Glenmede’s growth strategy is a little bit boring, but that is just the way the Philadelphia-based investment and wealth management company’s new chief executive officer likes it.
Despite a 20% increase in assets last year to $18 billion as of Dec. 31, Glenmede doesn’t have any aggressive growth plans in the forseeable future. The privately-held Philadelphia investment and wealth management company plans to focus on organic growth and client retention this year even if the strategy is a little ho-hum.
Gordon Fowler, who became only the company’s sixth CEO in its 53-year history when he took the helm on Jan. 1, said the company’s strategy for growth is all about preserving client assets and organic growth.
“We have been able to reward our stockholders handily through consistent moderate growth and client acquisitions over time,” he said. “We have avoided some of the instability that comes with losing clients and seeing asset outflows.”
Fowler, who remains Glenmede’s chief investment officer, replaced Al Piscopo, who retired as CEO, but remained a director with the company.
Despite the economic crisis, Fowler said the last few years have been among Glenmede’s strongest in terms of new business flows, but he said it is the company’s client retention rates that he is most proud.
Glenmede was able to retain 98% of its clients in 2008 and 2009.
“The nice thing about our growth is that we have been able to do it all organically and not through acquisitions or anything else that might destabilize the company.”
Glenmede, which has six offices in the Mid-Atlantic region, has customers nationally, Fowler said. It opened an office in New York City in October. In addition to that office, it has locations in Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., Cleveland, Morristown, N.J., and Princeton N.J.
Though there are no plans to open additional offices imminently, Fowler said the company continues to expand its existing offices with talent from a variety of wealth managers, usually larger competitors including banks.
“Our client base is more and more national as we continue to develop a strong reputation for delivering advice and wealth management services,” he said. “Clients are interested in working with us because we are one of the very few wealth managers left that is independent. That independence provides us with the ability to provide advice on a conflict-free basis because we are not acting as just a distribution channel for some other part of the company.”
Fowler, who worked at JPMorgan Chase & Co. before being hired by Glenmede in 2003, said there are a lot of advantages to being associated with a private company focused solely on wealth management, both for advisors and their clients.
“The benefit of being a privately-owned company is that we can take a long-term time perspective,” he said. “We are not subject to the same quarterly analyst reviews as our large rivals and that long-term time horizon aligns well with our clients’ time horizons.”
He added, “We are in a unique position in the investment and wealth management markets because we don’t have any other entanglement or priorities,” he said. “We are a nice size because we are big enough to have the critical mass necessary in the wealth management business, but we aren’t so big that the only way we can grow is through acquisitions.”
Going forward the company may look to open additional offices, but it is not in any rush.
“We don’t need to acquire in order to grow. We don’t need to change our pricing structure in order to grow,” Fowler said. “We are in a position where we can just focus on our business and we can continue to develop a strong national reputation for our wealth management services business.”