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February 9, 2015

Growing wealth advisor focuses on team-based approach

PHOTO | Contributed An increasing number of wealth management firms that serve high-net-worth investors, including Aegis Wealth Partners whose advisors are shown above discussing market trends, use a team-based model where several advisors offer insights on different topics to the same client.
Brett Amendola, founder, Aegis Wealth Partners
Raymond Bovich, managing director and chief investment officer, Aegis Wealth Partners

Brett Amendola spent 20-plus years at several big name financial firms in Connecticut — American Express, Prudential and UBS — earning senior-level titles and a good living.

But in 2012 he decided to hang his own shingle, opening financial advisory and wealth management firm Aegis Wealth Partners with offices in Madison and Milford.

So why take the risk of running his own shop?

Amendola said he thought there was a better way to attract clients by offering a team-based model in which advisors share clients and offer a broader array of advice.

While the business model is not wholly unique — other area wealth management firms say they too offer some variation of team-based wealth management — it seems to be paying off for Aegis, which has grown to 30 advisors in less than three years.

“We're actually looking to add 10 advisors every year for the next three years,” said Amendola. “We're doing business up and down the East Coast so our goal is to open a Rhode Island location and a location in Fairfield County.”

The team-based wealth management model has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially for firms that cater to high-net-worth investors, according to a 2011 whitepaper by IBM and Pyramid Solutions.

In fact, some estimates show that nearly 96 percent of wealth management practices serving high-net-worth investors use some type of team-based approach, where the advisor serves as a relationship manager, coordinating the client's service among different experts within the firm, the study found.

Amendola said his firm tries to differentiate itself with its veteran staff that specializes in a broad range of areas including estate and tax planning, educational and traditional IRAs, and insurance. They also recently hired a chartered financial analyst, which is a rare position among wealth management firms.

Amendola said he is bullish about growth prospects in Connecticut because of the state's high per-capita income, which creates an increased need for wealth management firms.

One of the challenges of forming his own company was finding talent. Amendola said he's landed much of his firm's staff through referrals from past colleagues as well as current advisors.

“We're looking to recruit a specific type of advisor who wants to work in a team-based platform,” said Amendola. “Obviously, not every advisor wants to work for our firm.”

He met one of his latest recruits, Raymond Bovich, Aegis' managing director and chief investment officer, over 15 years ago when Amendola was divisional vice president at UBS in Stamford and Bovich was vice president and institutional director at Calamos Investments in New York.

When the pair's paths crossed again about three years ago, they stayed in contact as Amendola started and grew Aegis. In October, Amendola tapped Bovich to head up Aegis' asset management duties.

“I liked what Brett had to say and I liked the way he was running his business,” said Bovich, who has clocked 30-plus years in finance at firms like Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch. “He leads through delegation and hires people who have the experience and are willing to work hard.”

Another challenge of starting his own firm, Amendola said, was finding the right affiliations and investors.

After meeting with 26 different companies, Amendola said he chose to affiliate with New York-based The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. While the insurer has invested an undisclosed sum in Aegis, Amendola said his firm is not restricted to exclusively selling Guardian Life's products.

“We 100 percent always do what's in the best interest of the clients at all times,” said Amendola. “Our clients' needs are diverse and complicated; I think insurance and asset management go hand in hand.”

Amendola's roots are firmly planted in Connecticut. After he graduated from Quinnipiac University in 1991 with a finance degree, he said his successes and setbacks in financial services helped him to understand this region's clientele.

“I've worked at both large investment firms and large insurance firms; I like to say I'm like Mikey in the cereal commercial — I'll try anything,” Amendola said.

Amendola credits his experience working with American Express, UBS and Mass Mutual for providing him the mentorship that has shaped his vision and management style, which includes an intense focus on creating and adhering to a strategic vision.

“There's nothing worse than working for a company that doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up,” he said.

Amendola said his goal is to build Aegis into a top destination for Connecticut advisors and eventually let his kids take over the business.

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