Barclays Wealth and Investment Management has been through significant restructuring and refocusing in recent years. Now, its head of UK private bank, Dena Brumpton, an ex-Citibank veteran, is keen on turbo-charging the growth that’s inherent in the business. She speaks to Meghna Mukerjee about her plans


It’s been a year since Dena Brumpton, head of UK private bank at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management (W&IM), stepped into her current role after spending over three decades at Citibank.

Her job switch made news, and rightly so. During her time at the US-headquartered bank, Brumpton lead some game-changing projects and propelled the digitalisation agenda as the private bank’s COO. However, in her – still relatively – new role, Brumpton seems both content and excited.

“It has been an interesting year. It’s obviously with trepidation that you move companies after 30 years but I was so sure of the opportunity that Barclays represented. I was looking forward to it.” Indeed, she seems energised by the opportunities at Barclays “both realised and unrealised”. “Largely that’s driven by Barclays’ standing in the UK and the great reputation it has,” she explains.

According to Brumpton, a competitive advantage for Barclays is its ability to work across all client segments. “We have propositions and service models catering to people in early stages of their investment journeys up to the quasi-institutional investors. Foreign competitors tend not to go across all segments, specialising typically at the upper-end. We don’t have that constraint. We can see our clients grow alongside our people, for whom it is a career journey.”

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Having strongly established her innovative mindset in her previous role, Brumpton has been pleasantly surprised by the “high level of innovation” at Barclays. “I was expecting more of a staid British bank but there are lots of people who are incredibly innovative and receptive to change. The challenge is about channelling that innovation correctly, plucking the good things and utilising them in an integrated approach for our clients, but it’s a high-value problem.”

On arrival at Barclays W&IM, Brumpton implemented a disciplined segmentation approach. “Where people go wrong is that they talk segmentation around what a client does with you today, not taking on board the potential of the client in the future. To do disciplined segmentation you have to understand who your clients are as individuals and not what they do with you, because that’s almost irrelevant. Somebody having a current account in your community banking area could be a billionaire. If you’re segmenting him according to the account he has with you, you’re missing masses of potential.”

Not every wealthy person should be covered in the same way, adds Brumpton. “Much wealth in the UK is tied up in businesses. There’s a lot of first-generation wealth. Huge cash reserves will not necessarily be poured into discretionary portfolios. You need a disciplined approach to match your coverage model to those people.”

The third lens in Brumpton’s three-dimensional segmentation framework is about taking action. “Cost-income-ratios are in big focus now. We all have the same constraints and regulatory frameworks to operate within, causing huge additional costs. Resources are scarce and we need to allocate them to the highest potential areas. Unless you have discipline segmentation how can you do that?”

Barclays has recently divested businesses in many countries, restructuring and refocusing on core areas. Now Brumpton has a plan for the UK private bank to “get back to a fundamental growth strategy”. “We have the ingredients and appetite. It’s about taking basic steps to keep moving towards growth. We don’t have many gaps to fill,” she says. 

Another factor is to analyse how the product propositions can be matched to the client segments. “Just because we can do everything doesn’t mean we should do for all segments, so where should we limit our propositions or stretch them? We’ve made sure we have strength and depth in the areas we focus on to provide balance to our clients.”
Barring the UHNW segment where multi-banking is commonplace, clients don’t need many banking relationships, says Brumpton.

“We should bring clients the breadth that Barclays can provide. The boutique-y wealth managers can’t do the same so we should leverage that competitive advantage.”

According to Brumpton, over the last few decades, the UK landscape has gone from being a wealthy inheritance market to an entrepreneurial wealth market. “The next-gen element has changed a lot. Concerns around wealth transfer are pertinent.” Brumpton is upbeat and says people are richer than they think. “With ISAs and pension consolidation, the lower-end of the market has a big runway for growth. Potential clients may not think they need private bankers but may have £1m of ISAs or pensions. Also, as long as Britain stays favourable for entrepreneurs, we’ll see wealth generation in the upper end. We are in a growth cycle.”

Having always had a focus on digitalisation, Brumpton says Barclays has the digital tools and it’s “about connecting them to have that seamless engagement with clients”.

“My focus is to harness the powers of Barclays’ digital propositions and get them in the right frame for our clients – that might be more analytical tools on the upper end and straight-through engagement on the lower end. It will mean different things for different segments,” she says, adding: “I don’t think the wealth market will be disintermediated by a digital proposition. I do think digital tools will enable better dialogue between bankers and clients. Will there be cost benefits? Absolutely. Perhaps it will create capacity for bankers to cover more clients or facilitate offering more products and services.”  

The fight for quality talent has been fierce in recent years, and Brumpton says Barclays needs to nurture and grow its own people. “We have a legacy of doing that well and I want to make sure we develop it further.” As a woman, Brumpton says she’s always amazed that there aren’t more females in private banking. “It’s a great career for women. It is relationship-based, needs empathy and allows flexibility with your time and agenda.”

Going forward, Brumpton foresees growth across all segments. “My interest is in turbo-charging the growth that’s inherent in our business. There is an opportunity for Barclays W&IM to capture more wallet share – we are well positioned and need to get out there and ask for the business. It’s time to be more visible,” she says.