The Business Interview: Martin Cuthbert Head Of Yorkshire For Julius Baer
Leeds landmark office building Platform home to Julius Baer International
There’s a buzz at the Leeds office of Julius Baer International.
Two new glossy reports hot off the press, have just arrived and the team is excited; both publications I’m told, represent the firm’s philosophy to lead the way with topical insights that cover a wealth of themes: UK and global current political and economic environments, entrepreneurism and the future of cities.
The wealth management firm, which has been advising individuals and families in the UK for over 50 years, was the first private bank to be listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange.
Martin Cuthbert Team Head of Yorkshire Julius Baer UK
Martin Cuthbert, Executive Director and Team Head of Yorkshire and the North East, has invited me to chat about Julius Baer’s UK expansion, it’s thought leadership programme and about dealing with the political uncertainty in the wealth management sector.
Since 2017, it has strategically placed itself at Platform, high above Leeds Station and one of the city’s landmark buildings which, according to Mr Cuthbert, fits the company ethos as it is home to disruptors (companies that are not just entrepreneurial but disrupting the market) like the Yorkshire-based legal firm rradar, a neighbouring company which won The Spectator
magazine Economic Disruptor Award last year. Julius Baer is a main sponsor of the Awards.
That helps explain the reasoning behind the expansion into Leeds.
“It became apparent to the management and David Durlacher our CEO, there was a compelling argument for expansion, as over the last decade or two, there’s been a clear dispersion of wealth away from London and the South East and we needed to look beyond the M25.” Mr Cuthbert says.
“Take Yorkshire’s economy, which is the size of Belgium, clearly that generates a great deal of wealth. It is also a flourishing entrepreneurial hotspot.
“We’ve seen a noticeable increase in the number of business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals seeking wealth and investment management partners and we have to position ourselves to meet the demand.”
Julius Baer’s current global footprint is spread over 25 worldwide locations and it employs around 6000 people. So, how do they make the very distinct decisions around those markets whilst maintaining presence?
“When you start looking around for a partner that has global presence you need one that conveys gravitas, sits comfortably in the market place and is of a size to feel personal, so our people don’t get lost in the scale of that business.
“I think out in the UK regions, our clients are looking for wealth managers, not only to help them with their affairs but understand communities and sectors. We must be more aware of the outside influences from the myriad of communication channels that are changing peoples’ perspectives on what they expect from their wealth manager. That’s why we are building our presence in Yorkshire as well as Belfast, Edinburgh and Manchester.”
Mr Cuthbert has been working in Yorkshire for the past 25 years and, as he sees it, “it’s about delivering with commitment at the local level”.
“We’re not trying to be all things to all people. We specialise in one thing, managing the wealth of private clients, whilst focusing on being the best in the industry. This targeted approach is very appealing. That’s why we take pride in our relationship managers, all of whom are local to the markets and can demonstrate physical presence.”
According to Mr Cuthbert, Julius Baer has fully committed to the region and will continue to look to the future for opportunities around growth; whether that’s actual sites or new relationship managers to complement what they are trying to achieve.
How then, I ask, is Julius Baer positioning itself? We are living and working in one of the UK’s most turbulent periods politically.
“We have remained cautiously optimistic throughout this period of instability because we don’t see any slowdown in wealth generation in this country. In fact, we have seen just the opposite – largely thanks to entrepreneurial spirit.
“If you take a longer view, then the key to when to invest comes down to opportunity and time horizons.
“As for Brexit, I think the biggest issue is, let’s just get to the end, whatever the end is. Across the north are good solid business people who, over the past two and a half years have done all their preparation for whatever they think the possible outcomes were. Now they just want to move it on and reach a conclusion.
The best strategy during times of uncertainty is to keep an eye to the fundamentals, keep focused on the long term and remain diversified.
“The majority of clients we deal with are entrepreneurs or, as in places like Yorkshire, family-owned businesses that have been around for a long time and now are pivoting into new markets.”
Mr Cuthbert explains that because of the diversity of the region with its strong industrial areas, rural sector and tourism, coupled with major cities majoring on technology and digital, “the breadth of opportunity is fantastic.”
The emerging theme is around entrepreneurs and the different ways they think.
“We see it as an opportunity. They have either rebooted or reengineered their business seeing it as an opportunity to step back and look at the markets they’re in and what they want to achieve. It’s about how they reset themselves for what they think the futures looks like.
“Obviously the transactions that happen will generate potential clients for us. We have to make sure we are part of a community that is involved in wealth generation and growth working with corporate finance and private equity?
I did a course at Cambridge Judge Business School looking at the ‘Cambridge’ effect and understanding not only how that has worked but how it can impact in the UK regions. For example, there is a real synergy between universities and businesses using the intellectual capital that sits in those universities to develop into a commercial perspective for the cities they are in - that is going to be fundamentally important.”
For Julius Baer, every northern and regional city in the UK has to grasp that opportunity. But how do you go about doing that?
“From our perspective, we have to drop down and look at the growth investors. Those who are looking at start-up businesses and transactions. It’s about understanding those markets and the flow to see what the prospects are and where the opportunities lie.
“It’s not something we will get deeply involved in because we are not seed investors or business angels or anything like that. But what we can do is look to try to look to help by sponsoring or facilitating opportunities.
“It’s about relationships and partnerships. From our perspective, understanding the individuals is very different now from a decade or so ago. We are always thinking who will be the new wealth generators and how will they see future wealth as well as themselves?
“With current generations of people, it is about understanding how they manage their affairs and what it looks like.”
Mr Cuthbert is keen to talk about understanding need. It comes down to what their purpose is once they have wealth.
“How this new generation feels about those experiences and what they are looking for is quite different.
Our proposition as a business must be to adapt to that way of thinking within the confines of legislation. Their outlook on the other hand is quite simple. They just want to go in and walk out and they don’t necessarily understand there are an assortment of different products to discuss. Something they find difficult.
“It goes back to understanding their purpose and why they are doing what they are doing because it is not the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago.”
I’m keen to find out how Mr Cuthbert and his colleagues go about addressing this.
“It’s a case of grab everything you can, tell us about yourself, not just assets and liabilities or balance sheet. We encourage them to talk about goals and what they trying to achieve. We then replay that that back to fully understand what it is they are trying to tell us. It’s about putting them at the centre of everything we do, which is why we ask: what matters to the them?
“It’s a case of sense checking your own truth and it seems to land really well. That gives us the building block to take them on the journey. It sounds quite simple and hopefully it is, we don’t want to be too clever. The challenge is eliciting the softer information. Once we have it, we understand their purpose and journey allowing us to put wealth planning at the centre of the discussion.
“It allows us to start with the goals piece… actually that is good, and it gives us the equity to say you are an entrepreneur or you have a young family, ageing parents etc and look at the bigger picture.
“It is about engaging in different ways and looking at it with a different lens. We encourage families to sit down and have those difficult conversations and discuss philanthropy along with new ways of investing.”
To help promote this area, Julius Baer has a core programme: ‘Next Generation Investing’. As Mr Cuthbert explains it focuses on helping individuals understand the global megatrends shaping the world today. A thematic investing approach with the objective to seek out sustainable growth opportunities by identifying companies with a competitive advantage within structurally-growing markets.
“This is about considering the impact of our actions today on the next generation and managing money in a different way. The themes are: Arising Asia, Digital Disruption, Energy Transition, Feeding the World and Shifting Lifestyles.
“It presents a different way of thinking and managing money and comes back to the question: how do you get under the skin of the younger generation?”
It’s about examining the latest developments in clean cities, electric cars and digital disruption in the financial industry.
Arising out of the Next Generation Investing, Mr Cuthbert is keen to tell me about how Julius Baer has taken one of the themes in sponsorship of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
“The forward-thinking innovative approach of Formula E resonates deeply with our corporate values. This is about supporting the development of alternative mobility solutions, which we believe will improve quality of life and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”
For now, though, there’s a lot to be getting on with, not least ensuring clients get to see Future Cities
. To sum up it is about blending heritage and stability with a forward-thinking approach and, of course, “it’s about life, business, investments and aspirations.”