In 2017, Tony Arnerich, founder and former CEO of Arnerich Massena in Portland, Ore., restructured the registered investment advisory firm, selling it to his employees, transitioning out of the day-to-day leadership and in the process creating one of the largest employee-owned RIAs in the Northwest.
Since then, there have been a series of leadership changes—Arnerich tapped former COO Dave Nute as CEO but returned to the role when Nute left that same year before Chief Investment Officer Bryan Shipley took over in 2019.
Last week, another change: The firm announced Reegan Rae would join Shipley as co-CEO.
Rae has been with the firm since 2012, starting as an associate advisor who climbed her way to managing director by 2018. She had previously been a registered supervisory principal at M Financial Group and a financial advisor at AXA Advisors.
She will continue to be a senior financial advisor and serve a select 36 clients. Arnerich Massena manages almost $2 billion for mostly high-net-worth clients and another $5.5 billion on the institutional side with retirement plan sponsors, corporations and foundations.
Wealth Management: When you were approached to be co-CEO, what was the thought process that went into the decision?
Reegan Rae: I remember reading a study in the Journal of Financial Planning. They tried to understand how prospective clients and investors go about making decisions on choosing advisors. A key finding was that investors really value diversity, and the team of advisors they choose to work with, and that these clients expressed a really strong preference for a team approach that had both male and female leadership represented.
I'm proud of Arnerich Massena because we've always understood the importance of bringing diverse perspectives to the team. I'm just thrilled to be a part of continuing to help foster and grow that understanding. We were founded by Tony [Arnerich] and Lisa Massena in 1991. So, we've always had that really strong balance of leadership in terms of gender.
After I read that study it dawned on me that we had a gender-diverse advisory team, and we needed to continue to develop more gender diversity within our executive team. I think it's a value that our investors really care about and our staff really values. I think I understood the opportunity to be a part of something bigger.
WM: How did you become an advisor and end up at Arnerich Messina?
RR: I don't have a traditional background. I graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in psychology and a minor in business administration. My purpose is to help people and I really wanted to find a career where I could make a real impact in the lives of the people that I was engaging with. I had an opportunity to enter the financial services industry as a registered broker’s assistant and I really value that first team that I worked with as they taught me that focusing on high-level service and relationship development was the key to success. You have to take good care of your clients and put your clients first or you're not going to get anywhere. And the other thing that they taught me was to speak English to your clients; don't use a lot of industry jargon.
That was inspiring to me. I was hooked at the very beginning. I wanted to be an advisor and I wanted to make this industry approachable and unintimidating and comfortable for anybody to gain a relationship with a financial advisor.
I worked for AXA Advisors for four years. The 2008 crisis happened. I pivoted and went to work for M Financial in its broker/dealer and got my Series 24 and became a registered supervisory principal.
That was a fascinating experience: M Financial was the largest privately held insurance distribution network in the United States. It was with the most elite Fortune 100 companies and executives in the country. So, in the broker/dealer, I reviewed and approved very big variable insurance policies that were part of elaborate estate plans. I learned a lot. I did that for a few years, and then this opportunity came up to get back to a client-facing role as an advisor.
Arnerich Massena is just absolutely unique in this industry. You get a sense of connection and from the moment you walk in [you know] that it really is about the people—your colleagues, the relationships and friendships with your clients.
WM: As co-CEO, what is your overall vision for Arnerich Massena at least for the next three to five years?
RR: We're celebrating our 30-year anniversary as Arnerich Massena, and we have incredible brand recognition and reputation in the industry. Our vision as a leadership team and as a board is to continue to be thought leaders; keep that forward-looking viewpoint on how we deliver our investment philosophy, really focus on our client types that we bring the most value to, and continue to get our message out there in terms of what we do in impact investing and multifamily services.
WM: Since Arnerich Massena restructured the company in 2017, what has changed?
RR: We restructured and managed the buyout in order to remain independent, because that is one of the most important things for us. We're not interested in being acquired, at this time.
We have thought about whether or not we should be in the business of acquiring other advisers or books of business out there. I think that's absolutely something that our board is interested in and you could see us developing a strategy around.
In a world of consolidation right now, I think being truly independent and being able to offer unbiased research and investment advice is really meaningful and valuable to our target client profile.
WM: Arnerich Massena uses multiple custodial companies, but most of your clients have assets custodied at Schwab, which is merging in TD Ameritrade. What type of services do you hope to see for your advisors and your clients?
RR: So far, I haven't noticed any changes to the services that we've received from Schwab. We have a great relationship with them. Of course, we're on the institutional side. I think they’re still one of the most competitive in the industry for independent RIAs in terms of their fee structure and overall offerings.