Firm grew with LGBT clients who had nowhere local to go

Specialty in charitable giving ideal when many clients have no heirs

Mar 12, 2018 @ 8:08 am

By Vanessa Drucker

Jennifer Hatch receives a 2016 SAGE award, which honors advocacy and services for LGBT elders.
+ Zoom
Jennifer Hatch receives a 2016 SAGE award, which honors advocacy and services for LGBT elders.

When Jennifer Hatch started working at JP Morgan in 1985, she couldn't help but think she was the only gay person on Wall Street. Feeling alone, for years she dreamed of working for a firm like Christopher Street Financial, a company created in 1981 specifically to serve the LBGT community.

​ In 1997, her dream came true. Sadly, the owner of Christopher Street had recently died of complications from HIV, and Ms. Hatch, who by then had moved to Bear Stearns, was able to purchase the practice. Initially, she saw her primary role in the firm as an investor, but advisory services soon turned out to be her calling.

Originally focused on mutual fund sales and individual retirement accounts, at the time Christopher Street — the firm is named for the site of the Stonewall riots in New York that launched the gay liberation movement in 1969 — had 3,000 clients spread out across the country.

"People sought us out because they had no one locally to work with," Ms. Hatch said. Unlike many planning boutiques, Christopher Street offered specific financial, legal and tax advice, with expertise for strategies required by unmarried couples.

By 2001, the firm had moved from investment planning into holistic life and wealth management.

"Our bread and butter is still fee-based investment management," said Ms. Hatch, who has grown assets under management from $200 million to more than $500 million.

(Video:Jennifer Hatch on the rewards of working with LGBT clients)

Today, Ms. Hatch's office houses 11 professionals, comprising six certified financial planners, five operations support personnel, and other strategic partners with complementary businesses, like estate planning attorneys specializing in same-sex couples, as well as a tax firm.

"Clients like to get all their needs taken care of under one roof," she said. For instance, they can help structure charitable giving toward LBGT causes, which appeals to some childless donors.

Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth, which specializes in divorce, shares the firm's space. She respects Ms. Hatch's institutional background and sound operational approach.

"Jen doesn't take running the business lightly," she said. "Her training in trading and understanding of capital markets has also helped the team here grow."

(More:Morgan Stanley broker reached beyond his affinity group for success)

About 75% of Christopher Street clients are from the LGBT community. The remainder are progressive allies or referrals such as relatives or neighbors. The firm still spends time educating clients as to why they need a distinct program for their financial lives.

"At the beginning, people didn't understand why they couldn't simply throw their money together as their parents did, and that used to be my biggest frustration," Ms. Hatch said. "A committed couple, who own assets and are creating a future together, need specialized advice."

When same sex marriage was legalized, Ms. Hatch assumed there would be less demand for her expertise. On the contrary, the firm has been growing and plans to add new partners over the coming five years.

Many couples now approach her even before they tie the knot. Others want to better understand the marriage contract they have just signed. She points out that each state has a different set of laws for marriage, divorce and children. One can opt out of some of these obligations, or couples can even customize their own contract the way they tailor their vows. The legal profession may label those agreements a protective pre-nup or post-nup, but those personalized terms can also represent an economic partnership.

(More:On a mission to motivate Latinos to save and prosper)

Coming from an institutional background, Ms. Hatch relishes the challenge of working with individuals to solve their unique problems. Her colleague Ms. Fain described how she proudly displays her clients' professional artwork and awards in her office space.

"You don't often find financial advisers so aligned with their clients," she said.

That spirit prompts Christopher Street to support social justice causes that reflect like-minded values. The firm spends over $100,000 a year on scholarships, eldercare health, HIV issues and other causes. It also provides office space to Family Equality, an organization that advocates nationwide for gay parents.

Ms. Hatch, who regards financial planning as a kind of social work, likes to hire former teachers, therapists and coaching professionals.

"I can teach people the numbers," she said. "But compassion and the ability to play a role in someone's life is a unique skill."

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

RIA Data Center

Use InvestmentNews' RIA Data Center to filter and find key information on over 1,400 fee-only registered investment advisory firms.

Rank RIAs by

Upcoming Event

Nov 13

Conference

Best Practices Workshop

For the sixth year, InvestmentNews will host the Best Practices Workshop & Awards, bringing together the industry’s top-performing and most influential firms in one room for a full-day. This exclusive workshop and awards program for the... Learn more

Featured video

Events

Financial advisers highlight solutions to increase diversity and inclusion

These Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion award winners suggest short-term changes to help foster D&I in the financial advice profession.

Latest news & opinion

Ex-Wells Fargo brokers sue for damages, claiming they lost business in wake of scandals

In a Finra arbitration complaint, two brokers allege that Wells Fargo's problems damaged their business.

Invesco to buy OppenheimerFunds

Deal brings Invesco another $246 billion in assets, as well as high-fee actively managed funds.

Dawn Bennett found guilty of $20 million Ponzi scheme

Jury took less than five hours to convict the former financial adviser and radio host.

10 advisory firm employee benefits you won't believe

Some advisory firms stand out for their creative efforts to keep their troops happy and engaged. Spa retreat, anyone?

401(k) record keepers seek new revenue streams to 'save themselves'

Service providers are getting pinched by fee compression.

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print