After adding 18 wealth managers in the Southeast in the past five months, Wilmington Trust Corp. plans to continue to expand in the region as it looks to cross-sell more products and services to its existing customers.
The Delaware company’s wealth arm has added all of the wealth managers to its two offices in Atlanta, which caters to high-net-worth in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. It started to expand in the region in 2002 when it bought Balentine & Co., an Atlanta investment counseling firm.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Wilmington [WILM] hired a team of eight wealth managers from BNY Mellon Wealth Management’s [BK] office in Atlanta, including its regional head, Jack Sawyer.
Mark Graham, the head of Wilmington’s wealth advisory services group said in an interview Wednesday that the company plans to add more in the region, but wouldn’t pinpoint where or how many.
“When we are convinced that there is an opportunity in a region we try not to take an incremental approach,” he said. “We are convinced that there is a sizeable opportunity in and around Atlanta and we will add people as opportunities arise, but we won’t hire just for numbers sake.”
Wilmington, which has about 600 wealth managers nationally that service individuals with at least $3 million of assets, is interested in adding advisers with “expertise and client relationships,” Graham said. This strategy enabled the company to increase client assets under management 15% overall last year to $42 billion.
Advisors said that Wilmington, which also caters to family offices with $100 million or more in investable assets, has continued to add assets for the past decade by expanding its footprint nationally by buying investment managers in large metropolitan areas and then expanding organically in that market as a way to complement its commercial banking and wealth businesses in the Middle Atlantic region.
Wilmington ventured into Florida about 25 years ago and since 1997 has opened offices in Pennsylvania, California, New York, Georgia and Maryland.
After buying Balentine In 2002, it established itself in California with its acquisition of Grant Tani Barash & Altman LLC, a Beverly Hills wealth manager.
Ted T. Cecala, the company’s chief executive officer, has said that it plans to make acquisitions to enter Chicago, Minneapolis, Northern California and Dallas/Fort Worth. "We have a few holes in the footprint," he said. "We want to expand. By acquiring a book of business with a good group of referrals, we can build a strong foothold in a region."
Making a deal takes a lot of time and careful consideration, Cecala said. For example, he said Wilmington Trust spent five or six years considering deals before it bought Bingham Legg Advisers LLC of Boston in 2007.
Graham, who has run wealth management for Wilmington for two years, said it isn’t hunting for acquisitions. He said he’d prefer to continue adding advisors, specifically mentioning Boston and Baltimore. “In each of our existing markets,” he said, “we see distinct opportunities to growth our business. … We want to continue hiring locally so that we are getting people that really know these markets.”