After 35 years in the market and with 9 billion in assets under management, Bolton continues to be in the premium segment of service providers to financial advisors, with just one aim: to provide a complete and evolving solution so that at the end of the day the advisor will be more profitable and, as Ray Grenier says, will be able to claim that moving to the world of independent financial advisory service was the best professional decision he ever made.
Bolton’s last few years can be summed up according to its growth data: the firm has been progressing at an annual rate of 20% and although 2020 is shaping up to be a neutral year, by 2021 growth is already projected at between 15% to 20% or more.
“We expect continued growth in international business, as major financial institutions are imposing higher account minimums for offshore clients, as well as limits on the number of countries where they do business, travel restrictions, and lower incomes for financial advisors. To complement this progress and support its market position as a premium brand, Bolton will open a 20,000-square-foot (over 1,800-square-meter) office complex in the Four Season Tower on Brickell Avenue in Miami by 2020,” explains Ray Grenier in this interview with Funds Society.
Bolton opened its first office in 2011 in Miami; this office currently manages over $3 billion in client assets. The New York office on 5th Avenue opened in 2017.
More than two-thirds of the financial advisors working with Bolton come from Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Bankers from firms such as Wells Fargo, UBS, CitiGroup, RBC and J.P. Morgan have also moved, with Bolton, into the world of independent financial advice. That results in Grenier positioning its brand in the “premium” segment of the business, since the minimum relationship with Bolton is $100 million of assets under management and recruitment is essentially by invitation.
“We have over 40 teams from the world’s leading banks. This has been achieved without maintaining a full-time recruitment department. Bolton relies on referrals from its affiliated advisors to identify candidates who have a history of successful client acquisition and service and share the company’s values for conducting high-quality business. Affiliation with Bolton is generally by “invitation only,” says Ray Grenier.
Financial advisors obtain higher earnings when they move into the independent world: “Many advisors are in their 50s and their main concerns are retirement planning and business succession. Working at Bolton allows them to save more and then sell the business or transfer it to partners and family team members through a structured buyout. The situation for advisors in large banks is very different because they are employees, the company owns their business book and they receive a small fraction of its value upon retirement,” the executive explains.
According to Grenier, Bolton is currently the highest ranked independent firm in terms of annual revenue and client assets by each financial advisor.
“Our offshore client mix has a very broad base in Latam and in Europe, mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama. Currently, Brazil is a strong growth area for Bolton, but there are opportunities to gain clients throughout Latin America,” says Grenier.
The Future of the Business
Bolton offers turnkey offices to independent consultants, a service that includes premium quality premises for the whole team, fully equipped with the best available technology platforms, as well as the legal, compliance, marketing and accounting infrastructure.
“We are implementing a set of products to support full remote operation capability while meeting our regulatory responsibilities. These technologies include WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, DropBox Business and Agreement Express, a fully digital document management and account opening system,” said Bolton’s CEO.
The company is also developing a “Concierge Service Network” that will include a database of high-profile service providers who meet the needs of high net worth clients: legal, accounting, event planning, travel, property management and various other services.
“As asset management becomes increasingly cost driven, advisors operating in the high net worth market will need to stand out from the rest by offering more services to add value to the client relationship,” explains Grenier.
For this executive, the most important factor for sustainability in offshore business is to maintain an effective “Anti-Money Laundering Program” (AML), as many of the major banks have been forced to withdraw from offshore business and pay staggering fines due to AML deficiencies.
“There is little or no margin for error when it comes to AML. But we believe that risk can be mitigated by limiting membership to professionals who have a solid reputation for conducting high-quality investment business. Almost all of our recruits are referred to us by our affiliate advisors. In the relatively small universe of LatAm wealth management, they are the best sources for identifying the most reputable teams in the offshore business,” explains Grenier.
Ray Grenier, a Low Profile CEO
It’s very difficult for Grenier to talk about his personal experience as Head of Bolton, as he always insists on speaking in the plural and playing down his importance. How did it occur to him to move from an essentially onshore business to an offshore one? To each question, Grenier answers without triumphalism, with a cascade of market data and objectives.
During these years of Bolton’s continued growth (and success as well) the most rewarding thing for Grenier was the friendship he developed with many financial advisors and hearing them say that moving into the world of independent financial advice was the best decision they could have made.