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James Brearley shuts branches in business overhaul

Private client stockbroker James Brearley & Sons has moved away from its traditional branch model and is planning to close two offices as part of a restructuring.

The firm, which was established in 1919, will close its Leeds and Stockport branches and centralise portfolio management. The developments have been driven by a desire to bring about cost savings and efficiencies and follow a consultation process in which staff were asked to reapply for their roles.

Nigel Corrie, a director at James Brearley, said: ‘The main impetus here was how do we deliver services more efficiently and better promote our services to our clients?’

As a result, James Brearley has decided to set up a business development team and created a number of roles to promote the firm’s portfolio management service and Pro Icon dealing platform for professional intermediaries looking to outsource.

Under the previous structure, all portfolios were run by individual branch managers out of the branch network, whereas now discretionary portfolios will be managed centrally out of the firm’s Preston office by a dedicated team.

The firm, which has £750 million in assets under management, has decided to keep branches in Kendal, Blackpool, Southport and Burnley to act as regional offices to service execution-only and advisory clients.

Director David Hannis said the decision to centralise discretionary portfolio management was a natural step following the decision six years ago to create central asset allocation, collectives and equities committees upon which investment strategies were based. He explained: ‘The central portfolio management team deals with managed clients and then we have a development team tasked with growing the business.

‘There are clearly marked roles, whereas in the past, the branch manager and his team advised clients, managed their money and tried to promote the business as well. We feel this is much cleaner and clearer.’

As a result of the restructure, the firm has made four members of staff from both the front and back-office functions redundant. The decision to restructure follows a challenging period for the company in which it saw its pre-tax profits over the 12 months to the end of April 2010 fall to just over £28,300 from £1.2 million the previous year.

At the time, the company attributed the fall in profits to a drop in commission income, while low interest rates and cash balances resulted in a 73% decline in interest income.

Commenting on the outlook for the business, Corrie said operational costs had increased but he felt the restructure would ultimately boost profitability: ‘If we can deliver services more efficiently it will help the bottom line.’

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