As the leaders of major firms in the industry, these people could be fairly called the epicenter of influence. Their leadership shapes the direction of their respective firms, and impacts the actions of advisors and even other influencers.
Whether they’re driving new technology, advocating for a better standard for advice-giving or educating the next generation of advisors, the influence of these leaders is felt by everyone in the industry.
As the leader of Schwab Advisor Services since 2010, Bernie Clark has made his mark with his quiet but confident leadership. Schwab is the largest RIA custodian by number of advisors and assets under management, and Clark leads not just in growing the firm, but in addressing issues advisors face today.
For example, Clark told Investment Advisor he was optimistic on the future for RIAs, whom he called “the most altruistic group I’ve ever seen,” even though the RIA industry is still in “its early days.” He is particularly optimistic when it comes to the next generation of advisors. Schwab has launched several educational initiatives to help young advisors grow, like Schwab’s Executive Education program, which provides advisors with access to online courses from schools like Harvard and Wharton to increase their business savvy, and about a new intern program that brings young people to Schwab for internships—“we’re hiring 10 interns this summer”—who will eventually be available for hiring by Schwab-affiliated RIA firms. The firm continues to find success and provide much-needed help to advisory firms through its Insight to Action Program (ITAP) program, which helps firms both grow their businesses and create succession plans, along with its succession lending program.
Photograph by Tom McKenzie.
After launching DoubleLine Capital with a group of 40 or so colleagues who followed him from TCW Group, Jeffrey Gundlach has pushed assets under management at the firm above $50 billion, and he DoubleLine Total Return Fund (DLTNX) became within three years what he calls “the most popular fund in America.” DLTNX is the best-performing bond fund in Morningstar’s 300 intermediate-term fixed-income funds.
Then, when he shorted Apple Corp. stock and went long natural gas in May 2012, the pair trade went to 125%. When he went long the Nikkei and short the yen, it went up 65%. Now, he’s looking at going long Spanish stocks on the IBEX and shorting U.S. stocks.
“I look for pair trades where the risk-reward is dramatically skewed with ridiculous pricings,” Gundlach said. “Pair trades are interesting because you don’t have to have a definitive view. You just have to understand that things will keep happening due to policy manipulations. The whole world is a slave to the central planners.”
Photograph by Natalie Brasington.
For John Taft, head of wealth management at RBC Wealth Management, managing clients’ wealth is part of a higher calling.
Stewardship is a “close cousin” to fiduciary, Taft said, but it goes a little further. “Fiduciary is a minimum legal standard. Stewardship is a higher standard even than fiduciary. It means thinking about others, i.e., your clients, in everything you do.”
By working toward that “higher calling,” advisors have an opportunity to differentiate themselves, Taft said.
“A lot of the clients of wealth management firms are themselves stewards,” Taft added, referring to the heads of wealthy families, business founders, and trustees of pension funds or endowment funds and foundations who are often clients of wealth management firms. “One of the things we need to do a good job of, and can do a better job of, is help our clients be more effective stewards of whatever wealth they’re managing.”
“We believe every investor deserves access to quality managers,” Jon Sundt emphatically told Investment Advisor. “We’re open-architecture and put best-of-breed managers into packages that retail investors can consume. As a result, from a distribution standpoint, we’re on all the major wirehouse platforms, and we’re running as hard as we can to complete our product suite.”
His firm, Altegris, launched two new products that are a case in point: a multi-strategy fund that “gives an advisor access to 20 managers with the click of a mouse,” as well as a fixed-income long/short fund that is in “an incredibly attractive space right now.”
Photograph by David Johnson.
Envestnet is a leader in serving the two main types of advisors, the firm’s CEO, Jud Bergman, told Investment Advisor. First are those who serve as “quarterbacks for their clients’ investments.” Those advisors, whom Bergman calls “wealth advisors,” will lean on Envestnet to outsource technology and certain administrative tasks, but will avail themselves of Envestnet | PMC and Envestnet | Prima for their research as well.
The second group of advisors, he said, is “the portfolio manager business model—larger, higher-end” firms where the advisor serves as “chief investment officer of the practice—selecting funds, securities, SMA managers.” That model of advisor wants help with “more administrative tasks and practice management help.” While he acknowledged that among advisors “there are as many permutations as you can imagine,” he argued that “Tamarac is an ideal solution for that larger RIA who is the chief investment officer” of his or her firm.
Since acquiring FundQuest, Prima Capital and Tamarac over the past few years, Envestnet has put itself at the crossroads of the major issues advisors face, and there’s every indication that the firm will continue to do so. Bergman said his goal is 20% annual growth for Envestnet, the majority of which is organic growth, but “strategic activity,” such as its acquisitions, “adds to that from time to time.”
Photograph by Tom McKenzie.
As the CEO and president of Cetera Financial Group, Valerie Brown said the firm’s main focus is “continuing to help our advisors grow their practices, their relationships with their clients and serve them better every day. That’s what they’re focused on, and we’re focused on supporting them in doing that.”
She noted the value of serving targeted segments of the industry, pointing to Cetera recent announcement that it will add about 800 advisors when it acquires Tower Square and Walnut Street from MetLife, bringing its advisor count to nearly 7,000. “It’s another significant step forward and [confirms] our strategy that having multiple faces of independence has a real solid place in this industry where you can have the best of both worlds,” Brown said.
She said that the new advisors might have fit in just fine at one of their other broker-dealers, but were a “great fit” at Cetera Advisor Networks. “That demonstrated to me the value of having broker-dealers focused on specific segments of the industry.”
Photograph by Jurgen Reisch.