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The Diamond Podcast for Financial Advisors: Former First Republic Head Launches RIA with Backing from Summit Partners

Bob Thornton and Megan Whalen candidly discuss the fallout from First Republic Bank and building a new RIA backed by private equity firm Summit Partners.

Until 2010, First Republic was considered just another sleepy bank brokerage option.

It was then that Bob Thornton, the president of the wealth management unit, was tasked with shaking things up and transforming First Republic into a major player.

And that he did. The momentum started with two mega acquisitions that put First Republic on the map—$6B Luminous Capital and $6.1B Constellation Wealth Advisors. Those deals led to many big recruiting wins over the years, with the unit eclipsing $270 billion in assets, according to their 2022 filings.

The wealth management unit that Bob helped build had the ingredients of success: a boutique culture, a strong referral mechanism, and the perfect blend of freedom and infrastructure. However, it could not withstand the regional banking crisis of 2023: First Republic Bank’s bottom fell out along with the foundation it provided for the wealth unit, leaving behind stress and uncertainty for the unit’s elite advisors.

Today, Bob is taking all that he learned and starting a new chapter in the RIA world—and the story unfolds with backing from one of the industry’s premier private equity firms, Summit Partners.

In this episode, Bob and special guest Melanie Whelan, managing director at Summit Partners, speak candidly with Mindy Diamond. They discuss:

  • The reality of what happened to the wealth management unit at First Republic—and what Bob learned from that experience.
  • Bob’s vision for the new firm—and why he feels top advisors will be attracted to it.
  • The value that Summit Partners sees in this venture—and how Bob’s expertise in creating the “secret sauce” that attracted top advisors to First Republic was an attractive proposition to the PE firm.
  • The role that Summit Partners will play in this partnership—and the growing trend of private equity in the RIA space.
  • Plus, Melanie talks about how her experience as both COO and CEO roles at SoulCycle is shaping the process of building and growing the new wealth management business from the ground up.

It’s rare, behind-the-scenes access to the creation of a new firm—that, as of this recording, the name of which has yet to be revealed.

Download a transcript of this episode…

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Listen to more episodes of Mindy Diamond on Independence: A Podcast for Financial Advisors Considering Change

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