Corp. until last month, when its sale to RCM was announced.
Amid the pandemic, RCM’s well-off clients were “takingstock of their lives” and diving into comprehensive financialplanning, including consideration of new investment opportunities, he said. And some were “stepping up their philanthropicefforts to help people hit hard” by the COVID- 19 catastrophe.
Here are excerpts from our interview:
Investment Advisor: The culture of Rockefeller Capital
Management is very different from that of Merrill Lynch or
Morgan Stanley. Please contrast the cultures.
Gregory Fleming: [Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley] are largeorganizations with a multitude of businesses, so it becomesharder to be nimble and have the ability to deliver tailoredsolutions to clients.
We’re a boutique firm with a very focused business model.Our culture is entrepreneurial. For example, when a clientcomes to us with a unique problem, we try to figure out howto solve it. The mindset is everywhere in our culture — tryingto solve the problem and being able to meet the client’s needs.
Why did you think RCM was right for you personally?
When I left Morgan Stanley, I had a vison of how I thought wealthmanagement for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clientscould be put together to take care of the full range of their needs.
The Rockefeller name is iconic, and the family is an integralpart of what we’re doing here. So I thought, with that nameand this unique business model, we could attract best-in-classpeople who want to help build something special — somethingdifferent in what is certainly a crowded market.
How challenging is it to build a broker-dealer when hiring both
private wealth advisors and investment advisors, as you are?
The Private Wealth business is core to what we’re doing. Thebrokerage model has increasingly evolved into an advisorymodel for the clients that we’re focused on. I don’t think of itas a challenge; rather, it’s an opportunity to serve them in waysthat are tailored to their specific needs.
We have a unique model that brings family office servicesacross our entire platform, enabling all clients to access thingslike tax preparation, bill pay, trustee services, philanthropyadvisory, and financial multi-generational education and planning services.
When you launched RCM in 2018, your goal was to have
under management $100 billion in client assets within five
years. How are you doing?
As of 12/31/20, we had over $72 billion. We’re pleased with ourprogress. We think we’re carving a place for ourselves in thecrowded market. We’re making good progress but feel humbleabout what’s stilI in front of us.
Has the pandemic just meant business as usual for your high-
net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients?
No. They‘re taking stock of their lives, their families, theirfuture. They’ve found themselves with more time to do in-depth, comprehensive financial planning.
Our private wealth team has been in in-depth dialoguewith them on a broader basis about, for instance, new investment opportunities, reviewing estate plans, trust documents,creating strategies around the future of closely held familybusinesses. And while many are seeing incremental wealthcreation through a robust set of financial markets, a lot havestepped up their philanthropic efforts to help people hit hardby the pandemic.
Describe your ideal advisor for the firm.
We look for seasoned advisors that have a history of successin growing their practice, a strong track record of client retention, a clean compliance and regulatory background and thetype of experience and clients that would allow them to fullyutilize what we’re building.
We want to know that their clients have the sort of financialcomplexity that would benefit from an integrated family officeand private wealth solution. And, importantly, we look forpeople who will fit into our culture, which is collegial and collaborative. If you don’t want to be collegial and collaborative,this isn’t the place for you.
Are you seeking teams versus solo FAs?
Mostly teams, because the elite advisors we’re looking for areworking with clients that have the magnitude of wealth andneeds not just on the investment side, but for generationalplanning, tax advice, bill pay [among numerous other services].
And, because we have a strategic advisory business, we canprovide advice on a client- or family-owned business. Thatpackage of needs and requirements is typically met by a team.
You’re reportedly offering large signing bonuses. Is that right?We’re competitive in financial packages. But if the decisioncomes down to financial considerations, advisors should go toother firms — and they do. We’re interested exclusively in premier advisors who share our view that the Rockefeller modelis a superior one in which they can better serve their clients.
You are about to close a deal acquiring Whitnell & Co. —
which had been a subsidiary of Associated Banc-Corp. Did
you approach them, or did they come to you?
They approached us. One of their senior executives is someonewho worked with me in the past. I’ve built a big network overthe years. Associated [phoned and said], “We’re thinking ofdoing something with our high-net-worth wealth management arm, and we think you’d be a good fit.”