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Brewin Dolphin

Brewin Dolphin plc. is one of the largest British investment management and financial planning firms.  It has 39 offices throughout the UK and Channel Islands.

The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

The business can trace its origins back to the establishment of the stockbroking firm of John Dawes, a founder of the London Stock Exchange, in 1762.  His firm evolved through many partner changes to become Wontner, Dolphin & Francis in 1970. 

In 1974 Brewin & Co merged with Wontner, Dolphin & Francis to form Brewin Dolphin.

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Expert Verdict

The business was incorporated in 1987, and acquired by Scandinavian Bank the same year.  It was then the subject of a management buy-out from Scandinavian Bank in 1992, and was first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1994.

It acquired Bell Lawrie, a leading Scottish firm of investment managers, in 1993, went on to buy Wise Speke, an investment manager operating in the North of England, in 1998 - and then Hill Osborne, another rival, in 2000.

Finally, to date, the company acquired Popes, a firm based in Stoke-on-Trent, in 2002.

The company has approximately £32.4 billion of investments under management. 


The Pros

> Strong brand
> Traditional approach to beating markets
> Secure

The Cons

> Expensive way to invest
> Active methodology is academically questionable
> Pays retrocession commission to your adviser
> Potential for conflict of interests
What is Brewin Dolphin's Bespoke Discretionary Service?

Brewin Dolphin claim that their approach through their Discretionary Service is to treat each client as an individual, and build portfolios that precisely meet their requirements.  This gives every investment manager the autonomy to manage clients’ portfolios as they deem appropriate.

Whilst we have no doubt that all Brewin Dolphin managers are suitably qualified and experienced, for us, this rings alarm bells.  Freedom to go off-piste, whilst exciting, is inherently more dangerous and risky.  Human beings do make mistakes, and this can be costly.

Via Brewin Dolphin’s Bespoke Discretionary Service, portfolios may include directly held shares, bonds, investment trusts, OEICs and ETF’s.

Unlike some discretionary fund managers (DFMs), Brewin Dolphin does not have any in-house funds, which could possibly give rise to a conflicts of interest, and can therefore claim to offer unbiased recommendations from the whole of the market. 

Unit classes for the funds they select are super clean, and the lowest cost available.  We approve! 

We also approve of their open-minded approach to the use of passive funds, often combing active and passive funds in line with clients’ objectives and chosen level of risk in an effort to achieve the desired results. 

The in-house research team is the force that drives the Brewin Dolphin investment process, making active calls in an effort to predict major sector and geographical trends, as well as picking individual companies that look set to outperform in their industries.  Sometimes these decisions are obvious, sometimes these decisions are less obvious, and sometimes these decisions are wrong!

We believe there is inherently more risk in this approach.

Do Brewin Dolphin offer a Managed Portfolio Service?

Brewin Dolphin also offers a Managed Portfolio Service.

The Managed Portfolio Service (MPS) was launched for the IFA market, and is designed to provide fund management to underlying clients for whom a bespoke service may not be necessary or cost-effective.

It is administered by third-party platform providers, and MPS clients can choose from five risk profiles.

Five risk models:  Cautious, Income, Balanced, Growth, Global Equity

Eleven platforms:  Aegon, Ascentric, Aviva, Axa Elevate, Fusion, James Hay, Novia, Nucleus, Standard Life, Transact and Zurich         

Minimum investment:  £2000 lump sum / £100 per month regular

Fee:  0.3%  plus VAT clean fee structure

Competitive TERs on underlying holdings

Management:  Monthly rebalancing

No dealing charges on:  Aegon, Aviva, Axa Elevate, Fusion, James Hay, Novia, Nucleus, Standard Life, and Zurich.

Brewin Dolphin’s MPS is designed for those who would like to make an initial lump sum investment, but who also make regular payments into their portfolio.

The MPS is offered via a platform to make investment management a realistic option for clients who may have less to invest, or who are steadily accumulating wealth.

We think this is an interesting proposition.

Their MPS Passive Plus was recently launched. What is it?

The MPS Passive Plus was launched in 2017.

The new MPS Passive Plus range is designed to cut costs further still, through the use of passive funds to achieve the relevant market exposure - with the firm still actively reviewing asset allocation. The five MPS Passive Plus models are Cautious, Income, Balanced, Growth, and Global Equity. The minimum lump sum investment is £2,000 with a £100 per month regular saving minimum.

The fee is 0.2% plus VAT, and total expense rations (TERs) on the underlying holding are competitive.

Rebalancing is carried out on a monthly basis.

What are Brewin Dolphin's fees and charges?

Fees and charges depend on the service opted for, but we believe that the charging structure is competitive.

Integrated financial planning and investment management attracts an annual fee of 1.5%, whilst investment management only is charged at 1.3%.

Additional fees may apply, but on the surface, they seem to offer value. 

Dumped by my DFM

I've been dumped by a girlfriend, even a mate - but I neevr expected to be dumped by my wealth manager.  That's what happened effectively - Brewin Dolphin effectively told me I wasn't rich enough to remain their client!  Seriously unimpressed.

Where's your review of Brewin Dolphin's online service?

I opted for the online service - I'm what Brewin Dolphin class a smaller investor - and I like the service a lot. I trust the name more than some of the new startups - but I;d be interested in you doing a review of it AES...is it as cheap as some of the others?


Editor: Thank you for your query. We will be adding a review of Brewin Dolphin's Brewinsdirect porfolio service soon...

Expert assessment of Brewin Dolphin

Whilst Brewin Dolphin is a respected name, and they provide a range of managed DFM solutions, we believe that there are better and more cost-effective alternatives.

If you already have investments with Brewin Dolphin worth £50,000 or more, we recommend you get an X-Ray Review™ conducted to give you the information you need to make a decision on the best way forward.

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