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Mindy Diamond on Independence: How an Accidental Entrepreneur Built a $50B+ RIA Empire

Buckingham Wealth Partners' Adam Birenbaum details his journey from intern to CEO.


It may come as a surprise that not every leader in the wealth management industry starts off with a background in the financial space. That said, the role does require a level of innate creativity, along with strategic and critical thinking skills—and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be mentored and nurtured by those who paved a “multi-billion dollar pathway” towards success.

For example, Adam Birenbaum, CEO of Buckingham Wealth Partners, graduated college and jumped into the energy industry. Yet he felt it wasn’t the right path: What he really wanted to be was the next “Jerry Maguire”—a master dealmaker for sports icons.

So he went to law school and worked at Buckingham as an unpaid summer intern. It was a role Adam returned to each year until becoming a full-time employee upon graduation in 2005. Rising through the ranks at the RIA firm – from compliance manager to chief compliance officer and then on to general counsel – enabled him to witness the planning and decision-making processes that propelled the firm’s initial growth.

Just pushing past the height of the financial crisis in 2010, Buckingham announced the succession plans for the $12B firm—and Adam was designated to lead them into their next chapter.

While Adam may not have started out as the most likely candidate for the role of CEO, it was indeed a role he earned as he learned, it was indeed a role he earned as he learned—and demonstrated by leading the firm’s decade of meteoric growth through smart business decisions and a strategic inorganic growth path.

During Adam’s tenure with the firm, they’ve closed over 40 M&A deals, bringing their total in assets to over $50B—extraordinary results, particularly from a leader who considers himself an “accidental entrepreneur.”

Today, Buckingham is a destination for top advisors and teams, and one of the stars of Focus Financial’s network—something Adam credits to their “obsession with helping independent advisors design, build, and protect financial lives.”

In this episode, Adam shares the Buckingham story with Louis Diamond, including:

  • The impact of taking on investment partner Focus Financial Partners in 2007—and how it’s not limited to capital, but also provides expertise in due diligence and deal structure.
  • The $235mm deal with turnkey asset management platform Loring Ward—and how the TAMP offers more than an increase to their bottom line.
  • Advice for prospective breakaways and independent advisors who have a goal of acquiring firms—and red flags to watch out for in the deal-making process.
  • Plus, the headline-making additions of industry powerhouse Michael Kitces of Pinnacle Advisory Group and long-time contributor to Jeffrey Levine of BluePrint Wealth Alliance—and why two such high-profile leaders would close their RIA firms to join Buckingham.

There’s a lot to learn from this conversation with Adam. He shares how his unique combination of drive and passion for the business is only compounded by his vision for growth—and how having the right team can make all the difference in the success of a firm.

Listen to the podcast

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

Mindy Diamond is CEO of Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.

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