Company Profiles

Julius Baer International's Footprint – How Regional Strategy Plays Out

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 16 May 2024

Julius Baer International's Footprint – How Regional Strategy Plays Out

We talk to the business – a part of the wider Swiss banking group – about its approach to business in the UK, "hybrid" working, the uses for technology, and more.

When Julius Baer opened its newest regional office – choosing Newcastle – late last year, it underscored a trend of international and domestic firms pushing ahead with a boots-on-the-ground strategy. 

Julius Baer International – part of the wider Julius Baer banking group in Zurich – hasn’t finished yet. (The firm also has offices in Belfast, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Manchester.)

“We will look at more regional opportunities,” Alan Hooks, head of private clients at Julius Baer International, told WealthBriefing in an interview. Entrepreneurial activity is diversified across the UK, he continued. “It’s very encouraging.”

Although bankers adopt a broadly hybrid work model, Hooks is clear that being physically close to clients is paramount. “We want to be serving them locally,” he said. 

Such comments and moves suggest that, despite the shift towards hybrid working and use of two-way video channels, firms believe they must have a physical presence that clients relate to. It also suggests that the pandemic’s impact has been limited, if not eliminated. People have become used to video and technology. 

Julius Baer International has had a presence in the North East for over five years. In its Newcastle office, it hired relationship managers Aidan Dunstan and Alison Lander, and assistant relationship manager Stacey Kirby, all previously at UBS, to support the firm’s expansion into this market. They joined Simon Patterson and Chris Shearsmith of Julius Baer International’s North East team. 

The bank is not alone in its regional footprint approach. UBS, Julius Baer, Barclays, HSBC, Coutts, St James’s Place, Schroders Personal Wealth, Brown Shipley, Weatherbys, Tilney Smith & Williamson (now Evelyn Partners) and JM Finn have plenty of “footprint.” UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, to take just one example, has offices in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh. In the case of Brown Shipley, the organisation also has Leeds, Manchester, London and Birmingham offices, and a presence in Cambridge and Norwich. Those discreet entities such as family offices tend to be London beasts, but at least one – Sorbus – is run from Manchester. (This news service reviewed the regional strategy of firms in a series of features, for example here, here and here.) 

Hooks admires developments in technology as it can add to what advisors can do rather than replace them. 

“Personal relationships with our clients remain at the heart of it [the business] and to the extent to which we can use technology to augment relationships, we will continue to do so,” he said.

As an example, an advisor can use technology to run different financial and economic scenarios and forecasts in front of a client and illustrate the decisions a client might need to take. Using technology to support onboarding is another positive way of enhancing the client experience.

The firm doesn’t have a specific ratio for the number of clients to be looked after by a relationship manager. The key is to make sure that “we are bringing the right team to clients,” he said. There is very much a team-based approach, Hooks continued.

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