With the ever-bemusing uncertainty of Brexit casting a silhouette over Britain, it could be deemed the smart choice to keep out of its potentially volatile nature, but Julius Baer sees things a little differently, writes Alex Foster.
Having recently expanded from its UK headquarters in London, opening new offices in Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh, it’s evident that Julius Baer see huge long term potential in the UK. Most importantly this isn’t just in the capital. James Bailey, managing director for Julius Baer in Manchester and the North West, describes the reasoning behind this for his Manchester base.
‘The recent UK expansion is a process that the business has been going through on a global scale for many years,’ Bailey remarks. ‘This is our bank doing what it does best, bringing its global expertise and presence out to clients in their own area.’
‘I really do believe Julius Baer is ahead of the pack by expanding into the regions for the long term and for the right reasons at a time where many others are actually retrenching.’
I’m keen however to understand why this is the case, that Julius Baer feel so confident about the UK despite Brexit, unlike the vast majority of international wealth management firms and private banks. On the road we speak to a lot of wealth managers who view global opportunities in a far greater light than that of the UK, but Bailey’s response is clear cut.
‘The reality is that, for the right sort of mind-set within which we include ourselves, uncertainty creates opportunity,’ Bailey states. ‘Ultimately, you can choose to sit back and worry about Brexit or identify the opportunities and capitalise on it.’
The implication here is that Bailey and Julius Baer firmly believe that the wealth of the country remains strong, and will continue to do so, despite the macro-economic factors surrounding the UK. Bailey is also quick to dispel the concept that this is only the case for London.
‘It is easy to think that the wealth of the country begins and ends in the South East, when there is actually a massive pool of wealth in regions such as the North West.’
However the pool of wealth in Manchester hasn’t just accumulated in recent years.
‘Looking at the history of this region, the extent of entrepreneurial flair is nothing new,’ Bailey explains. ‘Manchester was a key player in the industrial revolution and it should come as no surprise that new entrepreneurial wealth is being created in a similar vein today.’
With such a presence of wealth in the region, transcending multiple generations, the opportunities which Julius Baer have seen in the UK become apparent. Describing its client base, the importance of its new regional bases also show its value in terms of definitive North West identity.
‘We have clients across the North West as well as the rest of this country and abroad,’ says Bailey. ‘What generally brings them in here, and what makes more than 90% of them ‘local’ in a sense, is that they made their money here in the North West.’
The strength of the wealth in Manchester and the North West is obvious to see. Bailey confirms that Manchester is very much a hive of wealth management activity, competition which Bailey and Julius Baer relish.
‘Manchester was once full of small stockbroking firms, very much partnership focused’ begins Bailey. ‘The industry here has matured and, when looking at it in retrospect, its sophistication and the extent to which the wealth management industry has been professionalised is extraordinary.’
‘It may sound strange but we welcome any competition of quality, in so far as it raises the profile of what we do and the value we can bring,’ Bailey continues. ‘We are passionate about delivering the highest quality of advice and service to our clients and believe this stands the comparison with any competitor, whether local or from further afield.’
Perhaps Julius Baer’s strongest asset as a private bank is their ‘pure play’ wealth management structure. This has been a unique pull for their clientele, both new generation wealth and those who have had their wealth managed for some time.
‘First generation wealth is important to us,’ Bailey notes. ‘But it’s not to say we don’t get clients approaching us from other organisations as well, often people have their wealth management elsewhere and are seeking something new and refreshing.’
The professionalization and avid competition in the region, alongside the sole focus on wealth management that Julius Baer adopts has reflected on the draw for talent too. This is especially true of young staff looking to forge a career in the industry.
‘What has changed is the extent to which young graduates decide to head to London by default,’ remarks Bailey. ‘The excitement of the marketplace here is clearly a draw for young graduates and more young people are making conscious decisions to stay in the area.’
For Bailey, who is a Cornishman by birth, nailing his colours to the mast in Manchester has clearly been a decision which he is thrilled to have made. His engagement with the local community extends beyond just the business sphere.
‘I have a strong belief in social responsibility: I’m a trustee of a local charity, one of the oldest charities in the country as it happens, focused on the relief of poverty in Greater Manchester,’ states Bailey. ‘I’m also a trustee of the NSPCC and Childline, national charities who play a strong local role.’
Ultimately for Bailey, whether it be charity or business, being a company with global expertise but with a regional presence is the crux of the success of their expansion into the region.
‘We live and breathe the same air as our clients and our relationship with them is deeper as a result – that relationship is at the heart of everything we do.’