The lingering effects of the Great Recession and the fresh sting of the Madoff Ponzi scheme have created lasting turmoil in the investment and money management industries.
While many wealth managers are adopting a low profile, waiting for the dust to settle, Heartland Advisors, a Milwaukee value-based investment firm, is taking the opposite approach. The firm is now actively working to expand its client base by reaching out to investors who want to have a direct relationship with their money manager.
“It goes against the grain a little bit,” said Michael Kops, vice president of sales, private accounts, with the firm. “We’re going out and selling, marketing to those people. We’re talking about the benefit of having a personal relationship with your money manager.”
Kops, who joined the firm in October of 2009, is helping Heartland Advisors gain new high net worth clients with $1 million in assets and up. With those clients, Kops and his colleagues are meeting directly with investors or their advisors.
“My role is not to go out there and take money from brokers. It’s to go to the do-it-yourselfers, someone who wants a deeper relationship with their managers,” Kops said. “They (clients) can meet with us and speak directly to their money managers. It eliminates the fees in the middle.”
Heartland Advisors’ high net worth clients frequently call or meet with their advisor from the firm, Kops said, after the company develops value-based investment plans designed for each of its affluent clients.
“This is like a mutual fund built exclusively for them. They hold the securities exclusively,” Kops said. “For people who are ready to make their own decisions and allocations, this is a perfect fit.”
Kops worked previously as a business development executive at Milwaukee-based Novo Group. Before his time with Novo Group, he worked as a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley and as a sales manager at Strong Investments in Menomonee Falls.
“When I worked at Strong, I worked with people who invested directly in Strong’s funds who had a direct relationship with their money manager,” Kops said. “Who that really speaks to the most are folks here in the Midwest. I wanted something like Strong, where you have the brains and business acumen to manage money as good as anyone on Wall Street, but you can walk in here and recognize immediately that we’re not Wall Street.”
Heartland Advisors also serves Main Street-level clients through its three Heartland Funds, which are value-based mutual funds that require a minimum investment of $2,500.
In that spirit, Heartland Advisors is now developing its own internal call center to field calls from Heartland Fund clients. The company formerly outsourced that function. It is now hiring two full-time employees to take calls from shareholders.
“The call center is using the same idea as our high net worth clients, that our clients should have personal relationships with their advisors and they should be able to call an expert on these topics,” Kops said. “We want them to feel like one of their relationships (with a money manager) is different, that they feel more connected to this one relationship and they can get more information here.”
Dave Ribbens, senior vice president of sales and marketing with Heartland Advisors, said the company’s growth strategy has sprung from the firm’s founding principles.
“It is in the DNA of this company to care deeply about our individual (client) relationships. That’s something we value greatly,” he said.