For years, registered investment advisor Birch Cove Group operated a solid business serving high-net-worth clients in a Minneapolis suburb.
Two years ago, the firm decided to move to a tiny office on the 25th floor of the US Bancorp headquarters tower in the downtown business district of the city itself.
Michael T. Brown, the co-founder and managing partner of the firm, says the new location has been a significant contributor to growth.
“We bought a tastefully done office that had been owned by a large hedge fund that wasn’t doing well. They had spent extravagantly on the décor, wood paneling and stonework that looked like the offices of some of the big law firms and private-equity guys around here,” Brown says.
“It cost about 10% more to rent than the class-A suburban office we had been in, but we’ve seen our business grow much more than that since the move, and I attribute a lot of that to our new location,” he says.
“Our new office gives us visibility in town, especially within the preferred community we serve,” Brown says.
“Here, we are eating lunch with all the downtown professionals,” he says. “We meet them on the street, too.”
Furthermore, Brown says the office location helps the firm pursue its “collaborative model.”
As he puts it, “We try to act as an informal development advisory, so when we get a new client, we try to connect them with a lawyer and banker and maybe a private-equity firm, all people who have offices right down the street.”
Rick Rummage, principal of the Rummage Group, an advisor training firm in Herndon, Va., agrees about the importance of location as financial advisory firms look for ways to nurture growth.
“Overall, it may be a ‘C’ priority compared to something like marketing, which would be an ‘A’ issue,” he says.
“But having said that, things like accessibility, outward appearance and the aesthetics of the office can be important,” Rummage says. “Image is everything, especially with new prospective clients.”
Brown says he thinks any firm could benefit as he has from having an attractive and conveniently located office, “provided, though, that you use your space as a business tool.”
When his firm was in the suburbs, “we were on the outside looking in,” he says.
“Now, we’re right in the neighborhood where our clients are located and in a space that is similar in appearance to their own offices,” Brown says.
Dave Lindorff spent five years as a China correspondent for Businessweek and has written for The Nation and Salon.com.
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