In many ways, Heather Ettinger represents the future direction of HighTower. She co-manages Fairport Asset Management, a $1.5 billion RIA, and was already in the RIA space at WealthTrust when it was acquired by HighTower in 2017.

But she had a growth plan and needed a partner with some capital to implement it. Specifically, she wanted to christen a new firm, Luma Wealth Advisors, launched in June 2017 as a separate brand catering to women and acknowledging the reality that females are set to inherit trillions of dollars—as well as the decision-making authority over that money.

Fairport was a legacy of the brokerage firm Ettinger’s father founded, Cleveland’s Roulston & Co., whose roots go back to the 1960s. She’s been working in the women’s space, for a number of years in niches such as divorcees, widows, women of inherited wealth, women business owners and breadwinners.

Many advisory firms don’t cater to women and often aren’t sensitive to their needs, Ettinger says. Because she wanted to focus on building her business that way, a HighTower relationship allowed her to pursue this unique brand and offload chores she didn’t want—like technology building and compliance.

The firm helps her vet vendors and network with advisors doing similar things. “I’m on a call with them every other week talking about different strategic partnerships that we’re looking at that are very innovative, very different, and never in my career of having a partner like that have I had people who said, ‘This is really interesting, let’s delve into this, let’s think differently’ and embrace my disruptor ideas and my vision for how we could build something better.” She said other consolidation firms tend to think of businesses like hers as “grow and flip.”

HighTower’s investment in her firm allowed her to both grow the business organically through partnerships and referrals, but also to pursue strategic tuck-ins and acquisitions of advisors who want to be in the women’s space. “Obviously that requires capital,” she says. She claims HighTower has a higher proportion of female advisors than the industry in general does.

HighTower can also help her identify and vet potential acquisition targets, she says. In the last year, she says, she’s folded in two new advisors with about $150 million in assets. She currently has her own ADV, but the firm is moving under HighTower’s she says.

When HighTower Advisors opened its doors 10 years ago, the firm had a simple business proposition. Its goal was twofold: to give brokers from the wirehouses a place to pursue a conflict-free advice model and to consolidate the fast-growing RIA space, says its founder and CEO Elliot Weissbluth.

Weissbluth found two investors who gave HighTower instant credibility in both the RIA and wirehouse worlds. David Pottruck, former CEO or Charles Schwab & Co., had overseen the nation’s largest custodian when the fee-only advisor model exploded in the 1990s. Philip Purcell, former CEO of Morgan Stanley, who had engineered the blue-chip investment bank’s merger with Dean Witter to form a retail brokerage colossus rivaling Merrill Lynch.

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