- Rockefeller Capital Management bought a multifamily office with $1.4 billion in assets in March.
- More acquisitions and hires are on the way for the firm, led by Wall Street veteran Greg Fleming.
- Rockefeller exec Heather Flanagan told Insider what’s next for the $75 billion firm.
Rockefeller Capital Management, the wealth firm built from the 139-year-old Rockefeller family office, is growing at a breakneck pace.
Led by Greg Fleming, former Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch executive, Rockefeller hit $75 billion in client assets at the end of March, up from $43 billion in May 2020, and closed on the acquisition of a $1.4 billion family office, Whitnell Capital, that same month. The New York-based firm is aggressively poaching from larger rivals including UBS and Merrill Lynch, including its new head of tax policy, who came from Wells Fargo.
More acquisitions and hires are on the way for Rockefeller, said executive Heather Flanagan, who left HSBC Private Banking to join the firm last June. The firm is branching out into specialty advisory areas including tax planning and philanthropy to address more needs of its high-net-worth clientele.
“We’re trying to build the services for an organization that has dramatically changed. It’s not like the family calls in and says, ‘We need you to get a mortgage for our $20 million apartment that we want to buy in New York City next month.’ Now we’ve got clients that we have to serve from all different regions of the country, all different asset levels, and in different ways,” Flanagan, head of trust, fiduciary and client accounting services, told Insider.
Rockefeller Capital Management has four business lines: asset management, strategic advisory, family office services, and private wealth management. The latter two are housed under the same division, Rockefeller Global Family Office.
There are now 53 private wealth advisor teams and 21 family office advisor teams. The family office division typically handles clients with a minimum of $50 million invested, though there isn’t a set minimum.
The family office unit provides a variety of services. For some families, they are the full family office and do everything. For others who already have family office staff, Rockefeller plugs the gaps, ranging from compliance services to unique investment opportunities such as offerings for AllBirds and SpaceX as well as private equity vehicles.
Most of the family office advisors are concentrated in New York City and Saratoga, NY, with others located in Boston, Connecticut, Mountain View, CA, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. This cross-country presence was made possible with two big multifamily office acquisitions: Whitnell, which is based in Chicago, and Financial Clarity, a firm with Silicon Valley clientele that oversaw about $2.3 billion in assets at the time of the deal in October 2019.
More acquisitions are on the way. “I will look to acquire RIAs in certain locations where we are not. Chicago was ideal as the epicenter, essentially, of the Midwest for us,” Rockefeller’s family office head Tim O’Hara told Insider after the Whitnell acquisition was announced in January.
The family office arm has 32 client advisors and four investment advisors, and the firm is looking to grow headcount and specialties. In April Rockefeller hired a new head of tax policy, Tim Laffey, former senior vice president and senior wealth planner at Wells Fargo, who will decide the firm’s stances on tax policy issues as well as meet with clients.
“Our advisory services start with wealth strategy, but we’re adding these kind of specialized areas as well,” Flanagan said.
It was a pressing need given that high-net-worth Americans are panicking about potential tax changes from the Biden administration and a Senate with a slight Democratic majority. Flanagan said clients are particularly concerned with proposed changes grantor-retained annuity trusts (GRAT), a popular estate planning technique, as well as the prospect of any changes being retroactive. Rockefeller has made six hires in the past few months in their trusts division in Delaware in anticipation that clients will rush to make changes to their estate plans before the end of the year.
“We think there is probably to be some fairly good activity in our trust companies this year to try and get ahead of that planning. I predict we’ll probably see a lot more interest in charitable planning as well.”
One industry concern is bridging the gap between clients and their children as baby boomers approach retirement and are expected to pass along an estimated $68 trillion in assets over the next 25 years. Most heirs ditch their parents’ wealth advisors after inheriting wealth. Flanagan says this is one area that Rockefeller is not concerned about as the firm already invests in assets popular with Millennials such as ESG (environmental, social, and governance) products and has a team that focuses on family dynamics. For one family, Rockefeller designed a financial literacy program for the next generation of a family for the young heirs.
“We have a pretty good history with our flagship family. Seven generations is incredible.”