The West Midlands financial sector is to grow with the arrival of a new stockbroking firm and the expansion of a second.
Christows, the latest private client stockbroker to open a Birmingham office, is planning a service to manage portfolios of shares quoted on the Alternative Investment Market to combine AIM's inheritance tax advantages with specialist investment management.
This scheme will be run from Birmingham by Mark Northover, who pioneered a similar strategy at Brewin Dolphin. "As a group we do believe in the AIM market," said Alex Snow, chief executive of Christows' parent company, Evolution.
"This AIM service will be managed from Birmingham, but also distributed among our other branches."
These are in Bournemouth, Exeter, Bath and London.
Colin Lewis, the director who runs Christows' operations outside London, stressed that it will avoid competition with financial advisers, on whom it relies to introduce clients. "We are not financial advisers," he insisted.
"We don't do mortgages, or tax planning, insurance or life assurance because that is the domain of financial intermediaries. We concentrate on investment management."
Since 2001, when Evolution bought Christows, its funds under management have risen to £ 800 million from £200 million. It has done this by providing portfolios designed to suit the needs of individual clients.
"We are not running one size fits-all portfolios," Mr Lewis said. "Our portfolios are bespoke, albeit following a central output of research." Christows has recently recruited Jim Wood-Smith to run in-house research operations, a job he previously did for Gerrard, now part of Barclays Stockbrokers. Christows sets a minimum of £100,000 to invest for new clients, though those signing up at present have an average of £400,000, Mr Lewis said. Existing portfolios average about £250,000, he added.
Meanwhile, Edward Jones, the US high street stockbroker and independent financial adviser, is gearing up to expand.
The company, which already has more than 100 outlets in Britain, has chosen Birmingham as the venue for the launch of a major recruitment campaign.
Potential recruits have been invited to a seminar at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday night where they will be addressed by Dr Kate Warne, a global market strategist at Edward Jones.
The company currently operates ten one-man offices in the West Midlands and the extent of the expansion depends on how many recruits it signs up.
"The West Midlands has been very successful for us so it seemed an obvious choice to hold these events to recruit more investment representatives," said Tim Kirley, who heads up Edward Jones in Britain. "As a company we are committed to growth in response to an increasing number of people who are seeking financial help as they plan for their retirement."
The company has more than 9,000 offices in the UK, US and Canada, six million clients and £233 billion of funds under management.
It recruits investment representatives, each one of whom becomes a registered stockbroker, from all walks of life, including those from nonfinancial backgrounds, and offers extensive training before setting them up in individual offices.