(Dow Jones) Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. wants to make a bigger name for itself in the wealth management business.
The old and usually quiet partnership makes most of its money as a custody provider and asset administrator to fund companies. It now says it's ready to add staff and increase the profile of a private-client practice that's traditionally served business owners and executives of its institutional clients.
"Our goal is to selectively expand the number of our client-facing personnel and to gain visibility," says Robert Gould, a partner at BBH and head of its Investment & Wealth Management unit.
This push makes sense to Douglass Dannemiller, a senior analyst with the research firm Aite Group. "It's a good time for them to come forward," he says. "Brown Brothers hasn't been in the news, and their name is completely unsullied. Most of the traditional wealth-management players have been tarnished in recent years."
But Gould says BBH's timing has more to do with internal priorities than its rivals' woes.
Over the past few years, the firm has shifted away from a wealth management platform-in which portfolio managers were clients' primary contacts--to one with dedicated relationship managers. In addition, waiting until now to emphasize its wealth management capabilities, including goals-based wealth planning as well as trust and estate services, has given BBH's mainstay Core Select mutual-fund offering, launched in 2005, time build a track record.
With those pieces in place, BBH feels it's time to add more wealth managers in an organic growth campaign based on building out existing offices and aimed at bringing in full-service clients with between $10 million and $100 million in investable assets.
BBH plans to raise visibility for its private-client services through selective advertising, event sponsorship and the industry buzz that comes from hiring "first-class personnel," says Gould.
Geographic expansion, while not out of question, isn't too likely. "Geography is important, but it's not critical," says Gould. "When need be, our folks get on planes and go to see our clients."
Growth by means of acquisition is even less likely, adds Gould.