team.

“All of the graduates have been encouraged to establish and organise our own networking group and we plan to host our first event at the start of 2018 which will allow us to establish relationships with other young professionals who are starting out their careers in the business community.”

The group, she explains, is aimed at creating business connections that are mutually beneficial to both parties and will help launch their future client base.

“To be given this opportunity and responsibility so early in our careers at Brewin Dolphin shows how supportive and eager Stephen is to develop our skills and experience.”

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‘Putting service at the heart of everything we do’

Stephen Martin’s personal vision for Brewin Dolphin’s operations in Scotland is reassuringly straightforward – though demanding – and one which draws on the best traditions of the Scottish financial services industry.

In a complex world where politics and global events routinely demand repositioning and new strategic thinking among wealth managers, his goal remains going the extra mile and “putting service at the heart of everything we do”.

Despite the fact that the wider financial sector has attracted criticism in recent years regarding shortcomings in that specific area, for Martin, a 30-year veteran of the profession, the focus remains inviolate and non-negotiable.

Brewin Dolphin has recently announced results which, even in an ambitious and sophisticated industry, were impressive. The firm, with £40 billion under management in the UK, reported a national increase of 13.3 per cent (11.3 per cent excluding acquired funds) and core income of £291 million, an increase of 10.5 per cent over the previous statement.

“We face the same challenges as everyone else but we are aware that our job is to take into account the realities of change on an international level – because the world is a rapidly changing place – and we have the knowledge, expertise and support to allow our client portfolios to benefit, whatever the circumstances.”

Key to this growth is an intimate knowledge of the local market, backed by the massive expertise of Brewin Dolphin, with its origins dating back to 1762 and now with 29 offices in the UK, including Scottish offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The discretionary fund management business is a highly competitive one but Martin says: “If you don’t have the client service to follow through on that then you won’t achieve the best results, ones that deliver on the objectives that we are judged on. That means that we are highly focused on that client requirement, which in turn generates the money that allow us to continue growing so strongly.” Clients are, he adds, increasingly aware of risk when investing significant amounts, especially in a marketplace that has become more volatile since the banking crisis of 2008.

“With our ability to buy investments directly when we believe it’s the right thing to do while also drawing on Brewin Dolphin’s expertise in fund research to buy the appropriate range of funds internationally that are appropriate for our clients we are able to use the scale of the wider business to get the best deals for them, and drive down costs, while remaining accessible on a local level to personally discuss with them any issues they might have.”

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Investing in a winning mentality

Brewin Dolphin has a Scotland-wide charities team which Stephen Martin reports has also had a “fantastic year” and is the best he has worked with.

He explains: “We have a lot of relationships with the trustees of local charities and we have a highly effective team in Scotland headed by Lynne Lamont who is very well-known and highly regarded.  

“It is such a specialist discipline that we believe should be managed by a team which specialises in charities and works on it day to day. That is often not the case with many of competitors which I believe is not
good practice.”

In fact, Brewin Dolphin is the sixth largest charity investment manager in the UK, with eight specialist teams managing more than £4 billion for over 1,700 charities.

Corporate Responsibility is also to the fore in the company’s thinking in Glasgow. “We have engaged a partner in that area called Winning Scotland across the whole Scottish region,” explains Martin.

“We have been working closely with them and the focus is on developing the potential of young people at school through sport, encouraging them to adopt a ‘Growth Mindset’, a positive attitude in both these young people and also in our staff so it’s a charity which fits aspects of our culture that we are keen to develop.”

Going forward, there will be fund raising exercises and a pilot scheme in which Brewin Dolphin Glasgow will employ these principles in a working environment to complement how we already think.

The company also has established relationships with MacMillan Cancer Support (through annual lunches over the past 15 years it has raised more than £1m for the charity); Horatio’s Garden at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.   

“All these things highlight what we try to do in local communities,” says Martin.

 “You can’t take life for granted – you have to be involved,” adding that staff are encouraged to be active in the charities sector where they can, including joining the boards of organisations such as Glasgow Children’s Hospital.