After a divorce, a hedge fund trader-turned-pastry chef in New York City felt she had no control of her financial life. While confiding with other women that faced similar circumstances, it was apparent she wasn’t the only one in search of financial guidance.
“I realized that I had never really taken control of my own financial situation,” said Bridget Grimes, the founder and president of WealthChoice, a wealth manager focused on helping professional women. “I kid you not, I said, ‘I’m going to get back into the business and we’re going to fix this.’”
In 2010, Grimes joined Morgan Stanley Wealth Management as an advisor in La Jolla, Calif. where she created workshops and seminars with guest speakers to help women professionally. After a stint with the brokerage, she spent 4 years at HoyleCohen, a registered investment advisory firm affiliated with Focus Financial Partners, where she developed and led a practice dedicated to women. Then in 2016, in an effort to better serve high-earning women, she founded WealthChoice.
Barred by her former RIA from bringing clients with her when she left, Grimes is unhurriedly growing another business effectively from scratch. WealthChoice manages about $25 million, a meager book of business to some advisors, but she is okay with that.
Grimes said she never pitches her business. She waits for would-be clients to approach her, which means an incredibly long sales cycle that most other wealth management firms wouldn’t tolerate. Last month she met with a woman she’s known for 8 years who only recently expressed interest in Grimes being her financial advisor.
She expects another $5 million committed to the firm to arrive this fall. Still, most important to Grimes is her ability to dedicate the time she feels is necessary to the bona fide client niche.
Investment performance is not the top priority for her clients. Professional women are most interested in finding ways to enrich their life at work and at home, Grimes said. That requires knowing not just what questions to ask and a lot of listening in order to coach clients and develop plans. Advisors inviting a client to the office and sliding reports across a boardroom table have it all wrong, Grimes added.
“We meet at a couch and chairs,” Grimes said about the clients in San Diego where she’s based. “We never ever meet at a desk.”
That environment and philosophy helps Grimes get to the root of clients’ goals and identify what’s keeping them from achieving them. In some cases, that means starting with simple things first.
“I’m a huge fan of budgets, even though people hate them,” Grimes said. “But they are really eye-opening.”
Big earners, using their hard work and little free time to justify spending habits, don’t necessarily have a lot of money. But even if that doesn’t jeopardize their retirement, it could make other life goals, such as a career change, more difficult.
One of Grimes’ clients, a single mother in a managerial position at a technology company, found herself in that scenario. The woman felt unfulfilled in her career but the task of adjusting her family’s lifestyle so she could switch to a lower-paying job was one she was struggling with on her own. She turned to Grimes to help concoct a plan and to make sure she is on track.
“Every one of my clients is attacking things incrementally,” Grimes said. Being there each step of the way might be high-touch and laborious but that’s what her clients are looking for. “These folks know that I’m really engaged and I care about them.”