A lot can happen in 30 years – just ask William Baker Baker, head of office at Newcastle-based wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin and a stalwart of the North East finance industry. Some three decades since he joined the firm, however, it’s the events of the past eight months or so that have produced a whole new set of challenges.
The somewhat speculative consequences of Brexit, followed by Donald Trump’s extraordinary election victory in the United States, have thrown up more questions than answers, especially in the world of economics.
And as part of a company that prides itself on high levels of honesty and transparency, 62-year-old William is abundantly aware of the current squall of uncertainty. In a role built on the kind of trust that, in one particular case, has seen him represent three generations of the same family, they have become pressing topics.
“There is no doubt that clients are nervous about the implications of Brexit,” admits William, who was born in Sheffield and now lives close to Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire.
“The implications of the Donald Trump presidency and the consequences of both on global politics are unclear. Clients are also worried about the break-up of Europe.”
“From our end, we try and guide people through those worries, and are here to help with their finances for the long term. The good thing is we speak to our clients all the time, and whenever there’s a major shift on Brexit we issue information explaining our understanding of it.
“Of course, we haven’t been able to be definitive because there’s doubt at every level. We look at the implications, and although we don’t have all the answers, we try and keep our clients educated to help them understand what’s going on in the wider world.”
Offering reassurances are par for the course for a man who has spent an abundance of time both on Tyneside and Teesside managing wealth of all shapes and sizes, and is now building a culture at Brewin Dolphin that cultivates the new generation of wealth managers best placed to deal with the rapidly changing economic climate.
Just as times have changed, so has the nature of the role of the wealth manager. Brewin Dolphin benefits from having comparatively youthful teams of managers, and with 37 per cent of qualified staff being female, they are well in excess of the national average of 18 per cent.
Brewin Dolphin has a number of teams in the office, each with a wide range of expertise to service clients. Divisional directors Fiona Newborough, James Cartmell and Margaret Nesbitt, as with all investment managers, have been increasingly proactive in targeting new potential clients and strengthening the firm’s links with professional services.
Fiona said, “What has changed is the perception that you have to be incredibly wealthy to be a Brewin Dolphin client, that is really not the case at all. We offer a solution for almost anyone, with managed investments for those who can invest around £150,000 or more, but a range of other services with far less investment needed, as little as £10,000. We talk to all our managed clients and tailor our approach to what their financial objectives are and what is important to them and their family.”
“Wealth management covers two things,” says Fiona. “One is financial planning, which establishes whether it’s a pension, inheritance tax or business protection that’s important to you. The other underlying factor is investment management. Those two parts come together to create wealth management.
Brewin Dolphin’s Investment Management division in Newcastle boasts a team of 55, and 27 of those are CF30 qualified, which means they are licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to give advice and manage funds.
Yet Brewin Dolphin does not simply manage money, their award-winning independent research team, undertake studies across markets, asset classes and individual companies to develop their own unconstrained views and insights, which the advisers draw upon to best manage client money.
Recently, two standout pieces of research work have identified the problems faced by people at particular stages of their lives. They provide advice on how the current generation of over-55s could use their wealth in a more active and efficient way to improve the future life chances of their loved ones; and the ‘big squeeze’ where those in their 40’s need to be aware of the future financial needs of their parents in addition to their own need to fund university fees for their children.
William sees this as part and parcel of the change in the sector, “Nowadays it is rare for me to go through an evening or a weekend without having an email exchange with a colleague or a client. That’s the nature of the job now.”
Alongside a strong relationship with its clients, links with local organisations form an integral part of the Brewin Dolphin ethos, and they have a long-established charities team working tirelessly in the pursuit of managing charitable funds, highlighting the work of the sector and giving something back through their own charitable activity.
“This is not just what some would call ‘corporate wallpaper’,” insists William “This is serious stuff. Those links are doubly important in a city like this. Our people are involved and active in the heart of their communities, and the business communities of the North East are absolutely unique.
“We’re dealing with people, and people want to talk with other people, not a machine or a call centre where they’ll get a random reply. They want to engage, and we have built a reputation over the years on being a personal business.
“We pride ourselves on building the kinds of relationships that matter, whether that’s with our partner businesses or our clients. That’s really the most important part of what we’re doing here.”
The research reports on key life-stage issues are available to view and download from: https://www.brewin.co.uk/sharing-our-thinking/mind-the-generation-gap and https://www.brewin.co.uk/sharing-our-thinking/the-big-squeeze