Family Office

Ex-JPMorgan execs join multi-family office

Thomas Coyle 16 November 2005

Ex-JPMorgan execs join multi-family office

AMA aims to build a national brand in the ultra-HNW space. Former JPMorgan Private Bank chairman and CEO Maria Elena Lagomasino has been named CEO of Asset Management Advisors (AMA). The multi-family office has also hired two other ex-JPMorgan executives: Michael Holden as COO and Michael Zeuner as chief strategy and innovation officer. Hap Perry, AMA’s co-founder, chairman and former CEO, says he expects the new team help make AMA a nationally known wealth manager.

“We need to continue to get bigger,” says Perry. “And any growth strategy we undertake will entail establishing a national footprint.”

In fact AMA has grown at a fair clip since SunTrust Banks acquired it early in 2001. By the end of 2004 its assets under advisory had grown to about $5.9 billion, a 52% increase over its standing at the end of 2003, according to a survey of multi-family offices by Bloomberg Wealth Manager. Overall – and despite a deliberate pullback from geographic expansion in 2005 – Perry says AMA’s assets have increased at an annual rate of about 40% over the last four years.

Obvious places

In addition to its headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., AMA has offices in Miami, Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Greenwich, Conn. Most of those opened between late 2001 and late 2003. In 2004 AMA opened a second office in Atlanta and this year it expanded its Orlando office to include a satellite branch in Tampa, Fla.

With the exception of its 2003 purchase of Eagle Capital International, which established its Connecticut office, AMA has tended to hire teams to open offices in new locations, and it has tended to stay in SunTrust’s geographic shadow. Now though, AMA says it’s preparing adopt a more acquisitive stance with a view to building a national base.

“We’re looking at bigger mergers,” says Perry, adding that a national presence is necessary because of the increasing mobility of clients in $25-million-and-higher bracket. “Lots of these people have homes in Florida and on the West Coast or up in Maine,” he says. “It helps to be where they are.”

But Perry isn’t saying where AMA might strike next. “There are some obvious places like the West Coast, Texas, Chicago, but now we’re in the process of identifying the types of firms we [want to approach].”

In any case, he adds, AMA’s priority right now is helping its new management team get settled in.

What’s working

AMA’s search for a new CEO started about 15 months ago. The idea was to bring in a proven leader to run AMA while Perry and vice chairman Barbara O'Donnell concentrate on acquisition strategies.

Lagomasino, who left JPMorgan late last winter, was high on the list of several dozen candidates because of her experience with “the whole big company thing,” says Perry. As discussions with Lagomasino progressed, she suggested making it a package deal to include Holden and Zeuner, with whom she worked happily at JPMorgan.

AMA liked the idea of blending Lagomasino’s experience and leadership skills with what Perry calls Zeuner’s “strategic vision and creativity” and Holden’s “nuts and bolts understanding of operations. We saw a gap in our management. This is a team that will help us build a firm for the next generation.”

Zeuner says he was delighted to move to AMA because of its commitment to providing advice unfettered by proprietary products. “There’s a move toward advice that’s conflict-free” among ultra-high-net-worth clients, he says, adding that pure-play advisories grew 26% in 2004, about double the growth rate for old-line private banks and trusts. Right now, he adds, AMA has a about a 1% share of headcount in a market of about 30,000 ultra-high-net-worth individuals. “That’s an opportunity for growth.”

But Zeuner sees no great transformations in store for AMA’s business model. “This is not about a change in strategy,” he says. “It’s about taking what’s working and continuing to enhance and accelerate it.” –FWR


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