After eight years with wirehouse firms, Nicholas Delgado wanted to build a different type of financial planning firm — and in the crisis and aftermath of 2008, he got his chance.
"With the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Merrill's acquisition by Bank of America, I saw an opportunity to provide something different to the marketplace," he said.
Mr. Delgado founded Dignitas in 2009 after leaving Merrill Lynch with about $85 million in client assets and no support staff. His goal was to create a holistic planning practice with concierge services for what he calls "high trajectory" clients — those who have substantial wealth but may not qualify for the ultra-wealthy family office practices that cater to clients with $50 million or more in investible assets.
"What we committed to doing based on that insight [from clients] was to democratize the family office," he said.
To that end, Mr. Delgado devised an innovative compensation plan more tailored to the planning work he wanted to do. He charged according to a fee-based relationship that focused on the family's net worth rather than assets under management. High-net-worth clients pay 1% of their adjusted gross income and 50 basis points of their net worth minus any real estate or company assets.
In return, the team of two advisers and three associates at Dignitas go beyond the balance sheet. For example, they may customize programs to educate clients' children about their family's wealth, find investors for a family business or build next-generation succession plans for an established company.
From the days of $85 million in assets under management, Dignitas has grown to around 40 families with around $350 million in net worth.
— Mason Braswell
President, Geneos Wealth Management