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BKD Wealth Advisors hits $2B in managed assets

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BKD Wealth Advisors LLC hit a notable milestone in October when company officials announced it had surpassed $2 billion in assets under management.

The wealth management firm notched $1 billion in May 2005. Out of six Midwestern offices, the company serves roughly 1,000 clients, said President Jack Thurman.

The milestone put the division of national accounting firm BKD LLP in some elite company, he said.

“It makes us one of the largest private wealth management firms in the United States,” Thurman said.

Earlier this year, BKD Wealth Advisors was listed for the fifth consecutive year on Accounting Today’s list of the Top Firms by Assets Under Management. The firm had the ninth highest amount of assets under management on the 2012 list. Southfield, Mich.-based Plante Moran Financial Advisors, $7.4 billion, was ranked No. 1.

Thurman said BKD Wealth’s notable competitors in asset volumes managed include Woodside, Calif.-based Fisher Investments and St. Louis-based Moneta Group LLC.

As a registered investment adviser firm, BKD Wealth does not collect commissions on investments, a difference among large broker dealers such as Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Thurman said advisers at BKD Wealth earn fees based on their assets under management.

The difference, according to Springfield Office Director and Managing Adviser Rhonda Christopher, is that its wealth management advisers aren’t looking to sell certain stocks in order to reel in a higher commission.

“We have no affiliation with any particular investment, so when we are looking at recommendations for a client, we are looking globally at what choices best fit that client,” Christopher said, pointing to individual retirement accounts, equity markets and real estate investment trusts.

Christopher said the 11 Springfield employees manage about $500 million in assets, and the advisers are focused on individual client strategies for such goals as retirement and education.

“It is not solely about investing money. It is about how we invest to meet their goals, and how we set those goals, and how we make choices as far as how aggressive they want to be with those investments,” Christopher said.

Thurman said the company historically has drawn a majority of its new clients from BKD’s accounting practice. However, in recent years, Thurman said that dynamic has changed and many, if not most, of its new clients are coming on the references of its customer base. “We are building a reputation of quality among the high-net clients,” he said. “Reputation builds reputation.”

Though Thurman declined to name any notable clients, he said many are quiet leaders in their communities.

“A great majority of our clients are the millionaire next door, usually low-profile business owners or professionals who have gained wealth through their business or profession and they want to delegate their wealth management to us,” Thurman said. “These are not the people who are playing the market on a daily basis. They are truly people who say, ‘I’m going to take care of my business. I need you to take care of my wealth.’

“We do have prominent businesspeople, prominent entertainers, but none that we would come out and name,” Thurman said.

The company boasts a 98.5 percent client retention rate, he said.

“The market has obviously done fairly well during the last year, but we also had some asset growth with new clients and have retained our clients. It is a combination of things. You have got to make sure you are maintaining current clients, then you have to go and get new clients, and then you have to hope for the best that the market goes up,” Thurman said.

He said the firm’s officials realized around the first of July that it had hit the $2 billion milestone, but it waited until October to celebrate because it wanted to ensure the mark was sustainable.

Christopher said she feels the firm’s employees have perhaps not celebrated the accomplishment appropriately.

“We haven’t celebrated as much as we should. I think we were just working so hard to get there and then once we got there, we were still working so hard,” Christopher said.

In recognition of the milestone, BKD LLP donated $4,000 to the American Cancer Society in honor of Lisa Workman and Ed Crumm, two partners who recently died after battling cancer. The ACS donation supports the local chapter’s Patient Transportation Program, which provides $50 gas cards to cancer patients traveling between medical facilities for treatment.

Thurman said the move was designed to demonstrate its culture of commitment to its employees and the communities it serves.

As for the next milestone, Thurman expects the company to reach $3 billion in assets under management within three years.[[In-content Ad]]

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