SAN FRANCISCO -- Silicon Valley's fortunes have lured one of the world's largest independent wealth managers to the San Francisco Bay Area.
London-based deVere Group, which has over $10 billion in assets -- along with over 80,000 clients and offices in 50 countries -- opened an office in San Francisco this month and is planning to add advisors in Seattle, Silicon Valley and San Diego within the next year.
"This is a boom time for these markets," says Adrian Flambard, deVere's area manager in San Francisco. "We were impressed by the variety of industries that are on the U.S. West Coast and the fact that you have both some of the largest corporations in the world here as well as a large number of start-ups and entrepreneurs."
DeVere hopes to have seven advisors and seven associates in the new downtown San Francisco office within a year or less. Flambard says he is also interviewing experienced wealth managers to join deVere in the other West Coast cities -- typically offering them a straight 50/50 split of all revenues from assets under management, but no salary.
"It's an arrangement that has worked well for us," he says. "It attracts entrepreneurial types who will have to work hard and invest their own money for the first three to six months. We provide infrastructure, expertise and tech support. And if things go well, the percentage they keep can go higher."
But "finding the right people" is his biggest challenge, Flambard says. "It's a sellers' market right now."
The booming West Coast economy has, not surprisingly, produced intense competition among wealth management firms.
"The firms that are already here are very good at what they do," Flambard admits. "They provide sophisticated services and have competitive pricing. If we had to compete with them from a domestic point of view, we would struggle."
INTERNATIONAL CALLING CARD
DeVere's calling cards are its international expertise and British connections.
The firm specializes in clients with international assets, Flambard says, helping them with taxes, estate planning and keeping abreast of local legislation, in addition to investment strategies. "Our door opener is [that] we understand the international side," he says.
DeVere also targets British nationals living abroad. Over 300,000 live in southern California, and around 200,000 more live in the Bay Area, according to Flambard.
The firm works closely with the British American Business Council, the British Consulate and other centers of influence, Flambard says.
It can be a lucrative niche, he adds: "The professional Brits who are in the U.S. tend to be very successful."
DeVere has been in the U.S. market for less than three years, opening an office in New York in early 2012.
The firm says it has 1,400 clients so far in the U.S. with over $100 million in assets under management.
The wealth manager's "strategic push further into the North American market" will next include Texas and Canada, deVere Group founder and chief executive Nigel Green said in a statement.
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