The Rockefeller name burst on to the scene in earnest when Greg Fleming left Morgan Stanley and was announced as the firm’s leader. The two names resonated across the wealth management spectrum, as did the whispers of the deep and heavy pockets Rockefeller was rumored (and of course confirmed) to be armed with at the time. The two (Fleming and Rockefeller) seemed to be well suited as a pair, and that has unquestionably been the case.
Besides Mr. Fleming’s resume’ and presence at the firm, what is it that continues to draw the largest of wirehouse firms to the name? We’ve spoken to a number of advisors and the answer seems to be three-fold, and once explained, somewhat obvious. Take a look at what we’ve been hearing throughout 2020 and judge for yourself:
- Branding still matters, and the Rockefeller name resonates.Given the movement to both the RIA and independent space over the past decade (and there is no doubt that it has moved at scale and continued its momentum) one would think that a new entrant to the ‘full-service space would struggle. Case in point, FieldPoint Private, a firm with well-heeled management and a wirehouse like set up. The divergence between the two can initially be chalked up to branding. The Rockefeller name emits incredible gravitas and history. It is instantly recognizable in every corner of finance and wealth management. Nearly every advisor is aware of the who/what/where of Rockefeller, while most have no idea who FPP is. The name, the brand still matters in this business.
- Greg Fleming continues to keep the firm ‘up-market’.The commitment to essentially focus on large wirehouse teams has paid off in a big way. Each and every hire gets a resounding chorus of praise from the wealth management press and the Rockefeller story is told again. This was the initial HighTower model that started off well, but was too quickly discarded – principally because HighTower wasn’t capitalized to the extent that Rockefeller is and will continue to be. HighTower abandoned the strategy and ended up with three different platforms and payout structures; effectively abandoning the branding story it had built. Rockefeller and Greg Fleming have stayed committed to the script.
- Advisors that have joined the firm and are deep into due diligence and evaluation tell us that Rockefeller’s tech and the platform are second to none.In an age where advisors are more closely tied to their laptops and mobile devices rather than their desktops to service clients, the tech at the firm that they join is incredibly important. Every single advisor that has had any depth of contact with the firm has extolled their commitment to technology. The term ‘ease of use’ comes up often when the conversation turns to tech with respect to Rockefeller.
The themes here are heavily weighted toward branding. If you are a team of size at UBS, Merrill, Morgan or Wells you are aware of Rockefeller and have either been watching them closely or are engaged in evaluating them as a potential landing spot. Their deal is robust and they know it. Their brand is robust and they know it. That institutional level of confidence is appealing to Barron’s/Forbes types of advisors. They want to be around winners – and Greg Fleming is just that.
He’s also closer. When Rockefeller is involved in competitive recruitment, they usually win.
“This business is mostly based on ‘do I like that guy’…” – Roger Sterling, Mad Men.