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April 25, 2022 Business Strategy

GYL Financial Synergies sees growth in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, as mixed-use development expands office space footprint

PHOTO | COSTAR GYL Financial Synergies nearly doubled the size of its office space when it moves to a newly-renovated 9,000-square-foot space in the Lexicon building in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square.
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Since co-founding West Hartford-based independent registered investment advisor GYL Financial Synergies LLC in 2016, CEO Gerry Goldberg has seen his firm grow substantially.

Over the past six years — despite the pandemic — GYL has increased its employee count from 12 to 50, expanded from one location to three, and increased combined investment assets under management and advisement from $4 billion to more than $9.5 billion.

Gerry Goldberg

GYL’s latest sign of growth, however, is measured in square footage.

Later this summer the firm expects to nearly double the size of its office space when it moves to a newly-renovated 9,000-square-foot space in the Lexicon Building in West Hartford’s posh Blue Back Square, which is undergoing its own growth and transition under the new ownership of Greenwich-based Charter Realty & Development Corp.

Goldberg’s decision to stay in Blue Back — GYL Financial previously leased space at nearby 65 Memorial Road — reflects a trend that Paul Brandes, principal of Charter Realty & Development, thinks other professional services firms will follow.

To meet that anticipated demand, Brandes — whose company last year acquired the 450,000-square-foot mixed-use properties in Blue Back for $40 million — will be creating additional Class-A office space within the development to cater to professional services firms like financial advisors, advertisers, and digital marketing agencies.

GYL’s expanding footprint comes at a time when many companies are scaling back their office space in favor of hybrid models or more remote employees. Goldberg understands the need for flexibility but said company culture and team chemistry are harder to build and sustain remotely.

“If you don’t have people together the two things most susceptible to suffering are culture and training,” Goldberg said.

That’s particularly important to Goldberg, who is looking to add five new positions in the coming months, including in HR, compliance and his advisory services team. To strike a balance, he said, GYL will offer employees who have been with the firm more than a year, one day a week to work remotely.

M&A activity

GYL Financial’s growth has not just been local and organic. Over the past three years, the firm has joined forces with two additional investment advisory firms — Westport-based Resnick Advisors and Wechter Feldman Wealth Management, a full-service advisory firm headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey. Both deals were backed by capital from Focus Financial Partners, a publicly-traded investor in wealth management firms.

Terms of both deals were not disclosed.

The acquisitions, Goldberg said, were driven by a desire to both expand the firm’s geographic reach and increase staff expertise to better service clients, including certified public accountant talent.

“Our core values come down to three pillars,” Goldberg said. “Clients, team members and community … with clients at the top of the pyramid.”

In fact, it was client requests that motivated Goldberg and his partners to launch an independent registered investment advisory firm, after 20 years with a large wirehouse brokerage company.

“We had gotten feedback from clients that they wanted [an advisory] environment that was conflict [of interest] free,” Goldberg said.

As a fee-only registered investment advisor, he said, he and his employees do not receive commissions from the sale of products or services.

“The [fee-only] model clearly defines exactly what the client is paying us and it’s fully transparent,” Goldberg said.

That’s helped GYL build trust and grow both the number of institutional clients, including corporations and municipalities, and private wealth management. His clients range from less than $3 million in assets on the private side to several hundred million at the institutional level.

GYL supports clients across 38 states, largely concentrated in the Northeast.

Office market outlook

GYL’s choice to expand in Blue Back Square aligns with the mixed-use development’s focus in attracting professional services companies, real estate experts said.

“West Hartford Center and Glastonbury Center are two outposts for … financial services companies,” said Chris Ostop, managing director of JLL, a commercial real estate firm. “Whenever there’s a hiccup in the economy [like the pandemic], there’s always a flight to quality [locations].”

Blue Back Square is a 450,000-square-foot mixed-use development in West Hartford.

Charter Realty’s Brandes said he is seeing that uptick in Blue Back now. He said the current inventory of office space is more than 80% full and with deals in the works — including three new undisclosed restaurants planned for Blue Back over the coming months — he expects that number to be closer to 90% occupancy by summer.

“Blue Back has [advantages] for office space that other [office] real estate in the area cannot provide,” Brandes said, noting the property’s Delmar Hotel and combination of retail and restaurants provide professional firms with convenient, pedestrian-friendly amenities.

Paul Brandes

And he’s bullish on future office growth. In fact, the company plans to convert the 35,000-square-foot former New York Sports Club at 65 Memorial Road into new office space.

The firm is also managing a full-scale lobby renovation in its Rutherford Building location on Memorial Road.

As for office space, Brandes said, he’s seeing a trend toward customized designs.

“People are looking for something unique and they want a livable environment,” he said.

In a post-pandemic world, there’s been a mix of traditional office in-person environments and newer shared space designs to accommodate hybrid work models.

For GYL’s Goldberg, new space represents another sign of the firm’s steady growth trajectory.

He credits financial technology with playing a vital role in scaling his business and industry, which has been fueled by two main factors in recent years: an intergenerational transfer of Baby Boomer wealth and the proliferation of financial products on the market.

That’s created a greater need for wealth advisory services, including estate planning, charitable giving and retirement planning among GYL’s clientele. It’s a client base that Goldberg hopes to keep growing as GYL looks to expand its East Coast reach through additional acquisitions.

He’s looking for more than just talent, too.

“We want people who want to be part of a purpose-driven organization that has core values and is taking care of its clients, team and giving back to the community,” he said.

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