RIA Edge 100: Altfest Personal Wealth Management
Altfest Personal Wealth Management is hiring. The New York City-based registered investment advisor has added 26 team members in just five years, more than doubling staff to 40, and hopes to recruit at least three more early this year.
The plan is to establish satellite locations in at least four new markets within the next five years, said President Andrew Altfest, as the firm continues to grow its client base through targeted and tech-enhanced marketing.
“We call it Sales 2.0,” he said of the firm’s digital marketing initiative, which is run by two dedicated marketing employees and expected to drive around $100 million in net new assets over the next few years.
Since making the decision to add a marketing team in 2018, he said the firm has added more new clients than at any other time in its history. Ultimately, the goal is to replicate the strategy in new markets and grow each location to hundreds of millions in new assets annually.
“We’re very confident that the infrastructure we built to drive a lot of new business to our firm can be replicated in other parts of the country,” Altfest said. “And then we’re going to be hiring on the ground, as appropriate, to support those offices.”
Altfest has little interest in expanding through mergers or acquisitions, he said, preferring to focus on organic growth.
Founded in 1983 by Andrew’s father, CEO Lewis Altfest, the firm currently serves around 700 clients with some $1.6 billion in managed assets.
Andrew, who became president in 2019, spearheaded new technology and growth strategies that were effectively jumpstarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, when digital interactions became the norm. At the time, Altfest Personal Wealth Management oversaw around $1.3 billion in assets — up from $200 million when he first joined in 2003, due exclusively to local networking and client referrals.
“What I found leading the firm,” said Andrew Altfest, “is that if you really want to grow quickly, you need to go beyond your client base. It’s a challenge but also an opportunity. So, the question is: how do you do that? And that’s where we’ve been focused.”
The RIA wants to grow “more like a tech company,” Altfest said, explaining that the digital marketing strategy utilizes “influencers” with large audiences to disseminate a variety of targeted content in niche markets highlighting Altfest’s cumulative expertise.
HubSpot, an AI-enhanced marketing platform, provides feedback regarding how content is received and makes suggestions on matching the right content with the right prospects, enabling the firm to send targeted and more effective emails and offers.
“You have to know what you’re great at,” he said. “We’ve always been a strong voice in the industry and so content marketing plays well to our strengths.”
A co-founder of NAPFA and with a PhD in finance, Lewis Altfest has authored multiple books and teaches at Pace University. He regularly appears at industry events and has received numerous industry accolades throughout his career, including for his work with health care professionals. His wife, Dr. Karen Altfest, joined the firm in the mid-1980s and still serves as executive vice president, with a focus on working with women and widows. She conducts educational seminars for recent widows and pre-retirees and is often a featured speaker on the topic of women and finance.
Andrew Altfest is also the founder of FP Alpha, AI-powered software that saves advisors the time once spent creating bespoke plans around trusts and estates, taxes, insurance and more. The software, which won the 2022 Wealthies award for innovation in technology, uses artificial intelligence to read uploaded documents, provide visual summaries and identify opportunities in more than a dozen high-level planning areas, including elder care, cross-border and student debt planning. The recommendation engine pulls resources collected from a pool of specialists, like attorneys, CPAs and insurance advisors, and creates a workflow to follow through on the opportunities.
“There’s a huge demand for this,” said Altfest. “It’s also a huge part of winning new business—because these are unmet needs.”
The technology also lets Altfest advisors assess complicated client documents on an annual basis to ensure they align with each client’s overall financial plan in a way that was previously only available to the firm’s wealthiest clients, he said, because of the time demand.
“So, this is how we can add more services without having to add more resources.”
Altfest is clearly focused on continuing to add resources in the form of talent and capabilities, however. Nearly half of the firm’s staff consists of advisors—all of whom are expected to have or to earn their CFP designations—in addition to several chartered financial analysts, four certified public accountants, an estate attorney and two staff members with insurance expertise.
There is also a team of four that runs the firm’s private real estate strategy, and they’re currently looking to bring in someone with a background in evaluating construction management.
“We couldn’t find anything as attractive as what we were seeing in the private real estate market under one particular strategy,” said Altfest. “So, we went out and built it ourselves and offered it to our clients. That’s a big differentiator and it’s a very big value-add for us.”
The focus on adding talent to maintain and expand client service while experiencing rapid growth earned the firm a spot on WealthManagement.com’s introductory RIA Edge 100 list, developed with Discovery Data and published in February.
“We are far below the industry average in terms of client-to-advisor ratios,” said Altfest. “And we keep a tight lid on that number.”
Each Altfest client works with multiple advisors, he said, a primary client-facing advisor and a “financial advisor specialist” who remains behind the scenes providing strategic support — as well as other specialists and support staff.
“We’ve been expanding our services to our clients without increasing our headcount using technology,” he said. “But it’s very important, in terms of accommodating new growth, that we’re hiring to keep our client advisory ratios in a good place so that clients get the best service from us.”
Altfest expects to establish the first few satellites in hub markets on the East Coast.
“It’s a personal goal to have one new location per year,” said Andrew Altfest.