Prior to becoming head of Brewin Dolphin’s office in Cardiff, Welshman David Myrddin-Evans had only previously visited the city to watch the rugby.
However, he has now headed up the regional hub for over a decade and all the while has been able to enjoy the pride of Welsh rugby (the Principality Stadium is a 10 minute walk from the office).
‘I am utterly passionate about Welsh rugby and I am fortunate enough to be able to attend nearly every game,’ Myrddin-Evans tells Wealth Manager. ‘And I am also very passionate about what we are doing here.’
Indeed, the Cardiff office is flying high for Brewin Dolphin. The branch has over £1 billion in client funds, has a strong network of advisers in the local area and a few months back won the Wales category at Wealth Manager Regional Star Awards. When asked about why everything has gone so well Myrddin-Evans explains that the recent success has roots going back over a decade.
‘I am going to go back further than 2017, to when I first arrived at the office in 2005,’ he says.
‘Walking into the office for the first time I was very nervous, but it was a fantastic challenge.’
Myrddin-Evans arrived in Cardiff after building a successful career for himself at a series of blue chip wealth management houses in the City, following time in the British Army as an officer. Going over his career, the office head says every step of it gave him additional experience which made him ready to tackle the task of heading up a regional office and growing it.
‘You need to get something out of each step in your career,’ he says. ‘Being in the military gave me leadership and crisis management skills. At Kleinwort Benson I learned about investment. At Smith & Williamson I ran a unit trust and developed my industry knowledge even further.
‘I was coming from London to mould something that was very special. It was a question of looking at key things that needed to change and what would make changes to the client base.’
When Myrddin-Evans first arrived at the office in 2005, it was only looking after £180 million of client funds, had no adviser business and was largely focused on stock brokerage.
He says he threw himself into getting to know the local wealth management community, regional clients and identifying areas the team could build on.
In addition, he swiftly joined the Cardiff Business Club and became active in arranging its many events, meeting a community of local peer businesses. He says that his diary was so packed over a period of several months that he had to replace a suit that had been rapidly worn out through so many meetings.
A key focus of growth was via intermediaries, and an adviser team was soon established, which has served as the engine of growth over the last decade.
‘We have a great focus on the IFA side of business,’ he explains. ‘The thing I like here is while we have the benefits of being such a large national player, we are able to be nimble at the same time. We can leverage the credibility of Brewin Dolphin’s brand into the market and that is very important for the advisers we work with.’
Offering local IFAs access to Brewin Dolphin’s discretionary portfolios and considerable support network has been a key way for Myrddin-Evans to spread the firm’s message and solidify the branch’s standing in the city.
This culminated with the 2017 Wealth Manager award, voted for by local advisers, adding further credence to the work Myrddin-Evans and his team are doing.
Behind the success of this strategy have been two main drivers: building assurance and trust in the office, and growing the team itself. With the former, Myrddin-Evans says this was developed gradually over many years.
He says that Brewin Dolphin’s Cardiff office has never had a down year in growth – a distinction that Myrddin-Evans is keen to protect.
‘It is about making sure the people and the strategy are right, that the service is absolutely spot on,’ he explains. ‘A lot of clients believe in us and we have been making great strides in making sure all our clients can sleep at night.
‘In terms of our record, we were starting from a small base and there was no question that 2008 and 2009 were not easy years.
However, that was a time when we were really embedding the business. In the run up to the financial crisis there were a number of clients I took on who gave me cash to put to work in the market and I repeatedly said no. This is because we were really working hard to look at the market and asking where it was in the cycle.’
Though discretionary clients are not included within Brewin Dolphin’s managed portfolios, this suite has outperformed the relative market over recent time periods. Over three years to the end of July 2017, Brewin’s balanced MPS returned 33% to the WMA Balanced Index’s 32% and over five years 66.8% versus 61.2%.
For the latter aspect of Myrddin-Evans’ strategy, he had to ensure the office had enough capacity to handle new business, and expertise to anticipate client demands.
While Cardiff hosts many of Brewin’s national rivals, he admits building a team was challenging.
‘What I think is interesting in Wales is in terms of staff and who we have in the office; unlike London we don’t have a vast pool of qualified investment professionals,’ he says.
‘We have had to invest a huge amount in our team. When I started we had about five fully qualified CF30s, and we now have 13.
‘It is an office that is full of young people, who are talented and ambitious. I feel very strongly they are the future of the office and I spend a lot of my personal time training them.
‘I am 50 years old and I have done this job for a long time, so I have to ensure there are great people here for the long term.
‘Clients are changing,’ he adds. ‘Their knowledge is changing and we are all too aware of technology. These things will pose problems for companies but has that not always been the case?
‘The important thing is to listen to what clients actually want. For instance if I was
to start a stockbroking firm now, it wouldn’t go anywhere.
‘Times are uncertain and when it comes to Brexit, the outcomes are so diverse clients want to know what is being done for them. That is where our job is. The motto at [The Royal Military Academy] Sandhurst is “serve to lead” and I still follow that to this day.’