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Citywire Wealth Manager Regional Stars Awards 2013: the winners revealed

At the inaugural Regional Stars Awards held at the Westminister Bank plaza hotel we crowned the best wealth teams across the UK. Here's a list of the winners and shortlists in fiercely fought contests across six key regions.  

Welcome to our inaugural Citywire Wealth Manager Regional Stars 2013. Here, we unveil the discretionary managers that are exceeding the expectations of the advisers they work with across the country.

What makes these awards different is that we are not simply handing out gongs to those based in London.

To determine the winners, Wealth Manager has used the intellectual capital of our sister title New Model Adviser (NMA), which has built up great relationships with a wide range of financial advisers, who are turning to discretionary managers more and more for investment services in the brave new RDR world.

The awards are rooted on the views of these NMAs, who use discretionary managers, highlighting those who have really delivered on behalf of their clients across the South and East of England, London, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the South West, Wales and the Midlands, and the North (for more information, see our methodology on the left).

The success of the winners of our Regional Stars awards and a scan of the assets amassed by these offices highlights a strong message for the UK wealth management community: namely that local relationships still mean a lot and that firms ignore regional growth opportunities at their peril.

More than 200 wealth managers from across the country joined us for our awards ceremony at the Westminster Park Plaza hotel, underlining the importance of recognising talent across the regions.

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Wales and the Midlands

Shortlisted

Quilter, Birmingham

Quilter’s Birmingham office runs £1.47 billion in assets on behalf of clients, an increase of 18% from the £1.25 billion it had under management two years ago. A large portion of this is run on behalf of advisers.

Two individuals at the office were singled out for mention during nominations: investment director John Mayo, who one adviser described as ‘the consumate professional’, and investment manager Wilf Blake who was deemed ‘excellent’.

Office head Sean Raftery is expecting future growth to come from ‘a positive equity market and aspirational investors coming back to the market’.

Brewin Dolphin, Leicester

Brewin Dolphin’s Leicester office’s origins date back to the 1930s under Hill Osborne, which was taken over by Brewin Dolphin in June 2000.

There are six divisional directors based at the office, with 25 staff who between them provide private client discretionary and advisory investment services along with financial planning. According to the office they focus on ‘establishing and nurturing long-term relationships’.

As well as providing services to advisers, they offer a range of services to individuals, charities and trusts.

Investec Wealth & Investment, Birmingham

Investec Wealth & Investment’s Birmingham office represents a key hub for the national wealth management firm and has been shortlisted on the back of the positive feedback it has received from its adviser clients.

The office comprises the former Rensburg Sheppards and Williams de Broë teams, with the latter coming on board last year. Both firms have been acquired by Investec over the past few years, and have moved onto the same operating platform. The acquisitive firm is unlikely to stop its run. In a recent interview with Wealth Manager, chief executive Jonathan Wragg said he hoped the firm’s experience to date as a consolidator will enable it to lead the next wave of mergers and acquisitions.

Executive director Adrian Quin, who works closely with the firm’s professional intermediary partners and financial advisers on strategy and business development, was singled out for praise in nominations.

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Winner: GHC Capital Markets, Leicester

As head office for GHC Capital Markets, the Leicester office is responsible for running the vast majority of the wealth manager’s assets under management – roughly £350 million. Nearly all of this has been sourced from professional intermediaries.

Building strong relationships with financial advisers is a key priority for the firm, and GHC’s Leicester office has around 100 adviser clients and approximately 1,000 active underlying clients.

Asset allocation at the firm is very much top down. Calls are driven by macroeconomic research, guided by chief investment officer and economist John Clarke, a former Wealth Manager cover star.

The introduction of the retail distribution review (RDR) at the turn of the year has created opportunities for the office, according to Gary Rusby, head of business development.

‘RDR has certainly switched the light on to intermediaries using discretionary fund management (DFM) propositions. We have always been in this space and it is good to see the market recognising this as a viable route to providing clients with the right solution,’ he said.

Rusby expects attitudes towards DFM to change: ‘I think we will see more recognition that DFM on platforms is really “DFM lite”. We pride ourselves on service and flexibility, most of which is removed by the automation of platforms. There is space for both, as not all clients need a full-blown DFM model, and I welcome the variety of choice.’

Over the past three years the Leicester office has experienced steady growth year-on-year, according to Rusby, who adds that there has been a trend of clients using their investments to make other capital purchases such as property.

GHC’s optimised portfolio service based on its model allocations has delivered returns ranging from 13.69% to 27.89% over the past three years, although it offers a relatively tailored service to clients so returns vary. GHC’s primary goal is to beat cash on a three-year rolling basis.

This approach has clearly paid off in terms of satisfying adviser clients, with one describing the office as ‘very client and adviser-focused’.

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South West

Shortlisted

Charles Stanley, Exeter

Charles Stanley’s Exeter office, headed by Christopher Harris-Deans, traces its roots in the local area back more than 50 years and remains well embedded in both the local and investment communities.

Harris-Deans, who joined when the office was acquired from Barclays in 2007 and was appointed to the Charles Stanley board last year, is also a director of the Charted Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and governor of two local schools.

‘Their work with the CISI is a real sign of their commitment to the industry and integrity,’ said one adviser client of the office.

Hawksmoor, Exeter

Hawksmoor was launched in Exeter in 2008 by John Crowley, previously head of investment management at iimia, who rapidly signed up former colleagues Richard Scott and Daniel Lockyer.

The company has since opened a second office in Ipswich. In addition to a loyal following of adviser and discretionary clients, the branch has launched several well received products.

‘Excellent service’ was a typical commendation from Wealth Manager’s adviser panel, alongside a personal recommendation for Lockyer as ‘very knowledgeable, [with much] attention to detail’.

Whitechurch Securities, Bristol

Bristol’s Whitechurch Securities has been managing money in the West Country for more than 30 years, with assets under management recently passing £160 million.

‘The best company we have ever dealt with!’ one financial adviser told Wealth Manager. ‘A direct and affective personal service, now very rare in this electronic and digital world,’ said another.

The company has made efforts to expand on its discretionary service in the past year, signing new staff and listing a risk-rated range of portfolios on the AXA Elevate platform.

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Winner: Brewin Dolphin, Plymouth

Brewin Dolphin’s Plymouth office has been led by Brian James since 2011. It can trace its history in the region back through various mergers and acquisitions to 1863. The office was set up by a team who joined from Barclays in 2007.

The move coincided with a physical transition from a previous hub in Plymouth’s slightly grimy mixed industrial and commercial Marsh Mills complex to the more salubrious Langage Business Park at the edge of the city’s urban sprawl, where it meets the rolling hills of Devon.

The company declined to release an update to the office’s assets under management but as of 2011 it was reported to run £220 million in client funds. Groupwide the company runs £26 billion, up 7.9% over the 12 months to September 2012, primarily driven by a 16.7% rise in discretionary funds.

James leads a management team of seven, supported by three trainee investment managers. Sister offices in Truro, Taunton, Bristol and Exeter mean the group is one of the largest in the South West.

‘The team in Plymouth has developed a deep understanding of the local community of both professional and private clients,’ said James.

‘The appetite to outsource investment management continues to grow and financial advisers who are looking to partner with a discretionary manager like the fact we do not offer in-house funds and that each portfolio is bespoke and managed locally.

‘Trust and mutual respect are the foundation stones of all our relationships.’

James’ background lies in financial advice, having begun his career in 1978 as a KPMG auditor before joining Gerrard in 2003 and becoming a chartered financial planner in 2007. He joined Brewin Dolphin’s Nottingham office in 2008 before making the move down south as regional head.

Intermediary business across Brewin Dolphin’s offices in Devon and Cornwall is headed by Mike Gerrard, who joined in July 2011 following 20 years as a Standard Life IFA account manager.

Around 10% of Brewin Dolphin’s assets are managed on behalf of financial intermediaries, which a spokesperson for the company said could be considered representative of the office.

The division can trace its history back to the founding of local brokerage Westlake & Co.

It continued as an independent regional business until the 1980s when it became the local office of the Allied Provincial Group, and has since changed hands between Greig Middleton, Gerrard, and Barclays.

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South and East

Shortlisted

Brooks Macdonald Asset Management, Tunbridge Wells

The Tunbridge Wells office, run by Pam Beith, has more than £200 million under management. Like other Brooks Macdonald Asset Management’s offices, the team leverages off a centralised process. The company said: ‘We employ a top-down strategy for the macroeconomic asset allocation element of our approach, to which we apply our risk management tools, and a bottom-up strategy to provide the appropriate investments for clients’ portfolios.’

One adviser who nominated Brooks noted it was ‘a fantastic team to work with. Excellent personalisation of investment proposals and unbeatable service’.

Wells Capital Investment Solutions, Tunbridge Wells

The firm manages around £150 million out of Tunbridge Wells, under the watch of managing director Eric Clapton and investment director Chris Mayo.

‘Our investment philosophy is we are exclusively discretionary fund managers and that is our core business. We work exclusively for financial advisers,’ says Mayo. ‘Our office is regional, so it’s easy for clients here to talk to us. From a process view, we offer risk-graded model portfolios, selecting from IMA-listed funds. It is clean, simple and we can put these on platforms.’

One IFA said of the firm ‘they have great risk-return results.’

Sanlam Private Investments, Sevenoaks

The Sevenoaks office runs a total of £374 million for around 860 clients. Most of the firm’s new business comes from advisers, and Sanlam Private Investments (SPI) has steadily grown its investor base from referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The office is headed by Matthew Groom, head of private clients for London and the South East. ‘We manage the investments on behalf of a wide range of private clients, charities, trusts and corporate entities,’ he said. ‘Our goal is to deliver the best return for clients’ risk profile. The personal service we provide for this results in long-term, prosperous relationships, as we work together to help to secure financial futures.’

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Winner: Brooks Macdonald, Fareham

Brooks Macdonald has claimed its second regional award, on the back of the strong feedback it has received from the Hampshire adviser community.

Sitting on the Brooks Macdonald asset allocation committee, John Wallace has significant experience managing private client portfolios within the asset management and private banking industry. He is a regional office director at the Fareham branch, which runs more than £600 million for over 1,500 clients. Of this, 98% is managed on behalf of intermediaries.

In terms of growth opportunities, Wallace points to self-invested personal pensions (Sipps) and the continued expansion of investment outsourcing from professional advisers.

‘In turn, providing decent levels of service and performance is allowing us to build and retain existing relationships, which is incredibly important to the team,’ he said. ‘We expect the outsourcing of investment management to continue if not increase over the coming years, driven by the Sipp market, increased regulation and economies of scale.’

The office has seen a significant increase in assets, growing 30% per annum since 2010.

Wallace said: ‘Over the last three years our performance has been consistently above our benchmarks with considerably less volatility than equity markets.

‘Three-year returns to the end of December were up 18.1% for our bespoke portfolio service low to medium risk balanced portfolio mandate compared to the ARC Sterling Balanced Asset PCI index which rose 14.8%,’ he added. ‘The low to medium risk balanced mandate has a strategic equity exposure of 30% to 55%.’

The firm has been increasing its equity exposure over the past six months, on the back of the improving macro environment and continuing central bank stimulus.

‘Equity valuations are clearly more fair value than they were but we still think this environment of improving growth, low inflation and monetary stimulus, is positive for equities compared to other asset classes over the next two to three years,’ said Wallace.

‘However we remain wary in the short term and we continue to monitor political risk, which is again on the rise in Europe, and the fiscal situation in the US.’

On fixed income allocations, the firm remains underweight conventional gilts and holds few index-linked bonds, on the view that the breakeven rates they are discounting are relatively high.

‘We prefer credit risk to duration risk and so remain invested in investment grade and high yield debt as well as floating rate debt which will be more protected when interest rates do eventually rise,’ Wallace added.

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Scotland and NI

Shortlisted

Quilter, Glasgow

Quilter’s Glasgow office received positive feedback from the advisers it works with. The office runs £465 million and around 65% of this is run on behalf of advisers, although the firm notes that this figure is increasing daily. Since September 2011 the office has experienced asset growth of £106 million, equating to a 30% rise.

Office head Alan Cameron expects the office to see further growth from adviser relationships, alongside the self invested personal pension (Sipp) market. ‘As legislation surrounding pensions becomes increasingly onerous for employers, with for example the introduction of auto enrolment in 2015, we feel we are ideally suited to work with financial advisers in assisting smaller companies to manage and match their pension liabilities proactively for their employees,’ he said.

Investec Wealth & Investment, Edinburgh

Investec Wealth & Investment’s Edinburgh office incorporates the historic offices of Rensburg Sheppards and Williams de Broë (WdB), two firms that have since been acquired by the South African bank.

Headed by Murray Mackay, who formerly established and oversaw WdB’s Edinburgh branch, the combined office represents a key hub in terms of Investec’s UK presence. Looking ahead, the company sees a clear growth opportunity from advisers seeking a disciplined investment process and focus on personal service.

Senior investment director Douglas Spence received a special mention from adviser clients, with Chris Spear of Spear Financial noting: ‘Douglas is excellent in front of clients, as well as maintaining a regular dialogue with me as the adviser.’

Brewin Dolphin, Edinburgh

Brewin’s Edinburgh hub, headed by Mark Wilkinson, boasts 19 investment managers who have been able to build a following among the Edinburgh adviser community.

Divisional director Bryan Johnston highlights that the office’s roots go as far back as the 1780s. The firm now manages £26 billion across the UK, around 10% of which is run for advisers.

Johnston believes the Edinburgh growth story remains strong and expects to see further opportunities to grow Brewin’s presence among the local charity and adviser markets.

‘There has been much talk of the problems with Scottish banks. Although there has been some employment problems associated with this, the legal and financial worlds are both doing pretty well. Edinburgh remains a key source of activity,’ he said.

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Winner: Brooks Macdonald, Edinburgh

Brooks Macdonald Asset Management’s Edinburgh office has come a long way since it launched in late 2009, claiming the top spot in the Scotland and Northern Ireland category.

The office now runs around £250 million for 220 clients, with around 45% of the assets run on behalf of intermediaries.

Director Gareth Howlett said the team is aiming to increase assets year-on-year by 75% and is noticing increased traction with the intermediary channel, which he attributes largely to the efforts of his colleague Richard Allison, senior intermediary sales manager.

‘Clients from advisers now form the majority of our business, whereas they used to be old Adam & Company clients. Now the majority of our clients come through advisers and we expect this will increasingly be the case in the future,’ Howlett said.

Over the last six months, Brooks’ asset allocation committee has increased equity exposure, pointing to an improving macroeconomic backdrop. Nonetheless, Howlett is concerned about how far the markets have moved lately.

‘Like a lot of people, we are a bit sceptical of how far the rally that started late last year is based on fundamentals and how far it is based on sentiment,’ he explained.

‘A lot of it is based on a rerating rather than improved earnings. The market has run ahead of fundamentals. Although we see the possibility of a setback as definitely there, we don’t think a setback will be a return to the crisis days of 2008 or 2009. There are pretty likely to be some potholes on the road, but we think the road leads gently uphill.’

Over the three years to the end of December, Brooks’ bespoke portfolio service’s low to medium risk balanced portfolio returned 18.1% compared to a 14.8% rise by the ARC Sterling Balanced Asset PCI index.

Looking ahead, the office aims to further strengthen its ties with the Scottish adviser community.

‘I expect to see more of the same. Increasing our presence among the introducer community and demonstrating to them, as well as the people who have already done business with us, that we can deliver what we say we will deliver. This will create opportunities,’ Howlett said.

While Edinburgh has emerged as a significant hub for wealth management in recent years, he is unafraid of growing competition. ‘The advisers up in Edinburgh are spoilt for choice, given there are so many good managers up there. This is no bad thing as it means that we have to be on the top of our game to win business here and it keeps you on your mettle,’ he said.

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North

Shortlisted

Vertem Asset Management

Newcastle-based Vertem Asset Management was launched in 2010 by former Brewin Dolphin duo John Dance and Gary Stockdale. The firm manages bespoke portfolios with a high conviction blend of direct equities and funds run using Vertem’s proprietary risk management screening process. Raymond James Investment Services provides the firm’s back office, enabling the pair, supported by assistant James Pauw, to focus on the investment and service proposition. Stockdale also lectures part-time at the University of Northumbria’s finance department, reflecting the intellectual rigour the firm applies to its investment process.

Quilter, Manchester

Quilter’s Manchester office has quadrupled its assets under management since David Rothburn took over as the branch head in 2002. Following the recent merger with Cheviot, the combined group now runs £475 million out of Manchester, 90% of which is managed on behalf of intermediary clients.

Originally opened in 1993, the Manchester office now has a 12-strong investment team and four business development managers.

Rothburn said the firm is looking to extend its reach into Yorkshire and this process will be aided by the fact that the Cheviot merger doubled its business development manager headcount.

Charles Stanley, Liverpool

Charles Stanley has been steadily building its presence in Liverpool since 2008 when it acquired employee benefits specialist Griffiths & Armour, which was later rebranded CS Financial Solutions. The group opened a wealth management office in August 2010, headed by Derek Gawne. He is supported by a team of five wealth managers including Midas Capital co-founder Michael Taylor and former Close Asset Management portfolio manager Anjali Roberts, who both joined in late 2011. The office aims to embed itself into the local community and supports the local newspaper the Liverpool Post.

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Winner: Investec Wealth & Investment, Sheffield

The Investec Wealth & Investment Sheffield office traces its roots back to the 18th century when it was opened to serve the town’s affluent industrialists. Its current incarnation was born out of the amalgamation of the Rensburg Sheppards and Nicholson Barber, which was acquired in 1999. Rensburg was in turn bought by Investec in 2010 and the combined office comprises 46 employees and acts as a hub for a chunk of the group’s centralised functions.

Tom Street, an executive director at Investec Wealth & Investment, describes the branch’s growth in funds under management as ‘comfortably in double digits’ over the last three years, with money from intermediaries representing a ‘considerable amount’ of the total.

Following the acquisitions of Rensburg Sheppards and Williams de Broë, Investec Wealth & Investment manages over £20 billion of assets across 15 offices and with over 1,000 staff, including around 300 client relationship managers.

The firm operates with a £100,000 minimum investment level for fully bespoke discretionary investment with clients being given a dedicated fund manager, while clients with £50,000 are typically offered a risk graded fund of funds service.

Street emphasises the firm takes a long-term view of investments, but is encouraged by the recent pick-up in the market.

‘Equity markets may have rallied in recent months but uncertainty remains and we maintain a balanced view subject to a client’s particular risk appetite,’ he said. ‘Generally speaking, despite on-going uncertainty regarding the eurozone, investors should view the markets in 2013 with a stronger sense of optimism. We believe the year ahead will benefit from a strengthening US economy, firmer fundamentals in developing economies, and a more settled outlook for the UK.’

The Sheffield office, like all of the firm’s branches, is active in its local community, sponsoring the Great Sheffield Art Show, which celebrates its 24th birthday in July this year.

The firm’s Yorkshire offices have also been long-term sponsors of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which operates two helicopters . They also collected over 75 kilos of shoes for the charity, which were dispatched to underdeveloped countries to provide affordable footwear.

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London

Shortlisted

Brooks Macdonald

Brooks Macdonald’s flagship London office has given the rest of the firm’s regional network something big to aspire to. The arm, headed by Brooks founder Chris Macdonald, is responsible for around £1.7 billion in assets for 3,143 clients. It also runs a managed portfolio service, which has attracted 5,287 clients and £315 million. The investment team combines a top-down strategy, before applying its risk management and bottom-up strategy to ensure it makes the appropriate investments for clients. ‘Our investment process provides a framework that allows us to create individual portfolios while controlling the risks taken,’ the group explains.

Ingenious Asset Management

At the heart of Ingenious Asset Management’s investment approach is the understanding that clients are not necessarily averse to taking risk but they are particularly sensitive to losses. This philosophy has seen it attract £1.39 billion in assets, which it runs on behalf of 450 families. The London office is headed by chief executive Guy Bowles and it attributes its recent success to the move into high dividend paying equities with increased earnings power, while protecting portfolios against sterling weakness. Ingenious currently sees a big growth opportunity in US clients that have been isolated by Fatca regulation.

Investec Wealth & Investment

Investec Wealth & Investment’s London arm became a real powerhouse following its acquisition of Williams de Broë (WdB), which saw it name David Bulteel as overall head last June. WdB was successfully integrated and client relationships were protected, which is underlined by some of the compliments the group has received from advisers. ‘[He] keeps the emotions with a client and removes them when making investment decisions. The results speak for themselves. Do I sleep at night? Oh, yes.’

The Investec W&I London office is one of the best manned offices in the capital and is supported by a UK network comprising more than 15 local offices.

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Winner: Brewin Dolphin, London

When stockbroker John Dawes founded Brewin Dolphin in 1762, little did he know just how influential his firm would become in the wealth management community.

Roll on 250-odd years and its London office has harnessed the power of globalisation and the rise of the internet to cement its position as the top wealth firm in the UK capital by winning this coveted award.

‘Very knowledgeable, puts clients at ease and superb communicators ’, was the description one satisfied adviser gave of a Brewins investment manager he has outsourced to.

This is praise indeed for a firm that runs a mighty £26 billion across its vast regional network, with the London arm one of the driving forces in the 7.9% rise in assets under management in the 12 months to the end of September.

However, national director Rupert Tyler is fully aware of the firm’s profound history and refuses to hog the credit as he acknowledges the instrumental role the wider group played in London’s success – including the Plymouth office, which picked up the South West gong.

‘I am delighted that the success and excellence of the London office has been recognised. The investment prowess and determination to look to our clients’ best interests here in London, I believe, is mirrored throughout the group,’ Tyler said.

Brewins’ head office, a stone’s throw from the London Stock Exchange at Smithfield, certainly packs a mighty punch. It houses 50 investment management teams and is home to the group’s IT, finance, compliance, personnel, training, development and marketing departments. This strength in depth enables the firm to get a deeper insight into the needs of its thousands of clients.

‘One of the most important aspects of having your investments with Brewin Dolphin is the personal experience you have as one of our clients,’ it promises on its website. ‘We consider our clients in everything we do and try to ensure the experience of each client not only meets, but exceeds, expectations.’

The future for Brewins promises to be just as interesting, and one of the London office’s most immediate challenges is to navigate and exploit the opportunity that increased regulation in the wealth management market brings.

‘We are putting considerable efforts into our relationships with solicitors and accountants now we have post-RDR [retail distribution review] clarity from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and with IFAs, where our DFM proposition has been very well received throughout the run up to RDR and since. IFAs welcome our experience and integrity when dealing with their business.’

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