The last time we spoke to Greg Friedman, he was among the cadre of advisors interviewed for the March 2009 cover story on how industry leaders were successfully navigating tomorrow’s challenges today. What he didn’t tell us at the time was that he was deep in talks to merge his Novato, California, wealth management firm Friedman & Associates with another northern California advisory firm. Those talks resulted in the May 1 announcement that Salient Wealth Management, led by Richard Stone, and Friedman’s firm would form Salient-Friedman Wealth Management LLC. In a telephone interview May 8 with Editorial Director Jamie Green, Friedman said part of the motivation for the merger was that “we wanted to be a dominant player in the Bay Area,” and since “we are stronger together,” the combined firm expects to see “accelerated growth” beyond its current size of $600 million in AUM and about 400 clients. Friedman said this was no “merge and cut” business combination, and that in fact the merged firm “will probably be hiring.”

So why the merger? It’s been an interesting process that started about a year and a half ago, so it wasn’t economics driven and both firms were doing great. One day Richard calls me and says ‘Let’s have lunch,’ which isn’t out of the ordinary. I’ve known Richard for 10 to 15 years, and at lunch, he says, “Should we be talking?” We’re only four miles apart from each other, we’ve run into each other competitively, but we’re friendly and amicable, so should we be talking?

That led to some great philosophical discussions about the future, particularly the important things–values, what we wanted for our clients, why we do what we do. What we found was incredible, amazing synergy. Even down to the life path of how we got into the business–neither one of us had other careers, this is what we always wanted to do.

So you had a lot in common professionally and personally. Yes, on the important things. Richard was in the first class of CFPs; he was involved in writing and creating the first code of ethics for the CPF (Board). He’s nationally known for ethics. These were things that resonated with me, are near and dear to my heart.

Can you give me an example? Things like credentials, education, professionalism, ethics–they mean something to me.

What we both feel very strongly about is that our legacy in terms of our clients, is avoiding a situation where, as we fade out at some point, the client experience, the culture, what clients have come to expect and enjoy, don’t go away because we go away. We feel the combined firm makes us so much stronger to do that.