Though Miami and New York are coastal magnets for advisers, those who have made the Midwest home have reaped trillions in assets.
The region is rich with wealthy families and thriving businesses — and advisory firms can speak to its fertility: those based in the middle of the country have amassed more assets under management than peers in the West and the South, according to SEC filings.
“It is one of those hidden gems," says Carol Shleif, CIO of Abbot Downing, an affiliate of Wells Fargo focusing on ultrahigh-net-worth clients. "A unique mix of education, healthcare, Fortune 500 companies and small companies as well.”
RIAs, wirehouses and broker-dealers in the Midwest reported $1.5 trillion in AUM, second only to the Northeast's combined $3 trillion. Firms in the West reported $860 billion while Southern firms reported that they manage $820 billion.
In fact, firms in Minnesota manage more assets than their Florida counterparts, according to an analysis of Form ADV filings. Financial Planning probed the ADVs of firms that offer planning services and receive more than half of their AUM from individual clients, with data current as of July 2017.
That's partly due to a confluence of history and corporate strategy. A cluster of the biggest national firms were either founded in the Midwest or headquartered there due to quality of life considerations.
Minneapolis-based Ameriprise’s assets soar above those of all other firms with $198 billion in AUM. Other notable firms in the region include St. Louis-based Wells Fargo Advisors with $42.5 billion in AUM, St. Louis-based Stifel with $54 billion in assets, and Chicago-based HighTower with $30 billion in AUM.
“If you look at the demographics of most of the Midwest cities you see really livable communities and really diverse population,” says Schleif. “There is a strong European mindset: strong public healthcare, strong education.”
To be sure, markets such as New York, Florida and California represent massive concentrations of wealth. Merrill Lynch — with $640 billion in AUM nationally — leads firms based in New York, which holds more assets than any other state.
St. Petersburg-based Raymond James tops Florida with $195 billion in AUM, with assets split between Raymond James & Associates and Raymond James Financial Services Advisors. In California, Sunnyvale-based RIA Financial Engines Advisors, which specializes in retirement and pension accounts, has $140 billion in AUM, more than any other independent firm.
But for advisers based in the Midwest, it is no surprise the finance industry has strong roots in the region.
“The Upper Midwest pattern is noteworthy,” says Jamie McLaughlin, an industry consultant at J.H. McLaughlin & Co. “There are significant wealth markets in the Midwest. A surfeit of family-held enterprises exist in places like Chicago, St. Louis and, particularly, Minneapolis.”