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'A new breed of wealth has been created in recent times'

With stock markets recently experiencing their worst turbulence since mid-recession, it's an interesting time to sit down for lunch with a wealth manager like Jonathan Dobbin

By Margaret Canning

Published 22/09/2015

Margaret Canning meets Barclays Wealth and Investment manager Jonathan Dobbin
Margaret Canning meets Barclays Wealth and Investment manager Jonathan Dobbin

The developments in China last month had a "stomach churning" effect on markets, he tells me. And even a holiday overseas can be interrupted by the need to advise clients if there's a crisis in the markets. Jonathan has to follow the international news agenda closely to assuage concerns clients might have. But calm may have been restored - just. He says: "There is data suggesting both European and US economics are on improving trajectories".  And China's difficulties may ultimately prove not to be the definitive influencing factor. "We still see the ongoing economic upswing in the US economy as trumping China's wobbles in the prospects for global economic growth."

The Wealth and Investment Management arm of Barclays, which Jonathan now leads, was established in Belfast in 2008, just as US investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 1 bankruptcy.  Jonathan remained resident in Scotland for the first few years and travelled four days a week to Belfast. "I think I gained 10 years when I stopped commuting four days a week," he jokes.

Fittingly for dining in a sister restaurant of Mourne Seafood Bar, we both opt for seafood - scallop linguine for Jonathan, and hake with wild rice and beetroot for me. 

The events of 2008 were followed by years of tumult, but Jonathan reveals that the great wealth held by his client base - usually individuals with a worth of more than £30m in investable wealth - does insulate them against a recession.

Inevitably, the identity of his clients is a closely-guarded secret. But he says advising people on what to do with their money is a privileged role, and that he gains many great insights into the life-cycle of entrepreneurship. And a firm like Barclays will be on hand to advise business people about to land even greater sums as a result of a sale of their company.  He says there has been "huge growth" in clients since it was established in 2008, with the firm gaining mainly through word of mouth.

And he thinks there is a strong culture of entrepreneurialism here. "We've had shipbuilding here, linen works, and we've had some of the largest manufacturing bases here, and I think that's ingrained business success in society. We've lots of very successful owner-managed businesses, and much old wealth which has been around for a long time.  And we now have a new breed of wealth that's been created relatively recently."

Even though the conventional understanding of the property market is bound up in the torrid events of the crash, most very wealthy people here have still retained their property fortunes, he explains.

The firm often comes on board to advise on what to do with one's wealth in the future. Succession planning is important, and some company owners may find the next generation is not interested in the family business. 

Jonathan modestly explains that he "fell into" wealth management after a degree in business and Spanish in Scotland, where he stayed for nearly 20 years before moving back home with his Scottish wife and two children. His first job was with National Australia Bank before moving to Greig Middleton stockbrokers in Scotland, which was ultimately absorbed into Barclays. 

Seizing on the Spanish side of his degree, I ask if an interest in foreign languages reveals anything about him. He is an intrepid traveller, and enjoyed a recent holiday in Malaysia - punctuated by closely following the outcome of the Greek elections for its potential impact on client portfolios. He's also been to India, Vietnam, Asia, New Zealand and Africa, among others.  

It's clear he enjoys following the news agenda for its impact on clients, but he stresses it's the long view that matters. "We spend much of our time advising clients to focus on the long term, where the investment debate is less cluttered and, if history is an accurate guide, the returns to a diversified portfolio are a little more assured."

The mantra often repeated by our colleagues in behavioural finance is that "it's not about timing the market, it's time in the market".

The Bill

Home, Wellington Place, Belfast

Margaret had: Hake ..............................£13.00

Diet Pepsi ..............................................£1.75

Still water ..............................................£2.00

Americano ............................................£1.80

Jonathan had: Linguine .......................£12.50

2 x sparking water ..............................£4.00

Double espresso ..................................£2.00

Tip: .....................................................£2.95

Total: .................................................£40.00

Belfast Telegraph

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