VOL. 10 | NO. 18 | Saturday, April 29, 2017
EMPHASIS: Financial Services
Revolution Partners Quietly Growing But Holding On to Client-First Mindset
By Andy Meek
A conversation with Revolution Partners CEO Brian Fowler about the wealth management firm he and his team have been quietly growing since its launch in 2014 eventually turns philosophical, to encompass ideas like time, values, how to identify the things that matter.
Revolution Partners CEO Brian Fowler says his firm sets itself apart in several ways, including investing in the same holdings it recommends for client portfolios. “It keeps everyone’s eye on what we’re there to do,” he adds.
(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
Whether it’s the alliance Revolution announced a few months ago with the accounting firm Alexander Thompson Arnold PLLC or the firm’s technology platform that lets clients always know how much they’ve invested with Revolution, what they’ve paid and what the benefit has been, the firm is trying to stand apart from the competition. To represent a revolution, if you will, in the financial lives of its clients.
The firm has been quietly establishing itself since its launch, but already it has aspirations that include growing into a successful boutique-like firm that remains private. Fowler is adamant on that point; too many investment and wealth management firms, he says, have to juggle the short-term demands of public shareholders against their clients’ long-term interests – something he says is “pretty tough to balance.”
Another reason his firm likes to think it stands out from the competition?
“We align our interests with our clients, so much so that we actually invest in the portfolio recommendations we recommend to our clients,” said Fowler, a former Morgan Keegan executive. “And we require ourselves to pay more than our clients pay. So in simple terms, we eat our own cooking, and pay more for it. It keeps everyone’s eye on what we’re there to do.”
Fowler himself is a 20-year veteran of the industry, having been around enough client meetings and sales pitches to have a certain idea how a firm like Revolution should be structured. Part of that also comes from being around things enough to sense a shift in the industry over time.
“I ran a division called Wealth Management Services, about a 130-person division of Morgan Keegan,” Fowler said about the Memphis-based investment firm eventually acquired by Raymond James. “We were responsible for overseeing virtually everything but the two institutional stock and bond divisions. Having that purview and being an adviser and kind of peering into how over 1,000 financial advisers were operating, I learned a lot.”
When it came time for the launch of Revolution, he and the rest of the team were insistent that there would be no hidden fees, confusing commissions or marketing costs that get passed along to the client. Revolution doesn’t accept product commissions and shows investors what they’re paying in one consolidated fee.
Revolution deliberately set out to sidestep some of the realities associated with brokerage firms today, with the firm deciding not to participate in third-party revenue-sharing arrangements or to accept product commissions or revenue-based reward trips sponsored by mutual fund or annuity companies. The firm’s typical clients are entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses, especially those with multiple generations involved in the enterprise, as well as private business owners and professionals such as physicians.
The way Revolution CFO and chief compliance officer John Moss puts it, time is an asset – one of the key thoughts the firm repeatedly stresses to its clients. And clients being the keyword, as the firm takes pains to distinguish them from customers.
“When I first entered the investment industry, it was very clear we had customers,” said Moss, who came to Revolution with almost 30 years of investment industry experience, as well as accounting and taxation experience, to develop and expand the firm’s client investment and tax planning strategies.
Moss joined Revolution Partners after 29 years with Morgan Keegan and its acquirer, Raymond James.
“What we’re trying to evolve to is thinking about clients,” he said. “I do think in this business what most people want when they walk into the lobby of an investment firm is to be taken care of. This is not rocket science. It’s just about clarity of purpose and execution – to say actually, ‘I’m putting your best interests forward.’
“What I think sets us apart is we try at every level we can to mean this. I mean, whoever says they’re not customer-focused? Everybody says the words. But words are cheap. We’re trying, we’re really trying, to execute a well-articulated philosophy. It’s what makes the place tick.”