Here we present a profile of the crème de la crème of the Top Wealth Managers—those 10 firms that topped the list in in our 2012 survey.
View the list of all 280 firms in our 2012 Top Wealth Managers survey.
Managing Partner Maria Chrin says that, when the partners of Circle Wealth Management all worked together at Goldman Sachs prior to founding the firm, they were in search of a model that would allow them to manage money well in an independent mode. “After years of doing due diligence,” she says, “we decided it didn’t exist and we created it ourselves.”
Partner Ann Kaplan adds that they did a “tremendous amount of research” on wealth management solutions. While they looked for a “holistic integrated model that took into account people’s social and emotional issues regarding money, taxes, and the human elements that go into the equation of how to best manage a portfolio for people,” they also wanted to combine that with the best way “to be informed about the market and money managers.”
It’s All About the Client
With regard to the model, several aspects have to do with understanding the client and addressing not just the client’s investment desires, but also the framework of investing.
“Instead of conservative, moderate or aggressive,” says Chrin, the model moves toward preservation of capital as one allocation, growing with some liquidity as a second and growing with less liquidity for long periods of time as another. She adds that this changed model is “driven by who the client is, where they are in life, and what goals they have for themselves and future generations.”
Clients are educated so that they take an active role in the process. Of course, the clients of Circle Wealth are already pretty well educated—and sophisticated; Kaplan points out that “about half were in the financial industry themselves, and the other half have interesting companies and interact with the business environment and society in general.” She adds, “Clients often bring interesting ideas themselves.”
In addition, the firm works with multiple custodians, private banks and products, always looking for the best deal for the client, who is its only source of income. And when looking at such investments as hedge funds and private equity, the firm’s strategy is to look at them across the asset class, to find the best vehicle providing access to an asset class, rather than as an alternative investment.
2008 ‘Got us on the map’
While for many financial firms 2008 was a year of difficulty and high stress, the situation was different for Circle Wealth, which launched at the end of 2006. Chrin explains, “One of our other partners had been very thoughtful about understanding the industry and banks in particular. She had really good insight on what was going on” when Bear Stearns fell, the mortgage mess began, and hedge funds were blowing up.