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Summit Trail lands $1.5B team to open new office

Summit Trail Advisors, an RIA founded by former Barclays advisors to cater to ultrawealthy clients, is expanding its reach with a new office and the addition of a team that managed $1.5 billion.

The group, led by former Wilmington Trust advisors Jonathan Williams and Kevin Curtis, will staff a new office set to open in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to Summit Trail.

They were drawn to Summit for its platform, technology and culture, Williams and Curtis say. The duo decided against opening their own RIA, opting instead to join an existing outfit set up expressly to service wealthy clientele, they say.

“It was clear to us when we met with Summit Trail that this was a no brainer,” says Williams, who has worked with Curtis for 11 years.

Kevin Curtis Summit Trail Advisors
Veteran wealth managers Kevin Curtis, pictured, and Jonathan Williams will anchor a new branch for Summit Trail Advisors in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The four-year old RIA, which has 52 employees and approximately $6 billion in client assets, has grown mostly organically since its six founding partners bolted from Barclays, according to Managing Partner Jack Petersen. At the time, the British bank was selling its U.S. wealth management business to regional broker-dealer Stifel Financial.

Petersen says the firm has ambitions to develop a national presence, but finding the right talent is challenging.

“It’s very hard to find high-quality advisors who are as equally focused in their dedication on the larger client,” Petersen says, adding that the average client size at Summit is about $30 million.

So where do advisors find such supersized clients?

“Every single one of my clients are first generation business owners,” Williams says. “That’s been a really awesome responsibility ... to work with them through the entire life cycle of their business, from building wealth to monetizing the business.”

Advisors like Williams, however, are uncommon, according to Petersen. Another complication arises, he says, from the way existing recruiting deals have imposed restrictions on advisors, he says. “Most advisors are under some kind of contract. So every seven, eight or nine years, they have a window. In between, they are locked down. So you have this episodic, lumpy cycle.”

Still, the firm has picked up several new hires, including most recently a former Wells Fargo advisor who managed more than $500 million in client assets. Petersen credits Dynasty Financial Partners with helping Summit locate new talent.

“When we find the right fit in culture and clients with the advisors we meet with, we tend to move quickly,” Petersen says.

Williams and Curtis have 14 and 25 years of industry experience, respectively, according to their new employer.

Jonathan Williams Summit Trail Advisors
“Every single one of my clients are first-generation business owners,” Jonathan Williams says. “That’s been a really awesome responsibility ... to work with them through the entire life cycle of their business, from building wealth to monetizing the business.”

Pointing to Summit’s technology, Curtis says he expects to be able to deliver “an enhanced level of service.”

“Our clients have become more sophisticated,” he says, “and we needed to deliver a platform that allow us to be advisors and concentrate solely on our clients.”

Summit Trail operates offices in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. For now, Williams and Curtis will operate from a temporary space until a new office is ready in about a month. The new digs, to be located in downtown Harrisburg near the Susquehanna River, are expected to accommodate an additional eight employees.

Wilmington Trust, meanwhile, is engaged in its own expansion, having added a dozen wealth managers and strategists in several locations over the past 12 months, according to the firm which is part of M&T Bank. The additions represent a 20% increase in headcount of client facing staff, according to Wilmington, which has $97.6 in AUM.

The firm has seen that “clients prefer a dedicated advisor-led model, with a single point of contact," Doris Meister, head of wealth management at Wilmington Trust, said in a statement. “Adding highly experienced wealth advisors will enable us to further collaborate with our clients in a more seamless way, driving competitive advantage."

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