In the north east of Scotland, where the rivers Dee and Don meet the North Sea, you can find a Dolphin, or more specifically Brewin Dolphin’s Aberdeen office, their most northerly base within the UK, writes Alex Foster.
Aberdeen’s renowned oil industry has generated a huge amount of wealth in the region and Brewin’s regional office services 1400 clients, with only a team of 23. The office was originally under the name of Bell Lawrie White before it became part of Brewin Dolphin in 1993, five years before current head of Aberdeen office David Barclay joined the firm.
‘Brewin’s lineage goes all the way back to 1762 and the club at Jonathans Coffee House which was the genesis of the London Stock Exchange,’ Barclay begins. ‘It’s quite a history and I’m proud to have been part of it for the last 20 years.’
Conversation naturally turns to the oil industry that has defined the industrial sector of the ‘Granite City’ and how this plays into their portfolios.
‘We do have a number of clients coming from an oil and gas background – it’s been the biggest single wealth creator and generator over the past few decades, so we do have more than a passing interest in the sector,’ Barclay states. ‘But in terms of representation within portfolios we would never let any sector dominate as we need diversification to control risk.’
The oil industry trade body Oil & Gas UK estimate that around 160,000 UK jobs have been lost across oil, supply chain, and service sectors in the last three years and Barclay has seen how Aberdeen City and Shire has felt this quite acutely.
‘There’s no doubt that uncertainty emanating from the independence referendum and Brexit has had an impact on North Sea investment too,’ explains Barclay. ‘However, things are more positive now. Oil prices have recovered sharply, and we are starting to see economic green shoots in the area, but it’s been a long few years.’
In the face of this industrial struggle, I ask what he deemed as the main factor towards the city’s recovery from the faltering oil industry.
‘Without a doubt, it’s the people. Despite challenges to the oil industry there remains a spirit of entrepreneurship and tenacity which is inspiring, we’re really lucky on that front.’
‘We have a lot of wealth creators and serial entrepreneurs who have built and sold businesses as well as a good mix of trusts and charities which tend to be more perpetual in nature,’ continues Barclay. ‘We are also successful in securing the next generation because of the emphasis we place on building long-term client relationships.’
I assume therefore that most of Brewin’s clients in Aberdeen are based locally.
‘Certainly, by far the greater percentage live in the region,’ confirms Barclay. ‘As you’ll know Brewin Dolphin has a very well established regional footprint so there’s always going to be a branch close to you.’
Having such a regional presence, I’m interested in how the office interacts with and supports local business, both on the finance front as well as other sectors.
‘We actively engage with external advisors and the area is well served by a really strong, high calibre IFA community,’ Barclay states. ‘I believe that we can be complimentary rather than competitive to the IFA market.’
‘As an office we are members of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce which does a great job up here and are members of the SCDI (Scottish Council for Development & Industry) which has a very active local programme,’ Barclay continues.
‘We’re also involved with the local Institute of Directors - so we are very collaborative within the local business community.’
However it’s not just on the business front where Barclay and Brewin Dolphin are active in Aberdeen, as Barclay delves into the office’s charitable contributions.
‘Brewin has an ethos of positive impact, so we encourage all staff to make use of their volunteering day each year for any local charity or project,’ explains Barclay. ‘We’re pretty good on the payroll giving stuff as well, and a lot of our team here use that to contribute to local charities.’
Evidently Barclay and Brewin are invested in the region, not just on a business level but a personal one too, and Barclay’s final remark reflects his adoration of the sheer beauty of the area.
‘Geographically it’s a great place to live and work, we’ve got lovely coast and beaches to the East, and majestic Royal Deeside to our West, stretching right out to the Cairngorms. I’m spoilt for choice!’