(Dow Jones) Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s new legal troubles could be a boon for some wealth managers, particularly independent and smaller firms.
The government's fraud suit against the venerable firm adds yet another black mark to Wall Street and another opportunity for advisers elsewhere to emphasize their hands-on approach and fiduciary responsibility to the client.
"When things like this happen, it's always a good time to pick up new clients," said Deena Katz, chairman of Evensky & Katz, a wealth management firm in Coral Gables, Fl.
Still, it could be too early for wealth managers to win over Goldman's own clients. The company may beat the Securities and Exchange Commission's charges, and its clients could stay loyal no matter what.
"My guess is you won't see anybody moving just yet," said Rich Lynch, chief operating officer of fi360, a Bridgeville, Pa.-based fiduciary training service.
Part of the reason for that could be the nature of Goldman's wealth management operations. The company caters to ultra high-net worth clients-often with tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars of assets-who may better understand the complex nature of a company like Goldman, which both creates and sells investment products.
Plus, Goldman has a track record of making money for its clients, ultimately ensuring their long-term commitment to the firm. In 2009, Goldman ranked 16 out of 35 wealth managers in an annual survey by the New York-based Luxury Institute-not as high as some boutique-style companies (Bessemer Trust ranked first), but still in a much more favorable position than other prominent Wall Street outfits (Merrill Lynch came in last).
"A firm that has met with the level of success that Goldman has breeds considerable loyalty within the ranks of its clients," said Jacob Frenkel, a former SEC enforcement attorney who now works with Shulman Rogers, a Washington-based law firm.
Which is not to say that Frenkel doesn't expect competitors to make their pitch, using Goldman's suddenly tarnished reputation as an opening talking point.
"There's almost a natural circling of the vultures," he added.