Belfast Telegraph

Wealth management firm opens in Belfast 'to cope with demand'

Jonathan Dobbin and David Durlacher
Jonathan Dobbin and David Durlacher
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A wealth management firm has said it's struggling to keep up with demand for its services from Northern Ireland's "ultra high net worth" individuals.

David Durlacher, the chief executive of Julius Baer International, spoke as the Swiss-based firm opened an office in Belfast's Bedford House on Bedford Street.

The firm has had advisers here for around two years - and Mr Durlacher said the new offices demonstrated its commitment to the province.

He added: "We are a firm that is very clearly aimed at ultra high net worth clients wherever they are in Northern Ireland.

"We are struggling to keep pace with the demand, and that's not thanks to a brass plaque, but to having the best people in the industry working for us."

And he said that despite Brexit, company owners were feeling confident as the economy remains "dynamic" - which he said was evidenced by a high of 137 merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the province over the first six months of the year. However, the M&A report from Experian Market IQ also said the value of deals had fallen sharply. Jonathan Dobbin, managing director of wealth management at Julius Baer's Belfast office, said clients were raising Brexit in their conversations, but that it was not a "game stopper".

"The one thing clients and markets despise is uncertainty and we have got that in abundance thanks to Brexit, the ongoing spat between the US and China, and a perceived slowdown in global growth generally.

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"Clients do not like volatility, but it does throw up opportunities. We will react to fact and keep very close to our clients. We have great experience in navigating through difficult times."

But he said volatility was here to stay thanks to the trade conflict between the US and China - "which could escalate into full-blown trade war" - tensions between Japan and South Korea, and challenges in oil markets.

"We've got an awful lot of political noise, and the ability to see through that is what makes a wealth manager earn their crust."

Mr Durlacher said there was strong corporate confidence at UK level and at a Northern Ireland level.

"There is a healthy picture in the UK as a whole, with record employment for a dynamic workforce and a culture of entrepreneurialism - and both things are at work in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland punches above its weight, and there is plenty here that allows company owners to have some degree of confidence."

He cited the high number of M&A deals in the first six months, and investments by businesses like Newry-based sandwich firm Around Noon, which announced 94 new jobs on Monday. "We see those as an indication that there is still corporate ability to see through political noise and capitalise on the dynamism in the economy."

On Brexit, Mr Dobbin added: "It's cropping up in the conversation, but it's not dominating it. It's the opener. Come what may, we will prepare for any eventuality."

Overall, however, he said Julius Baer's strategy was to invest away from the UK, so Brexit isn't a factor in that planning. "Brexit's not a game stopper at all."

Belfast Telegraph