No. 4: Thomas Hutson-Wiley
Firm: Merrill Lynch
AUM: $3.25 billion
Location: San Francisco
Age: 38

Note: This profile is part of a special series devoted to On Wall Street’s Top 40 Under 40 ranking for 2012. Every day we take a look at an advisor who made the list to find out the secrets of their success.


This year has been good to Thomas Hutson-Wiley, who ranked number one onOn Wall Street's Top 40 list in 2011 and makes the list for the fifth time.

In the past 12 months, Hutson-Wiley has seen his assets under management jump almost $1 billion from $2.33 billion last year. He attributes that spike in growth in part to the success of his entrepreneur, venture capital and private equity general partner clients. And he also credits his team's hard work since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008 that is now starting to pay off.

That comes as some of Hutson-Wiley's clients have reaped the benefits of a number of successful technology initial public offerings that he says have done "incredibly well" while not inviting the same publicity or scrutiny as Facebook. And it also comes as Hutson-Wiley's team has worked hard to stay out in front of clients when the markets were tough so that they would remember the team when the environment turned around.

"It's our loyalty to our clients and their loyalty to us that really put us in the position to achieve some pretty spectacular growth this year," Hutson-Wiley says. "We're up about 112% on the year, and there's not a lot of businesses in financial services or anywhere that can kind of boast that kind of growth over the last 12 months." Hutson-Wiley's team includes five partners who equally share a business covering about 1,000 total clients. The team has a total of 17 professionals, including client associates and a newly-added derivatives professional. Their practice spans the globe from San Francisco to Seattle, Boston, Paris and Hong Kong.

Serving the team's specific client niche poses unique challenges, Hutson-Wiley says, particularly because it is so transactional. The team specializes in esoteric trades that might include different currencies, countries, or the exchange of one asset for another. It also might include large trades with a lot of public disclosure around them, such as a founder of a business who is trying to achieve liquidity.

And those transactions also have a lot of emotion around them, Hutson-Wiley says, particularly for equity ownership in a 12- to 14-year-old business where an investor was there from day one.

Some of those investments can represent up to 99% of the investor's net worth. That emotion can mean that an investor can change their mind on a trade just five minutes before it is scheduled to go through. But Hutson-Wiley says his team does not dissuade those decisions.

"We don't mind people being passionate about what they're doing. We want to help them just make the right decision, and that changes," Hutson-Wiley says. "And if it changes, it's like, 'Okay, let's cancel that trade, let's not put that through and just talk about what you're trying to achieve here, what your goals are.'"