WSR Names PRO 10: Top Wealth Management Professional Services Firms

Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief, Wealth Solutions Report

WSR Honors Leading Compliance, Marketing, Investment Solutions And Law Firms By Announcing The Top Wealth Management Professional Services Firms

Like ecosystems in nature, industrial ecosystems contain a multitude of discrete functions required to keep the whole in balance and functioning at peak performance. Wealth management is no exception, and many professional services firms with unique functions play crucial roles in the wealth management ecosystem.

This week WSR honors professional services firms in the categories of compliance and regulatory affairs firms, investment solutions consultancies, marketing services providers and law firms, adding to the recognition of top marketing and communications agencies and advisor recruiting firms earlier this year.

These firms and the professionals within them serve as vast reservoirs of accumulated knowledge and practical expertise that save us countless work hours and frustration by bringing specialized experience to bear in consulting, platforms and services, in many cases performing tasks that only they can.

The WSR team reviewed many excellent professional services firms to arrive at the honorees, selecting those with a stellar reputation and acknowledged leadership in the industry, demonstrated dedication to wealth management proven by a strong track record, and broad-ranging industry impact.

The names below are set out alphabetically by category. Please join us in congratulating the PRO 10: Top Wealth Management Professional Services Firms.

Compliance And Regulatory Affairs Firms

1. Compliance Risk Concepts

Mitch Avnet, Founder & Managing Partner, Compliance Risk Concepts

Compliance Risk Concepts (CRC) is comprised of senior compliance consultants and executives who consult with clients on an as-needed, project or part-time basis, bringing the expertise necessary to establish, maintain and enhance compliance operational risk management. Its work ranges from ongoing services for firms with no in-house compliance implementation to specialized assistance for larger companies.

Founded by Mitch Avnet, who has over 30 years of experience in industry compliance, the firm brings tailored approaches in a cost sensitive manner to help clients make best use of scarce resources in line with their business models. The firm emphasizes a service model that is “right sized,” enabling clients to be successful in their overall approach toward achieving regulatory compliance.

According to Avnet, the clear compliance issues for advisors this year and next are cybersecurity, marketing rule compliance and off-channel record retention. “However, the lack of flexibility within compliance programs presents a more pressing risk for firms and advisors. Fostering flexibility – especially in the face of the expected shifts from key regulators – will be critical for firms aiming to remain in compliance while also fostering meaningful growth in a dynamic regulatory environment.”

Avnet adds, “Developing a compliance program compatible with growth that can consider these seismic shifts from regulators presents the greatest challenge and opportunity for strategic-minded compliance leaders.”

2. COMPLY

Amy Kadomatsu, CEO, COMPLY

COMPLY launched in November of last year to bring compliance firms ComplySci, National Regulatory Services, illumis and RIA in a Box under one umbrella after ComplySci acquired the other firms. CEO Amy Kadomatsu leads COMPLY and was CEO of ComplySci prior to COMPLY’s launch. Kadomatsu has driven organic expansion over the last two years after the acquisitions in 4Q21.

COMPLY leverages regulatory technology, services and education to support chief compliance officers and professionals with an eye to scaling clients’ growth while remaining vigilant in compliance by providing solutions to manage the burden of complex compliance tasks. The firm has over 7,000 clients and is supported by private equity firm K1.

Addressing how software as a service (SaaS) platforms can integrate with compliance consulting and educational resources, Kadomatsu notes, “The evolving regulatory landscape requires firms to embed dynamic compliance protocols within every step of their workflows and platforms. This is a daunting task for even the most adept compliance or technology teams – and can be further complicated when those two groups don’t see eye-to-eye.”

Kadomatsu says that the most efficient way to ensure that SaaS platforms meet regulatory requirements is engaging a third-party consultant. “Working with third-party organizations which have built their technological solution on the basis of deep regulatory expertise, and which continue to pair technology with critical educational and professional managed services, empowers wealth management enterprises to create the most comprehensive compliance program, one which continues to evolve with both regulatory updates and technological innovations.”

3. MarketCounsel Consulting

Brian Hamburger, President & CEO, MarketCounsel Consulting

Founded by industry veteran attorney Brian Hamburger in 2000, MarketCounsel Consulting serves independent investment advisors through all stages of their lifecycle, covering the initial launch of an advisory firm, compliance management, business growth and succession strategies.

The firm serves clients with a focus on providing advanced technology, veteran expertise and sound business processes. Its annual MarketCounsel Summit is a leading industry event for independent advisors with a focus on stimulating growth and thought-provoking industry conversation.

Hamburger is also the Founder and Chief Counsel of the Hamburger Law Firm, a boutique firm focused on the investment and securities industry, as well as entrepreneurial and employment matters.

“The affiliation of the two companies allows the law firm to engage in deep, research-based analysis and counsel and for that work to seamlessly be executed by its affiliated consulting firm,” Hamburger says. “Further, MarketCounsel can take many of the law firm’s complex strategies and democratize them to create modular solutions that can be efficiently deployed by its clients.”

According to Hamburger, the combination of MarketCounsel with a law firm reflects his “genuine desire to provide an unparalleled combination of preeminent counsel, uncompromising service and genuine value to the wealth management profession.”

4. Oyster Consulting

    Buddy Doyle, CEO, Oyster Consulting

    Founded in 2008, Oyster Consulting provides outsourcing, software and consulting solutions to help clients achieve compliance, optimize operations, manage risk and plan through a team of industry experts. Rather than career consultants, the firm employs expertise from former regulators, executives and management.

    Oyster also provides technology and strategy services, outsourced officers, as well as expert witnesses to assist broker-dealers and RIAs with compliance, operations and finance. Compliance support includes email and advertising review, anti-money laundering testing, branch exams and general support.

    The firm’s compliance software platform houses surveys, workflows, a compliance calendar, policies, processes and documentation, matching job function to an employee’s workflows and fields.

    The firm’s CEO, Buddy Doyle, describes the substantial financial risk for compliance failures, noting that the SEC levied $4.7 billion in fines in 2020. “Most fines are because well-intentioned organizations missed something operationally and ended up making an honest mistake.

    Addressing how he controls for financial risk, Doyle says, “Oyster looks to balance practical solutions with a commitment to regulatory integrity to help our clients thrive. We work with firms to create a compliance program that provides consistent, quality processes in operational activities to mitigate the risk of mistakes. Having a well-designed, implemented and tested compliance program not only saves firms regulatory and legal costs, but also helps build trust between the firm and its clients.”

    Investment Solutions Consultancies

    5. Alliance160

      Amanda Teeple, Partner, Alliance160

      Alliance160 and its predecessor, NLR Advisory Services, founded in 2013, have worked with over 40 alternative asset managers with assets under management from $100 million to $500 billion. Clients range from those just learning about the retail capital markets to managers with success raising retail capital.

      The firm advises on macroscopic industry trends, opportunities and challenges in various retail channels, advantages and disadvantages of various offering structures, the competitive landscape, distribution options and the timeline and costs of entering the retail capital markets. It has advised on multiple sectors including core real estate, manufactured housing, commercial real estate debt, tax-deferred exchange programs, hotels, multifamily, student housing, industrial and energy.

      Amanda Teeple, a Partner at the firm, explains why it makes sense for alts sponsors to look beyond institutional investors to the retail wealth management space. “While institutional investors are generally larger and more sophisticated than retail investors, there is less diversification among investors, more vulnerability to the largest investors and exposure to the group think that is typical among institutional investors.”

      Teeple notes that though institutional capital can be accessed when a given asset class is in favor, “when the markets are unfavorable, allocations are rebalanced, capital is withdrawn and inflows are limited.”

      She points out that the retail capital markets give alts managers “access to a reliable, predictable stream of new capital that is sticky, transcends market cycles and demands lower returns than institutional capital,” while noting the hurdles the managers will face. “Developing relationships with financial advisors takes time and can be expensive, but makes access to retail capital scalable.”

      Teeple adds, “At the same time, financial advisors are becoming more sensitive to the value of alts in a diversified portfolio, alts are being structured in a way that is more advisor centric, and the process of allocating to alts is being simplified.”

      6. Peak Capital Solutions

      Brian Conneely, President, Peak Capital Solutions

      Peak Capital Solutions is an independent, third-party platform specializing in capital raising and distribution of alternative investments, providing turnkey solutions throughout the product life cycle beginning with initial consulting on product design and deal structuring with the capital raise in mind, through marketing plans and investor events to distribution.

      Founded by Brian Conneely in 2021, Peak collaborates with sponsors on managing broker-dealer platforms, connecting them with industry partners fit for specific offerings. The firm’s specialists average nearly 20 years of experience in product wholesaling and distribution, with established industry connections as a source for financial advisors and their high net worth individual and household clients. The firm also reaches institutional and retail marketplaces.

      Describing the top errors alternative investment product sponsors make when reaching out to retail wealth management, Conneely notes that a common mistake is being out of tune with what the market wants.

      “If the offering does not align with retail market expectations (including fee structures and partnering with familiar and trusted providers within the retail space), you will not succeed,” he says. “The offerings should seamlessly integrate with advisors’ reporting systems and fit within their existing processes.”

      The second error is unclear benchmarks for success and unrealistic expectations. “Raising capital among institutions and generating attractive returns does not mean the retail wealth audience will automatically recognize a sponsor and trust their offerings. Many sponsors fail at raising capital because their structure or marketing plan was not set up for the retail channel.”

      Instead, Conneely counsels that a firm must define its success from the outset and set realistic timeframes to build credibility in the retail wealth marketplace. “The retail market wants to see that the manager will do what they promised.”

      Law Firms

      7. Davis Wright Tremaine

      Andrew Melnick, Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

      While WSR names Davis Wright Tremaine to this list for its work in wealth management, its coverage area spans much broader, with more than 600 attorneys in 11 offices nationwide. An AmLaw 100 firm, its wealth management team of over 20 lawyers advises broker-dealer and investment advisory clients on litigation matters and regulatory and compliance issues.

      The firm has represented RIA aggregators, independent RIAs, wirehouses and online, regional and independent broker-dealers. Many members of its wealth management team have served as in-house counsel in large financial services companies or have decades of regulatory experience.

      The firm has successfully represented clients in hundreds of arbitrations at FINRA, the American Arbitration Association and JAMS, as well as court proceedings. It also counsels advisors and registered representatives in transitioning between firms, as well as SEC, FINRA, CFTC and DOJ investigations and enforcement actions.

      Andrew Melnick, a Partner in the firm’s wealth management team, points out that the litigation landscape for advisor transitions and M&A is evolving as legislative initiatives restricting or banning the use of non-compete clauses continue at both the state and federal level. “California’s strong public policy prohibits non-competes and other restrictive covenants, with limited exceptions. But other states have recently implemented or are looking to implement similar statutes. Minnesota’s ban on non-competes recently became effective.”

      Melnick continues, “The New York Assembly and Senate in June passed a broad ban on non-competes. The bill is now with the Governor. And in January, in what could be a game-changer, the FTC proposed a nationwide ban on non-competes. A final decision is expected in 2024.”

      8. Matasar Jacobs

      Scott Matasar, Senior Partner and Member, Matasar Jacobs

      Boutique law firm Matasar Jacobs is led by Senior Partner and Member Scott Matasar, who focuses on assisting clients in the retail financial services industry nationwide. The firm’s clients range from national broker-dealers to individual financial advisors across a wide array of industry needs including customer suitability cases; contentious practice “divorces”; recruiting, raiding and non-solicitation cases; regulatory investigations; practice acquisitions; advisor transitions; employment agreements; and regulatory and operational advice.

      Due to the nature of the work, Matasar Jacobs often faces off against large, reputable firms across the country, and emphasizes that its boutique size enables it to provide personalized attention to each client’s matter at a partner level.

      Matasar defines success as helping clients get through emergencies. “Whether it’s an advisor suddenly fired by their firm; partners in a practice breakup stealing clients; or an advisor facing investigation by FINRA or the SEC, people often retain me at their worst moments when they’re facing a crisis.”

      “I work to fashion a practical solution and rescue what could have been a career-ending situation,” he adds. “Nothing makes me happier than to receive a thank-you note from a grateful client once the storm has passed.”

      Marketing Firms

      9. FMG

      Susan Theder, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, FMG

      FMG offers an all-in-one marketing technology platform for financial advisors and insurance agents, including websites, email and social media tools, multimedia content and marketing automation designed to help advisors build their brand, stay in touch with clients and grow their business.

      The firm offers website redesign and content, as well as exclusive support through its “Do It For Me” program, which reduces time advisors spend on marketing. With over 40,000 clients, the firm provides a range of solutions to meet the marketing goals of advisors and professionals. In March, the firm introduced a “one-click” social media content engine leveraging ChatGPT.

      Commenting on its success, Susan Theder, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at FMG, says, “FMG’s new ‘one-click’ social media content engine has made it easier than ever for our advisors to engage in social media marketing. In fact, in the first ten weeks after launching our one-click personalization feature, we saw a 1,260% increase in the volume of advisor social posts shared via our Curator Mobile App.”

      Theder adds, “The rise in advisor usage after releasing this ChatGPT-powered feature further demonstrates the importance of empowering advisors to create marketing content that reflects their unique voice across all channels. Most of all, we strive to enable our customers to outsource key aspects of their marketing to free up valuable time and more effectively achieve their objectives.”

      10. Snappy Kraken

      Robert Sofia, Co-Founder & CEO, Snappy Kraken

      Snappy Kraken takes its mission beyond marketing, to provide a comprehensive ecosystem designed to help advisors drive growth through their digital presence. The firm aims exclusively at financial advisors and the enterprises that support them.

      The firm combines creativity with data-driven insights to serve its clients, who, on average, attribute 30.9% of their revenue growth to Snappy Kraken’s services. Almost 95% of its clients say that the firm has been instrumental in driving their business expansion. Over 98% say the firm is pivotal in enabling them to maintain meaningful touchpoints with their clients.

      Snappy Kraken has been ranked as the top content marketing company by Martech Breakthrough Awards for each year since 2019.

      Robert Sofia, Co-Founder and CEO of the firm, says that the average financial advisor lacks a cohesive marketing strategy to optimize their efforts and investment. “To drive long-term, sustainable growth, advisors should conduct a comprehensive audit of their client and prospect interactions across every channel.” Sofia notes that the channels include social media, email, video, website and more.

      He continues, “Advisors must strategically select channels, elevate content quality so that it deepens their relationships, and integrate data across their business to forge a synchronized and impactful marketing approach that leverages automation to scale.”

      Julius Buchanan, Editor in Chief at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at jbuchanan@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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