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VOL. 10 | NO. 38 | Saturday, September 16, 2017

Wunderlich Preparing Downtown Space for HQ Move

By Andy Meek

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By this time next year, Memphis-based investment firm Wunderlich Securities Inc. will have a prominent new headquarters space Downtown,

On the heels of its $67 million acquisition by B. Riley Financial, Wunderlich Securities announced plans to relocate its headquarters Downtown.  (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

Wunderlich, which was founded in 1996 and has called East Memphis home at 6000 Poplar Avenue for more than a decade, has signed a lease at One Commerce Square, where it’s taking 30,000 square feet and is on track to move in with about 100 employees May 1. Related to that relocation Downtown, firm CEO Gary Wunderlich said the company is “actively” looking for a small space in East Memphis where it could keep a satellite presence, something in the 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot range.

In all, the move will shift about 90 percent of the company’s Memphis presence Downtown, a deal that was announced in June as part of what’s been an atypical year for the firm, which has 26 offices around the country and employs about 400 people.

And the change keeps coming. Demolition has started on the firm’s space at One Commerce, where it will occupy floors 16 and 18. Meanwhile, a few landlords have begun putting information together to help the firm sift through possibilities for where it will install its satellite presence in East Memphis.

“Some of the people in the Memphis wealth management branch will remain out east,” Wunderlich said.

The pace of activity inside the firm has picked up in recent months. On the hiring front, Wunderlich said the firm has been adding advisers to its wealth management unit, and “our pipeline is as full as it’s ever been.”

Of Wunderlich’s more than 400 employees, 225 are financial advisers. The firm also maintains an institutional fixed-income business based in New York City, which, when combined with its wealth management operation, puts the employee total at a little more than 400 people.

The company, meanwhile, is also in discussions with a few smaller firms about adding them to Wunderlich’s wealth management business. Those overtures may not result in completed deals, but the firm is able to pursue them in part because of access to new capital thanks to a kind of acquisition of Wunderlich that was announced about a month before the headquarters relocation became public.

Los Angeles-based financial services firm B. Riley Financial acquired Wunderlich in a $67 million deal that was less an acquisition in the traditional sense – looking for efficiencies and cutting duplicate roles, for example – than a change at the holding company level.

The deal, according to B. Riley chairman and CEO Bryant Riley, made sense in part because “Wunderlich’s brokerage and research franchises strategically align with our current operations and expand our capabilities with minimal overlap of clients and coverage.”

Clients haven’t seen a change. And the deal hasn’t meant any change to the Wunderlich brand or operations. It also gives Wunderlich potential access to extra capital from B. Riley to pursue future growth.

That’s doubly true, Wunderlich added, now that the firm has this year’s major one-off projects out of the way, like negotiating the One Commerce lease and working on the transaction with B. Riley.

“I do think we’ll continue to add people to our wealth management business between now and the end of the year,” Wunderlich said. “And I see that growth continuing into 2018.

“With access to additional capital and resources, we can aim even higher from a growth perspective than we’ve been able to in the past. B. Riley’s got a great balance sheet, lots of liquidity, and so we’re looking to put that capital to work. The rest of this fiscal year is going to be much more about business development and growth than it was last year.”

Along those lines, the firm doesn’t just have a headquarters move on tap for 2018. Wunderlich also plans on taking more responsibilities, a kind of centralization of efforts that includes more information technology, human resources and accounting responsibilities.

In other news, the firm celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016 – 20 years on from the point in 1996 when a then-26-year-old Wunderlich acquired a small broker-dealer in Memphis to launch what would become his eponymous firm. Within two years, Wunderlich’s private client group welcomed a team of advisers in Houston, the first of what would be several branch locations around the country.

By 2002, the firm counted 60 financial advisers, and over the next six years Wunderlich expanded its reach into institutional sales, trading and research with the launch of its fixed income division, followed by an equity capital markets division.

Over two decades, Wunderlich grew from a 10-person startup in Memphis to a full-service wealth management firm with over $10 billion in client assets under administration.

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