It may be painting with broad strokes, but it’s not a stretch to say that many registered investment advisors (RIAs) don’t enjoy dealing with many of the elements of business ownership.
Be it compliance, human resources, technology procurement and more, RIAs, by and large, would rather focus on building the practice and servicing clients. Based on advisor conversations conducted by Robertson Stephens, most advisors are in the “grow me” or “support me” camps. Translation: Advisors want assistance in growing their practices, enhancing client servicing and getting mundane-though-important tasks off their plates.
That’s not surprising, but here’s where things get interesting. The vast majority of advisors want to grow their practices. The more clients and assets under management a wealth management firm brings in, the more its top line and, at least in theory, its profitability increase. However, as the larger asset and client bases grow, more complexity abounds and needs for a scalable support team become inevitable.
“The inflection point for stand-alone RIAs and independent wealth managers generally occurs when they hit $200 to $300 million in assets under management (AUM). That is when a extensive centralized team not only makes sense, but when decisions need to be made on what functions should be insourced,” notes Vikram Chugh, Chief Operating Officer at Robertson Stephens.
Robertson Stephens Helping RIAs Identify Paths to Scale
There’s no doubt that positioning a practice for growth or responding to an influx of assets/clients after the fact is expensive and time-consuming. There’s also no denying that such endeavors aren’t part of advisors’ core competencies.
Think about the laundry list of tasks it takes to expand a practice – none of which have anything directly to do with wealth planning or client servicing. Billing, operations, compliance, human resources and technology. None of those are particularly exciting, but they’re all necessary to drive a wealth planning firm forward. Overall, it’s a lot for any principals or firm owner to handle underscoring the value of having the right partner such as Robertson Stephens.
“When trying to scale, building your own centralized infrastructure can be very beneficial, and yet extremely expensive and time consuming. The human capital expenditure itself can be immense in a labor environment where top talent demands a premium in terms of pay, and that doesn’t include the expense of the physical space for them to work from,” Chugh says. “Add in training, ongoing people management and the inevitable turnover, and the costs really add up.”
Using one example, there’s the matter of technology. The wealth management industry is being disrupted by technological advancements and firms need to have their tech stacks up to standard to meet the demands of today’s hyper-competitive operating environment.
“There's so much innovation happening in wealth tech, whether it's through the more established larger players, or select group of early stage, highly innovative companies that are addressing a particular niche in the wealth tech space,” said Robertson Stephens CEO Raj Bhattacharyya. “We at Robertson Stephens are constantly evaluating and adopting new technologies so that we can improve our client experience, and frankly, our advisor experience.”
The Robertson Stephens Approach
The reality is most advisors like being business owners and charting their own courses, but they don’t enjoy dealing with the rudimentary elements of business ownership. Robertson Stephens supports advisors with a centralized support team, meaning wealth managers can shift operational burdens and focus on what’s really important, working with clients and finding new ones.
Within the centralized support structure, Robertson Stephens offers an Investment Office with a Chief Investment Officer and Chief Economist, a wealth planning, operations, technology, compliance and marketing team, all of which help advisors enhance operational efficiencies.
“We help our advisors grow their book by increasing share of wallet within their existing client base as well as adding new clients by utilizing our customized marketing strategies,” adds Bhattacharyya. “We also provide full business management support to advisors, including compliance, billing, financial management, HR and operations. But most importantly, we help our advisors, we believe, deliver better wealth solutions to clients, by leveraging our comprehensive suite of capabilities, whether it's our Investment Office, our Wealth Planning Center, intelligent digital solutions, and we do all of this within a fiduciary relationship.”
Disclosures: Investment advisory services offered through Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC (“Robertson Stephens”), an SEC-registered investment advisor. Registration does not imply any specific level of skill or training and does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the Commission. This material is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult with your Advisor prior to making any Investment decisions. This material is an investment advisory publication intended for investment advisory clients and prospective clients only. Robertson Stephens only transacts business in states in which it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration. A copy of Robertson Stephens’ current written disclosure brochure filed with the SEC which discusses, among other things, Robertson Stephens’ business practices, services and fees, is available through the SEC's website at: www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. © 2022 Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC. All rights reserved. Robertson Stephens is a registered trademark of Robertson Stephens Wealth Management, LLC in the United States and elsewhere.