Funds managed by the Birmingham office of the stockbroker Williams de Broe have risen by 6.2 per cent over the past year, despite the sinking equities market.

Williams De Broe’s chain of seven branches contributed profits of £4.8?million in 2008 to its parent company Evolution, down from £6.7?million in 2007.

“Individual client portfolios are going to be down,” said Adrian Quin, who heads the Birmingham office. “But our funds under management are substantially up even allowing for the market.

“We have been getting a lot of new mandates. Several have come from private banks, but we are also getting increasing support from IFAs who want some investment management.”

Williams de Broe now includes the investment management arm of Singer & Friedlander, once a considerable force in Birmingham, bought from the administrators of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing for £4.4?million.

It came with a staff of 40 and £1.1?billion of funds under management, taking Williams de Broe’s total to £3.4?billion, up from £2.8?billion at the end of 2007, said Alex Snow, Evolution’s chief executive.

“Williams de Broe is one of the fastest growing fund management businesses in the country,” he added. “I am sure there will be more opportunities to grow with new acquisitions this year.”

Mr Snow was commenting on full-year results in which a loss at the institutional investment operation Evolution Securities reduced the adjusted overall profit to £1.9?million from £22.1?million the year before. The statutory loss from continuing operations came in at £12.7?billion against a £3.2?million profit last time.

Total income across the group was down by 25 per cent at £65.2?million.

Despite that, Evolution is raising its final dividend by two per cent to 1.27p, making the year’s total 2.02p, a five per cent increase.

“The first quarter of this year has been very encouraging,” Mr Snow pointed out. “All our business units are profitable.

“I am very confident that we will pay an increased dividend, covered by cash earnings for 2009.”

That helped the shares to go 5.75p ahead to 103.75p. They have now recovered from a low of 64.75p to within 7p of their 12-month high and yield just under two per cent.

Martin Gray, Evolution’s chairman, described last year’s market conditions as “the most demanding for generations”.

“The group’s businesses have not been immune from the effect of these challenges,” he added.

“Our long-established policy of maintaining a very strong and liquid balance sheet has been validated, and during the year has enabled us to make a significant acquisition and to continue the recruitment of quality people to position our businesses for future growth.

“As we have done that, we have taken a conscious decision to reward (both to retain and motivate) those people we need for the future. Equally we have continued to significantly reduce our cost base where appropriate.”