Don’t worry, I won’t kick this off by talking about the Northern Powerhouse. (Although I suppose I just did.) But whichever way you look at it, and particularly from a wealth management point of view, the North is growing as a force to be reckoned with.
It boasts five of the UK’s largest cities: Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield. Whilst the North has moved on from the industrial revolution, it remains at the metaphorical coal face of a host of other industries. Technology and research, media, manufacturing, global trade and retail all power the region and sit alongside a burgeoning cultural scene.
For this regional focus, we are homing in on Liverpool. Liverpool has an abundance of said culture, which quite happily supports self-confessed ‘old codger’ and head of Quilter Cheviot’s Liverpool office, Simon Walker.
But back to wealth management where Walker recognises that the North is running its own race in terms of the health of the industry.
‘The wealth management industry in the North is progressing at a different rate to other parts of the UK, such as the South and the South East which are more economically vibrant. However the North is improving and there are more opportunities for wealth management here,’ he said.
‘Generally as a wider movement across the wealth management industry,’ he continued, ‘people are taking more control and need more support from the financial community, which is positive for us.’
Walker described ‘Quilter Cheviot Liverpool [as being] an unusual case study for the region.’ Six years ago Cheviot did not exist in Liverpool. The team were only just setting up shop, which made it Cheviot’s first regional office. They started out with assets under managements at zero and that part of the team has now amassed assets north of £500 million.
‘The Quilter name has had a presence in Liverpool since the 1980s, although the origins of that local business go back much further into the 1800s,’ he explained.
Two years after Walker took the reins of the Cheviot office in 2011, the firm merged with Quilter to become the household name we know today, Quilter Cheviot.
The Liverpool branch, combined with the North Wales branch, has some £1.16 billion in assets under management as of the end of March 2017. It also has a 24-strong team which is almost split evenly between those with client responsibilities and support.
This makes it a hefty player in the North and much of this growth has come through strong links with the IFA community.
‘The IFAs we work with are spread across the North. We have has had active client introductions from IFAs from Newcastle, across to Carlisle and down both sides of the Pennines. Sheffield is our most southerly limit,’ he told me.
Visualising the geography as Walker described it emphasised just how big the North is as region.
‘It is a huge area but we need to go where business is available. There are lots of significant players in Liverpool, it is a hub for wealth management, but it means we also need to look further afield for new clients.’
I was surprised to find out that Walker is actually Mancunian, but has lived near Liverpool for 29 years.
‘Liverpool is a fantastic place to live. It has undergone a considerable transformation. The city has managed to get rid of the unfortunate shroud it had 20-30 years ago,’ he enthused. He described it as a lively city with three universities and an excellent music scene. Plus, for golf fans, ‘there is the beautiful coast on the Wirral and in July The Open is taking place at Royal Birkdale.’
He also goes on to explain that Liverpool has been coined the second largest hub for private client investment management outside of London. In the past, Rathbones, Tilney and Investec Wealth and Investment have all had some form of head office function in Liverpool.
So does this well-reputed city come up against London when competing for business? Walker doesn’t think so.
‘One thing that sets Liverpool aside is that it is very stable and people stay here in terms of both talent and clients,’ he said. ‘Traditionally, London was a magnet, but many London centric businesses are now looking to open in the regions.’
‘We’re not worried about losing clients to London as we have a loyal client base who recognise the benefit of having locally based investment managers,’ he concluded.
This notion is evidenced in Quilter Cheviot Liverpool’s client bank. 60% of their clients are based in the North and they also have local family clients where subsequent generations have moved away from the area, but with whom they maintain the relationship.
Talk turns to the future and in this instance it is a case of the future’s bright, the future’s organic. Over the next 12 to 18 months the team are continuing to look to grow, which Walker expects to do organically.
‘Naturally, we would also welcome investment managers who recognise the strength of the Quilter Cheviot business and are able to bring a following of clients and advisers,’ he told me.
Traditionally though, Quilter Cheviot’s Liverpool team fuel growth by bring on younger team members. The office head outlined that 20% of the team headcount has come through their apprenticeship scheme which started five years ago.
‘We guide them through the regulatory exam track and this builds our team capacity from within,’ Walker explained.
‘We don’t see it as just a two year apprenticeship program. We look to get them into a client facing environment which could take five years. We also won’t hire in people above them, so they have the opportunities there ahead of them.’
This process is about setting the team in good stead for the future, something Walker understands having spent the better part of 25 years working in investment management.
‘We believe that hiring and developing good quality, motivated young people will ensure they’ll be the stars of the industry in 5-10 years’ time.’
And it is not just about breeding the new generation of wealth management, but ensuring young blood helps them to keep moving at the forefront of industry developments.
‘Our younger team means we have an opportunity to take advantage of tech,’ he outlines with enthusiasm. ‘In ten years’ time how people interact with professional advisers and the wealth management space will be different. Embracing technology is critical.’