This week I headed to the North West to catch up with one of the bastions of the Liverpool stockbroking scene, Simon Walker of Quilter Cheviot, writes Anna Dumas.
Our chosen venue, the rather unimaginatively named Restaurant Bar and Grill, is in the area locals call (a taxi driver reliably informed me) ‘stockbrokers’ alley’.
In fact, even the building we were in was once home to one of the City’s most prominent financial institutions, Martin’s Bank. While wine vaults have long replaced safety deposit boxes, the sight of several other wealth managers in the restaurant confirmed this was still a thriving heartland for the finance industry.
And Walker has been at the centre of it for the better part of 25 years. He rose through the ranks at Tilney before taking on the role of managing director within Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management division, then left to head Cheviot’s Liverpool branch in 2011.
Ordering some crisp white wine and light starters (duck salad for me and tempura prawns for Walker), we talked about what it was like starting up a branch in such established territory.
‘Liverpool was Cheviot’s first regional branch,’ he told me, ‘so it was very much an unknown entity in the area, and you never know how that’s going to go down.
‘In fact, the welcome we had from the wider industry was amazing. There’s a really strong current of entrepreneurialism running through this city, and so new businesses are treated with a lot of respect.’
Since then, thanks to a lucrative effort to work with IFAs and the merger with industry heavyweight Quilter, the branch has gone from strength to strength.
It now employs 25 people and has grown its assets under management from £570 million at the end of 2012 to £741 million at the end of 2013, a 30% rise in a year.
Walker isn’t one to rest on his laurels, though. As our main course arrived we talked about the importance of staying ahead of the curve, particularly in such a competitive area. For Walker, key to maintaining the advantage is being innovative when it comes to investments.
‘I’m a believer in conviction-driven investing,’ he told me. ‘You have to have a view and you have to be willing to put a bit of professional risk on the table, otherwise what are you being paid for? You need to be prepared to look globally and to think outside of the box’
It’s a view that aligns Walker neatly with the spirit of the city he works in. While a casual observer might note that architecturally Liverpool seems to lean more towards its moneyed past (we were moments away from the ornate site of the East India Company’s North West hub), culturally it is anything but backward-looking.
‘Liverpool has always been very outward-looking. Its historic position as an international trade hub has fostered that outlook and businesses here benefit from it,’ Walker said.
‘The city’s reputation as a centre for wealth management is a significant calling card as we secure new clients from across the North of England.’
As we both demolished the last of our lemon sole, Walker shed light on a new development expected to put a second wind into the sails of the city’s historic shipping industry.
In 2015, Liverpool 2 is set for completion. The project will expand the city port’s capacity to accept far larger trading vessels (post-Panamax, to be specific), opening up the region to significantly broader trading opportunities globally and reportedly creating up to 5,000 new local jobs.
‘Liverpool’s fortunes have always been closely tied to its maritime industry, which is why the Liverpool 2 SuperPort project is causing such a buzz in the area,’ he said.
Combine the potential strength of this directive with the recent push on tourism – last year visitors brought in £3.64 billion in revenue, supporting more than 48,000 jobs – and the city’s prospects begin to look rather exciting.