You’ve heard about Greg Friedman perhaps in conjunction with Junxure, the CRM firm he co-founded, or the Your Silver Bullet technology integration initiative, or when he won the Best in Tech award from Schwab Institutional. These days, he’s in the vanguard of another major trend in the advice industry: mergers and acquisitions of advisory firms. Last May, his firm, Friedman & Associates, merged with Salient Wealth Management to form a powerhouse northern California advisory firm that has since been rechristened Private Ocean. Editor Jamie Green caught up with the ebullient Friedman during the FPA Retreat in San Antonio in late April.

How’s the merger going?

At our one-year anniversary, we’re exactly where we thought we would be. But I underestimated clients’ perceptions–I knew it would be a big issue, and we’ve done so much communications, but I’ve been surprised at how little of it seems to get through.

Is it just a question of time?

I hope so, because if the clients are not comfortable…. But I’ve asked them to judge us on how we actually perform, rather on what they’re worried about, because there’s zero tolerance for errors. On the larger question, we’re in the late 8th inning, or even the top of the 9th, on merging the firms’ systems, processes, and structures. And remember, these were two big, long-established firms.

Our executive coach, for myself and the whole management team, Sharon Huber, says culture trumps strategy every time. She says it’s a three-year process, so I feel pretty good about where we are.

Culture?

As much as mergers seem to make the most sense economically, you still need a shared vision and purpose; you need to focus on the culture, which we’re building right now. It’s a lot of work, but I’d do it again; it was the right decision.

Well, you’re timing was great…

Mergers when everything is going well are tough, but when the world’s falling apart…. I mean, a recent survey found that only 8% of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction!

Does the new name [Private Ocean, replacing the name adopted at the time of the merger last year, Friedman-Salient Wealth Management] help with the process of integrating the two firms?

Yes, I think so. We knew coming in that we would rebrand; it just took time. New clients, or prospective clients, hear “Private Ocean” and say “Why that name?” which leads us right into an explanation of who we are.

And your other company?

Junxure is doing really well; that company is maturing in a great way. We’ve just hired five or six people, which brings us up to 35 people. They’re passionate about doing great things for people; they’re focused on keeping the end user happy.


Group Editor-in-Chief Jamie Green can be reached at jgreen@sbmedia.com.