Top advisory firms focus on culture as well as growth

InvestmentNews honors some of the best-performing practices at its Top Advisory Firm Summit in Chicago

Nov 13, 2019 @ 4:52 pm

By Ryan W. Neal

InvestmentNews celebrated 17 firms as best practices at the 2019 Top Advisory Firm Summit Wednesday in Chicago.

The firms were recognized for being among the top quartile of a combined 557 responses from InvestmentNews' 2019 Compensation and Staffing study and its 2019 Profitability Study. The awards took into account firms' growth, profitability and general productivity.

Firms ranged in size from $475 million in assets under management to $3.8 billion and featured a variety of business models. But InvestmentNews managing director and associate publisher Mark Bruno said all of the firms demonstrated their CEO's goals in the way they run their business.

"They don't just grow on accident," Mr. Bruno said. " They grow with intent."

The top firms aren't just managing growth, they are also fostering cultures of excellence within the firm, he added. While the benefits of culture won't necessarily show up on balance sheets, a firm's culture is critical for setting up advisers to be leaders in the industry.

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Susan Salgado, founder of Grason Consulting, shared her experiences working at some of the top restaurants in New York City to explain how advisers can create an office culture that fosters better experiences for clients.

"Culture is focused around the values and history, why the firm was created and why the founder created the type of firm you are, "Ms. Salgado said. "Those stories create legends and heroes of your firm."

What restaurateurs like Danny Meyer do well is focusing on hiring people who are emotionally intelligent and skilled at building relationships, she added. Technical skills can always be taught, but not everyone is skilled at building authentic relationships.

Building a firm's culture also requires good leaders to go beyond just being a boss. Managers need to lead by example, actively teach and mentor employees, and take accountability for failures instead of casting blame.

"Hire hard, manage easy. Hire easy, manage hard. That is the choice you're up against," Ms. Salgado said. "Whatever your organization is trying to achieve … the answer lies in your people, it lies in the culture of your people."

The firms given awards for best practices at the 2019 Top Advisory Firm Summit are: Accredited Investors Wealth Management, Alpha Financial Advisors, Balasa Dinverno Foltz, Berman McAleer, Coastal Bridge Advisors, Foster & Motley, Gilbert & Cook, JMG Financial Group, Rinvelt & David, Merit Financial Advisors, Nadler Financial Group, RiversEdge Advisors, Rodgers & Associates, Roof Advisory Group, StratWealth, Thorley Wealth Management and Vintage Financial Services.

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