Head of Organisational Effectiveness
Modernisation at Brewin Dolphin: Building a culture to be proud of.
Financial services couldn’t be a better example of an industry where radical change is the new constant – even without the upheaval of Covid-19. Regulatory requirements are constantly updated, fintech and challenger banks are proliferating, and ever-advancing technology means consumers and employees alike expect providers and employers to keep apace.
Experiencing this change is Brewin Dolphin, one of the UK’s leading FTSE 250 wealth managers. Founded in 1762, it has a strong heritage in financial planning and investment management advice. With 33 offices throughout the UK, Channel Islands and Ireland, Brewin Dolphin employs over 1850 people.
This case study examines:
- How Brewin Dolphin have modernised their working practices to better prepare for the future
- How the culture they have developed makes the organisation fitter for change
- The impact of their employee survey programme as a lever of cultural change
How Brewin Dolphin have built their culture
A change of leadership team in 2015 included a new Group HR Director with a comprehensive people strategy designed to modernise working practices and help colleagues thrive through change. The people strategy included culture, leadership and people development, diversity and employee engagement.
Modernising working practices had to happen hand in hand with introducing new systems and technology. Fiona Wallace, Head of Organisational Effectiveness, sees technological advance as a positive enabler for the organisation:
“The digital world is increasing client and employee expectations, so we are constantly looking for ways to enhance our client and employee experience.”
Brand purpose and core values
The first step was developing the brand purpose and core values. Together they create the framework that defines how people behave, deliver a technology enabled client experience, and work to fulfil the vision of being the leading wealth manager in the UK.
What’s been important to Brewin Dolphin in the establishment of the values, has been to maintain the core characteristics of the business and respect their heritage. The culture has always been friendly and welcoming, with colleagues who make positive relationships internally and externally. Perhaps unusually in the wealth management industry, there isn’t a pressurised sales environment. Their focus is on relationship-based selling, and colleagues enjoy a healthy work-life balance. Says Fiona,
“Work-life balance here is an integral part of our culture and the absence of excessive pressure is one of the reasons that colleagues are able to perform well in our business, and we retain a lot of talent. Preserving this means striking a balance between building our ability to cope with transformation, ensuring wellbeing doesn’t suffer and that our clients continue to receive a seamless service.”
L & D to support the modernisation agenda
A range of learning opportunities have been developed to build the culture and support the modernisation agenda, helping colleagues live the ‘Genuine, Expert and Ambitious’ values.
“Our colleagues are looking for more varied development to future-proof careers and adapt to different opportunities. This means having a culture where people look ahead to what the future of work might look like for them and how they can prepare themselves to be ready for it.”
Modernising technology to improve productivity
Technology-wise, the entire business support system is being updated to improve productivity.
“This will fundamentally improve the employee and client experience,” Fiona remarked. “Instead of a number of systems we’ll have a far more streamlined approach, and manual data entry will be the exception rather than the rule. The client-facing teams and operational support teams will be able to
collaborate more and enhance our client service – living our values – Genuine, Expert, Ambitious.”
Of course, introducing such an impactful change means preparing colleagues well. Leaders have
consistently discussed the plans at Town Hall meetings. They involved colleagues from across the
business in choosing the provider to help them feel more ownership and aid the transfer.
Agile working is helping ‘Enrich Lives’
One of the most significant changes affecting employees has been guidance on agile working to support collaboration, teamwork and high performance across the business. With technology such as a laptop and Skype, most roles can work from anywhere – whether that’s at client premises, at home, on a train or in a coffee shop. Whilst core hours are 9am to 5pm, employees can work flexibly, as long as their manager is aware. Employees enjoy that they can work around appointments, childcare and other interests. As the organisation grows, it’s been important to do this in line with the culture. Whenever a new office is opened, the space is kitted out as agile working space.
“The introduction of flexible working has improved my work life balance which helps a lot!”
Respondent from the latest Your Say, Your Future survey.
Setting up agile working meant that Brewin Dolphin was well prepared when it came to the mass move to working from home brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak. Said Fiona,
“Whilst many aspects of coping with Covid-19 are difficult for us all, because agile working has become well embedded in the last two years, that aspect of the recent transition has been smooth. Working from home is a new experience for some of our colleagues, but the actual kit and technology are constant. It has been great to see those of our employees who are experienced home workers support colleagues who are new to it.”
“Feedback from clients has been fantastic – they ring the Brewin Dolphin main number, it is answered in exactly the same way as usual and transferred seamlessly to their contact. Internally, people can reach colleagues easily using the same technology we would use in the office. This is an important part of maintaining the quality of both the client and employee experience.”
Diversity reflects today’s colleagues and clients
The value ‘genuine’ is all about valuing people as individuals, demonstrating empathy and working together as a team. Encouraging diversity of voices and opinions across the business helps Brewin Dolphin consider broad perspectives when solving colleague and client problems.
Claire Martin, Senior HR Business Partner says,
“Our internal D&I committee work with colleagues to promote diversity and inclusion across the organisation. To demonstrate our commitment to our colleagues and during recruitment, we are members of a number of external groups such as the Business Disability Forum and LGBT+ network myGwork.
We are also signatories of the Women in Finance Charter and the Disability Confident Scheme which help us monitor progress and take meaningful action. Internally, Women@Brewin is a forum for positive exchange and networking, and has helped us create an environment where gender diversity and the progression of women’s careers are now a regular topic of conversation.
“As a signatory of the Women in Finance Charter, Robin Beer, CEO, is our Accountable Executive. We reached our initial target of 33% female representation in senior management roles, and have now stretched this to 35% by the end of 2021.”
Recognising the contribution of colleagues to the culture
Building any culture programme means nudging people towards the desired behaviours, and recognising when they have done so. This is no different at Brewin Dolphin. The benefits package demonstrates to colleagues Brewin Dolphin’s commitment to ‘Enriching Lives;’ encouraging people to perform at their best, with good physical and mental health, work-life balance and corporate responsibility. It includes employee discounts, dental, medical and eye care support, employee assistance, and matched fundraising. An annual volunteering day for every employee has been increased to 5 days as part of the Covid-19 response.
The People Awards reward contributions to the culture. They recognise those who exemplify the values and go the extra mile, as nominated by their colleagues. Says Claire,
“Celebrating winners’ achievements is important to us and employees tell us it is a great way to recognise the extra contributions our people make to the organisation.”
Your future, your say: Survey programme with People Insight
People Insight have worked with Brewin Dolphin for five years, continually developing the employee survey programme, “Your future, your say” with:
- Questionnaires based on the PEARL model and including conduct risk, culture change, agile working, diversity and inclusion, reward and learning & development.
- A wellbeing index of questions to identify any parts of the business at risk of high stress
- Feedback presentations facilitated by People Insight’s organisational psychologists, bringing key insights and external context to the findings
- Post-survey focus groups facilitated by People Insight, to explore key themes from the survey; collaboration and communication
“The focus groups were really valuable” said Claire, “we’ve been able to launch a range of initiatives based on the outputs.” The initiatives include:
- Clearer visibility of organisation values on the intranet
- Roadshows so that more people can hear first-hand about the purpose and strategy
- Change project teams using the survey outputs to feed into organisation design
- A ‘digital learning playlist’ on how to collaborate internally across teams (on the GROW portal)
- Coaching managers at all levels to play a greater part in communications and reinforce key messages confidently. This enables colleagues to connect with the message more readily and more easily ask questions.
Your future, your say
Employee engagement has improved significantly over time
Tracking the results of Brewin Dolphin’s Your future, your say surveys over the time cultural change
has been happening, you can see the shift they have achieved in the results below.
How the People Insight employee survey is much more than just a measurement tool
Reflecting on the impact of the Your future, your say programme, Fiona Wallace remarks how it is in itself a lever of cultural change;
“The survey programme has a much more significant impact than just measuring engagement at a particular point in the year. Our people tell me that the reason they engage with the whole area of employee engagement is because they see their feedback actually makes a difference – the organisation acts on it and things change throughout the year as a result.”
The strong results for “I believe action will be taken as a result of this survey” – having improved by 27 percentage points in the last 3 years, now 11 points above the industry average, bear this out. Fiona set up a network of engagement partners across the group to support colleagues during the survey. This role has grown so that the partners are now change agents, collaborators across the business. They also feedback to the Board on specific topics.
There’s been a real behavioural shift across the business prompted by the survey programme. The cycle of listening, deciding on action and making changes means senior leaders provide monthly updates on the commercials and action plans. Managers in turn use the survey as an indicator of culture in their business areas and as a tool for action planning.
Your future, your say has encouraged both employees to speak up and leaders to listen beyond the survey. Lunch and Learns are popular, organised locally and informally. Round Tables are run under the banner of Women@Brewin or with senior members of the leadership team. Fiona reflects,
“Engagement and culture were not part of the language of our organisation 5 years ago – they are now part of our everyday lexicon in every part of the organisation.”
So have Brewin Dolphin built a culture to be proud of?
Reflecting on all the changes the modernisation agenda has brought over the last few years, Fiona said,
“We’re delighted with the progress we’ve made with our culture so far as we’ve seen from anecdotal evidence, the increasing scores and comments in our survey. When asked to describe Brewin Dolphin, it’s great to see our progression and values come through.”
“Of course, there’s more to do; the technology change continues, we’re focussing on wellbeing and how colleagues are coping with change. For Brewin Dolphin, as for everyone else, transformation is unlikely to end any time soon!”
How has the culture at Brewin Dolphin helped during the Covid-19 pandemic?
For Brewin Dolphin, having established a supportive culture, focussed on ‘Enriching Lives’ has
stood them in good stead with colleagues. Says Fiona,
“Of course, what is important right now is to help our people staying safe, and support them to manage work and care schedules where possible. As an employer, what we do right now is genuinely led by our values, so our people know what to expect from us.”