The nascent wealth management unit of asset management powerhouse Affiliated Managers Group has made its second deal.

AMG Wealth Partners has taken a minority stake in Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Clarfeld Financial Advisors, a $4 billion firm with a London office that specializes in serving wealthy U. S. citizens living abroad.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The investment is the second since the division was formed two years ago as a subsidiary of AMG, which has more than $470 billion in assets. Last year, AMG Wealth Partners acquired a majority interest in Newtown Square, Pa.-based-based Veritable LP, one of the largest wealth management firms in the industry with nearly $12 billion in assets under management.

EXPAT SPECIALIZATION

Clarfeld’s expertise with wealthy expats was a big draw, says AMG Wealth Partners president John Copeland. “Clarfeld delivers very sophisticated tax and estate financial planning advice to the U.S. expatriate community and that is a really unique value proposition,” Copeland says.

The expertise is particularly valuable at a time when wealth management firms are having an “incredibly difficult” time delineating and distinguishing themselves from the pack, he adds. “It’s very important for firms to distinctly define what they do, how they do it and for whom they do it,” Copeland says.

AMG’s hefty pocketbook and reputation for gobbling up asset management firms led many in the industry to believe they would be similarly aggressive in wealth management; some observers say quietly that they are puzzled that the firm has only made two deals so far. (AMG also has a stake in the Boston-based firm Welch & Forbes, made prior to the formation of the Wealth Partners division.)

But Copeland says AMG’s “only expectation is to partner with the best firms we can find. If we do three deals in 12 months, that’s terrific,” he says, “but if we do one in 18 months, that’s fine too.”

AMG is looking for firms that are looking to expand and have “a history of shared equity among senior partners,” Copeland says. The firm allows partners to continue to run the business independently while offering capital, planning and strategic support. AMG says it also offers expertise on compensation, client relations, prospecting, branding and equity incentive plans as well as back-office support.

NATIONAL ASPIRATIONS

A growing number of wealth management firms say they are looking to create a national presence, and indeed, Copeland -- a 25-year industry veteran who has worked at Morgan Stanley, Lehman Bros., Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs -- says he thinks a national footprint is attainable, “and, if done in the right way, desirable.”

But to succeed, he says, “it has to be done the hard way: from local to regional, to super-regional, to national, with the support of a strategic and national partner. It will take heavy lifting and be an exercise in studied and intelligence growth over decades. It is not a branding exercise.”

Asked if AMG would back a national push, Copeland says if its management partners choose to pursue such a goal, “we would be very supportive.”

Veritable, in fact, made a big move last year into the lucrative -- and ultra-competitive -- San Francisco Bay Area market, where it is in what Copeland calls the “early stages” of establishing itself. “Veritable has been so successful with ultrahigh-net-worth clients that it’s hard to imagine they won’t be in San Francisco,” he says.

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