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Rebalancing the Back Office

One advisory firm's experience with rebalancing software.

David J. Drucker, 02/25/2010

When Bill McAfee worked in the banking industry on both the lending and private banking sides, he felt that the banks he worked for were disjointed in their services. "The banks were only advising on the liquid portion of their high-net-worth clients' assets, which is what led me to start WHM Capital Advisors in 2002."

WHM, based in Columbia, S.C., works with families whose businesses are their largest asset.

"Our clients' attitude is that if we're willing to help them with their main [illiquid] asset, they'll give us the asset management work--which they see as a commodity anyway--as well as allow us to advise on other financial issues too," he said.

McAfee said that 80% of his firm's new assets come from his clients' liquidation of their privately held companies.

"We talk a lot about how--when families get to that 'liquidity event'--they need new advisors. They've probably had an M&A-type advisor in the past--someone to help them through the short-term process of getting liquidity--and then they shop for an advisor to assist with wealth management and family office services," he said. "They couldn't get this 'macro issue coverage' from their earlier advisors."

What WHM does is provide advice leading up to the liquidation event as well as management of all the clients' assets through and after the liquidity event. McAfee sees this service as a much superior to the service offered by banks that simply can't meet all of their small-business clients' needs.

"When talking with prospective clients, we don't lead with asset management because we don't want to compete with thousands of other firms that focus on assets," said John Barnes, WHM's chief operating officer. "The management of their liquid assets comes to us because we've helped them with other things."

Still a relatively new firm, WHM consists of five employees and works with 35 families representing $40 million under management. McAfee says that about half of these families have had their liquidity event and the other half will have one at some point in the future. As liquidity events occur, their assets under management grow.

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