When financial advisor Jeff Leventhal left UBS Financial Services for HighTower Advisors earlier this month, the decision was as much about serving his clients as the direction in which he saw the entire wealth industry headed.
“I think the industry has changed,” Leventhal said in an interview with On Wall Street. “To me, these boutique wealth management firms, unattached to an investment bank, are the future of the wealth management business, in my opinion. I think ten years from now you will see a lot more firms like HighTower popping up all over the country.”
HighTower came to the market in 2008 with a hybrid model that offers financial advisors part ownership in the firm. Since then, the Chicago-based firm has used a roll-up strategy to take in top teams in targeted geographic markets across the country.
Leventhal began his new position at HighTower in Bethesda, Md. on Friday, Sept. 16. Prior to that, he served at UBS from March 2003, according to his registration records with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith before that from November 1995.
Leventhal joins HighTower as partner and managing director, and brings financial advisor Evan Nowack with him in the move. Nowack joined UBS in June 2008, FINRA records show, and served at Morgan Stanley before that from October 2000.
Together the team, called the Leventhal Group, previously oversaw $400 million in client assets and had $3.6 million in annual fees and commissions. The team also includes a wealth management analyst and two support employees, who also join HighTower from UBS.
When considering the move to another firm, Leventhal said he did not even consider another wirehouse. Part of that is because of the influence a firm with an investment bank, and its tendency to leverage the balance sheets for profits, can have on his practice and his clients’ investments.
“I think keeping banks, wealth management, brokerage and investment banks separate makes a lot of sense,” Leventhal said.
In HighTower, Leventhal found a model that will also allow him to select from an open choice model and multi-custodial platform. That ability to spread assets over multiple custodians not only can mean a better fit for his business, but also possibly lower prices for his customers, Leventhal said.
For Leventhal, who considered going completely independent, HighTower offers a compromise. The firm allows him to focus on his clients and their goals and financial planning, without having to worry about the responsibility of his compliance, technology and office space.
Leventhal’s clients have been very receptive so far, he said. Of the 200 families he works with, the 180 he has spoken with so far are impressed with HighTower’s model and willing to move with him, Leventhal said. The remaining 20 families should not be hard to lure, he said.
That welcoming client reception is something that many HighTower advisor recruits have also experienced, said HighTower Managing Director of National Business Development Mike Papedis.
“The client receptivity has been very strong,” Papedis said. “Clients are enthusiastic about the changes, and we’re extremely pleased with how eager clients are to move.”
The addition of Leventhal’s team in Bethesda, Md. marks HighTower’s third team brought on in the greater Washington, D.C. area this year, after taking in eight total practices this year. HighTower plans to hire more advisors this year in targeted geographic areas, though a specific target is not disclosed. HighTower’s current recruiting activity is “extremely robust,” Papedis said.
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