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ARC Manager Focus: Duncan Lawrie Private Banking

In a new feature we team up with Asset Risk Consultants to get under the bonnet of wealth firms.

First up is private bank Duncan Lawrie.

Tell us about you

Duncan Lawrie is a niche private bank and wealth manager with offices in Belgravia, Kent, Bristol and the Isle of Man, serving private individuals, family businesses, trusts, and charities with between c£500k and £5m in investible assets. 

We are committed to providing our clients with a broad spectrum of financial expertise in a range of services including banking, wealth management and other specialist services such as financial planning, tax advice and international fiduciary services.

Duncan Lawrie is a wholly owned subsidiary of Camellia Plc, a holding company with varied interests around the world which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and employs 73,000 worldwide.

Taking our parent’s lead, our whole ethos is founded on prudence and a long-term perspective – both in terms of relationships and how we manage a client’s wealth. Our Investment Managers have been with us for an average of over 10 years, providing a continuity and longevity in relationships that is crucial to building trust and serving clients to a consistently high quality.

Describe your investment philosophy

When making investments on behalf of our clients, we take a long-term view, looking for investments that can provide progressive and sustainable growth over a long period of time.

We have no in-house funds or products, so we assess investment opportunities for our clients impartially and objectively. When investing directly in businesses, we look for strong management, investment-led growth and high returns on capital. When entrusting our clients’ money to third-party fund managers, we look for continuity and proven track records.

We do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach – we are a private bank and pride ourselves on our personal service. This extends to investment management, where we aim to build diverse portfolios that meet our clients’ individual circumstances and objectives.

At a Glance

Total AUM: £787 million

Private client: £763 million

Split of asset by type

Discretionary: 87&

Advisory & execution only: 10%

Managed fund service: 3%

(Jan 2014)

How much discretion does an individual manager have over construction of a clients' portfolio?

Our Asset Allocation committee sets the overall asset allocation for each of our four risk-adjusted asset allocation strategies. Individual managers are then able to populate these using framework models provided by our in-house research team, or alternatively using other preferred securities from our buy lists.

The framework models are a useful indication of which securities are preferred at the present time, providing useful guidance to investment managers in the investment of new monies. As with everything we do, our only motivation is to act in our client’s best interests, so investment managers have latitude to use the rest of the securities on the monitor list based on the client’s individual financial objectives, funds under management, tax situation and cost sensitivity. If they, or clients, want to add securities not covered by research, then this would be permissible if notes are added to the client’s file.

Investment managers are expected to follow the geographical asset allocation for their client, unless the client’s circumstances preclude this. For example, income-seeking clients may find it impractical to have significant weightings in low yield markets, such as US.

What makes Duncan Lawrie different?

Our approach delivers very high client satisfaction ratings, which are also 20% higher than most of our peer group, according to Ledbury Research, who carried out an independent survey on our behalf in 2012 (our RMs scored 81% for client satisfaction).

Because our wealth management service is based around our discretionary investment management service, every client has their own specialist Investment Manager – they are the client’s main point of contact and we pride ourselves on their accessibility.

We also believe that our total impartiality is fundamental when making investment decisions – we are not part of a high street clearer and do not manufacture our own investment products or funds. 

Key man - Seth Cowburn, director and head of wealth management


Seth joined Douglas Deakin Young, later to become Duncan Lawrie, in 1992. As head of wealth management he is responsible for the full spectrum of Duncan Lawrie’s wealth management services including investment management, financial planning and tax services. He is also personally responsible for over £150 million of funds under management. 

Seth holds the Chartered Insurance Institute's Advanced Financial Planning Certificate (AFPC) and the UK Society of Investment Professionals Investment Management Certificate (IMC) and Securities Institute Diploma. He is also an Associate of the Personal Finance Society and a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment.

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