HighTower Launches Third Leg of Advisor Platform: The Alliance

Gavion, a $20 billion investment consulting firm to institutions, will be building its own HighTower-like partnership in the ‘SEC states,’ for ‘corner office’ fee-based advisors

After three years of talks and planning, HighTower Advisors has launched the third leg of its platform for advisors, called the Alliance, by welcoming into its fold Gavion Partners, a Memphis-based firm with $19.8 billion in AUM that provides investment consulting primarily to pension plans and other institutions.

Elliot Weissbluth, CEO of HighTower, said the Alliance grew out of an effort to leverage “the platform we had built into different market segments.” Prior to the launch of the Alliance with Gavion as its first member, that platform included its Partnership model, under which wirehouse advisory teams are recruited to become equity partners in HighTower, and the Network, a franchise model in geographic areas without HighTower partners under which advisory firms retain autonomy of and build equity in their firms while using HighTower’s platform. 

For businesses that are already in financial services, and perhaps for those without, the Alliance model will allow them to “compete for market share in this once-in-a-lifetime secular shift of assets” from the traditional Wall Street firms to the independent, fiduciary-based model, Weissbluth said in an interview. Referring to the three offerings, he said “we plan to grow each of these rapidly.”

The Alliance part of HighTower’s platform will be appealing, Weissbluth said, to firms that are interested in gathering some of those assets flowing from the wirehouses and conducting wealth management but who do not have their own broker-dealer or RIA or their own rep or advisor force. “HighTower is focused on being a platform of servicing behind the actual financial advisor. For years we’ve been building that servicing platform, and now we can say to any provider: ‘You can do this on your own, but why would you?’” Instead, says Weissbluth, “we say to Bobby Allison: you build your brand; you run your own company.”

Bobby Allison is the vice chairman and director of new business development for Gavion Partners. He also is a former financial advisor and branch manager, and his vision as a member of the Alliance is to attract sophisticated advisor teams led by “corner-office guys” who can parlay Gavion’s expertise in selling to and servicing institutions with HighTower’s back office, operations and open-architecture investment research and capital markets access “to help them grow their businesses.” Allison said, “we knew it was a better fit to partner with HighTower than to build it ourselves.” As for competing for institutions’ business, an advisor will be able to “compete with the biggest guys” when backed by Gavion and HighTower.

Like HighTower’s partnership model, Allison says the “quality of the teams we’ll be recruiting is very high,” and while they will be employees of Gavion, “they’ll continue their own marketing strategies. We don’t want them to change their business, we want them to do more.” Those “corner-office” advisors will be recruited in the South, or “the SEC states,” as Allison jokes, referring to the Southeastern Conference, including cities in Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and the Carolinas, “where our culture will fit nicely.” 

Weissbluth notes several additional benefits to the advisor teams that Gavion will be recruiting, including HighTower’s data management systems for performance reporting and billing, and also its compliance offerings and even health care benefits for the advisors. Weissbluth also hinted that other entities like Gavion will be joining the Alliance soon.

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