Coldstream Wealth Management—an employee-owned, hybrid registered investment advisor based in Seattle with some $6.5 billion in assets—has announced the appointment of Matt Sonnen as chief operating officer.
With more than 25 years of industry experience, Sonnen has been charged with building Coldstream's operational platform and identifying opportunities for scale. He will work to standardize and optimize back-office operations for multiple RIA partners that have joined the firm over the past few years, while simplifying the onboarding process for future acquisitions.
Coldstream’s operations, information technology, performance reporting, client service and Salesforce CRM teams will report to Sonnen. He will report to Managing Shareholder Kevin Fitzwilson.
Sonnen replaces Phil Platt, Coldstream’s COO since 2014.
“It just got to a point where [Platt’s] interests and the company's needs weren't as aligned as they had been,” Fitzwilson said. “We’ve had a great series of conversations about what he wants to do and what we want to do, and we worked together on a transition plan. There'll be an announcement here in about 10 days of where he's going.”
Founded in 1996, three of Coldstream’s four founders exited the company in 2002, selling a 26.4% stake to Boston Private Financial Holdings. In 2008, Boston Private was recapitalized by global private equity firm The Carlyle Group.
In 2011, Coldstream’s management team bought out that investment and “really reset things,” Fitzwilson said. Up to that point, the firm had been “bootstrapping” growth and decided to set an intentional plan to grow by 20% annually, half through acquisitions and half organically. To grow at that pace without third-party capital, he noted, requires different people and resources.
“We’ve been able to do that over the last 11 or 12 years,” Fitzwilson said. “And this is an extension of that reset. We're at this inflection point now where we needed someone with Matt's talents, experience and vision of where to take the company forward from this point.”
Sonnen is closing PFI Advisors, the RIA he launched in 2017, to join Coldstream.
“My one-on-one consulting business is no longer,” he said. “When you're a consultant, sometimes your clients take your advice and implement it and sometimes they don't.
“Coldstream offers everything I’ve always looked for in a consulting engagement and the make-up of the firm is everything I’ve always looked for in a client," he said. "I’m able to just roll up my sleeves here and really implement change within the organization.”
Sonnen intends to move slowly and deliberately, he said, to consolidate the firm’s seven teams and develop an updated integration model for incoming advisors.
“The first couple of months I’ll be on a listening tour, meeting with advisors and employees and just trying to figure out any obstacles I can remove to help the firm grow faster,” he said. “And then it's just going to be all around that accelerated growth model—implementing process, structure and systems.”
Sonnen will continue writing monthly practice management articles for WealthManagement.com and speak at conferences and other industry functions, he said, with hopes to use that reach to attract merger targets to his new employer.
According to Fitzwilson, Coldstream is currently in talks with a couple of RIAs, primarily on the West Coast, and he expects to announce at least one new deal before the end of the year. The firm is also focused on bringing tax planning services in-house, and Fitzwilson said conversations there have been promising.
“Stay tuned,” he said. “This is an exciting inflection point I think for Coldstream and for Matt. We think it’s the right time to reassess and digest the growth we’ve had, bringing in talent and skillsets and personalities like Matt—and we’re excited about this next chapter."