The high-end boutique Mariner Wealth Advisors is breaking into the mass affluent market with the launch of FirstPoint Financial on Wednesday.
After several years of acquisitions—including Tulsa, Okla.-based Adams Hall Wealth Advisors and Madison, N.J.-based Brinton Eaton—Mariner is turning to a new form of expansion: its client base. FirstPoint will offer wealth planning to a wider range of clients, without the traditional investment minimums found at Mariner.
“We now have the scale and the platform not only to help affluent, but help the mass affluent,” says Brian Leitner, senior vice president of practice management at FirstPoint Financial. But Leitner is quick to point out that this is not just another self-service model or advisor call center like other firms have pursued. Instead, it’s almost a Mariner Wealth with a telecommute option. “We’re not an Internet or software program,” he says. “I think that model is riddled with issues.”
Leitner believes the self-service model alone isn’t the answer, which is why FirstPoint clients will receive personalized advice. The firm has already hired almost a half dozen experienced advisors internally and externally, placing them in Omaha and Tulsa, with plans to hire at least two more advisors for the Cincinnati, Ohio and New Jersey offices. These new FirstPoint advisors will be located within Mariner’s already existing offices.
FirstPoint clients will have an online portal and communicate with their advisor team via telephone calls or web conferencing. The firm is beefing up its technology and software so that rather than using strategies geared toward the high-net-worth clients usually handled by Mariner, FirstPoint can provide leverage to the mass affluent that makes sense.
And unlike a call center, advisors will provide more than just an asset allocation strategy. FirstPoint clients will receive comprehensive financial planning. “It’s no different than anyone else [at Mariner].”
Mariner has been considering this move for the past couple of years, Leitner says, but it was only early this year that he and others started to pull the pieces together. “We’re early to this market,” Leitner says, adding that’s exactly where the firm wanted to be. It’s challenging for an average individual to work with a fiduciary, he says. Most people with $200,000-$300,000 are working with a transactional broker, rather than a wealth advisor, including the next generation and Baby Boomer clients the firm hopes to capture with this new model.
Proving his point, he says Mariner clients have already expressed an interest in signing up their children for FirstPoint, saying they felt secure because the Mariner name provided a great deal of credibility. Leitner also added that the firm’s centers of influence, including lawyers and CPAs, also were excited by the move and had referrals for FirstPoint.
But it's not just NextGen clients. Baby Boomers are another key client segment for FirstPoint, as many in this generation are heading into retirement without sound advice. FirstPoint aims to service these individuals, helping to avoid mistakes that could cost them their lifelong accumulated wealth. Leitner also has a personal mission here as well, saying his grandfather was taken advantage of by poor financial advice.
Mariner has spent the past seven years building up a national presence and a rock-solid reputation, Leitner says. “Now we’re just building on a foundation we’ve already built.”