EMM Wealth’s co-CEO Lloyd Abramowitz jokes that the average age of the 35 employees at the $2.6 billion RIA would be 39, but is actually “41 if you include Bill.” He’s referring to William Aaron, the surviving co-founder of the independent firm, who continues to serve some clients.
With Bill’s son David — CIO and co-CEO — and Abramowitz at the helm, EMM Wealth is celebrating its 50th anniversary by staying true to its traditions while embracing youth and diversity in its workforce and in the services it provides to its high-net-worth clients.
Much of EMM’s culture and services remains grounded in the firm’s traditions, but Abramowitz says that he and David Aaron view EMM as a “50-year-old startup.” To that end, over the past few years the firm has hired business development and marketing executives, and brought in consultants to teach employees “how to talk to clients and prospects.”
“Our desire as a multifamily office is to remain boutique,” says David Aaron. “We want to grow” in a way that maintains that intimate relationship. EMM’s client base includes “about 140 families,” but Aaron promises “we’ll never have 1,000 families.” He says of EMM’s employees that “we have a diverse crowd; almost half of our partners are women. There’s not a lot of old white men at the company.”
Most of EMM’s clients are New Yorkers, reports Abramowitz, and they expect a high level of responsive service. EMM’s mission statement includes a plain vanilla promise to “preserve, protect and grow” clients’ wealth, which it delivers through financial planning, sophisticated tax advice and nondiscretionary investment services appropriate to the complex financial lives of HNW clients.
But Abramowitz notes that EMM’s mission includes growing clients’ “well-being.” That means discussing with clients what they can accomplish with their wealth, working out family dynamics around inheritances and exploring what societal changes they can effect through avenues like socially responsible investing.
In addition, Abramowitz says “education has always been huge for us,” both in terms of educating clients and clients’ children as well. A highlight of the firm’s educational focus is EMM University, a type of financial literacy boot camp now in its fifth year that’s held each August for a dozen or so high school juniors and seniors, mostly clients’ children and grandchildren.
Abramowitz says the curriculum covers issues around credit cards, budgeting and managing finances, in addition to exposing them to the corporate culture and New York’s financial world. It’s the younger employees of EMM just out of college who take the lead in running EMM University.
Younger employees apply their expertise outside of the University, too, with Aaron noting “we intentionally connect younger employees with clients’ children.” Abramowitz says some clients even request that their kids become part of EMM’s “robust” internship program.
Most wealth managers meet with clients regularly, but EMM takes it a step further, especially when market volatility rears its ugly head. EMM communicates with clients outside of regularly scheduled meetings, delivering e-mailed market commentary to clients, for instance, during volatile times. It’s the “not knowing that drives clients crazy,” Aaron says. But after writing and emailing that commentary, “everybody is responsible for picking up the phone,” he says, to deliver that consensus message directly to clients.
As part of its marketing efforts, EMM’s recently redesigned website is a model of clean design that spotlights its employees. “Many of our competitors’ websites take the ‘velvet rope’ approach,” says Aaron. They send the message that “there’s a club here and you should be mystified about what’s behind the velvet rope, but we’re not going to tell you about it.” EMM’s message is that it’s “all about the people. Our clients should connect with our people” and know all about them, he says, because “that’s who they’re going to have the relationship with.”
Abramowitz agrees “that’s what David and I are focusing on: not just adding clients but building that next generation of people inside the firm.”
James J. Green, a former editor of this magazine, is editor of Jamie Green Reports, an advisor-focused writing, editing and shepherding service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.