RIA Edge 100: F.L.Putnam Investment Management
When CEO Tom Manning accepted the offer to run F.L.Putnam Investment Management in late 2015, he insisted that employees be given equity in the firm as a condition of his employment. At the time, F.L.Putnam was managing about $1.4 billion in client assets and primarily focused on investment management for institutions, foundations and endowments.
Since Manning took the helm, the century-old firm has grown assets to $4.2 billion, built out financial planning capabilities for wealthy individuals and families and acquired an alternative investment consulting business. Over the last four years, The Wellesley, MA-based firm has more than doubled its staff, expanding to 84 employees across offices in five states, and maintained a high ratio of credentialed, client-facing advisors—earning it a place on WealthManagement.com’s RIA Edge 100 list, released in February.
“It was a condition of my employment that equity of the firm would begin to be distributed to the people within the organization,” Manning said, noting that nearly half of the firm’s employees are currently equity owners and he expects that number to grow.
“There’s a huge difference between people that operate as employees of the organization and those that operate and act as owners of the business,” he explained. “It’s had an incredible impact on the culture of the firm. And, in my mind, one of the key reasons the firm has grown the way that it has is because everyone has a big, vested interest in what we do and how we do it on behalf of our clients. And I think it shows.”
Manning also initiated a new focus on building out comprehensive financial planning services—starting with adding talent.
“The private planning business is where I really felt the opportunity was,” he said. “We needed to build out financial planning to go alongside the investment platform that had been built here over the firm’s history.”
He reached out to industry contacts to build a team that would support growth, beginning with financial planners and adding operations and technology support early on. One of his first hires, he said, was an advisor who had left the firm to pursue financial planning elsewhere and came back when Manning reached out to explain the changes that were underway.
In 2019, F.L.Putnam acquired Financial Focus in New Hampshire and opened a new office in Providence, RI, run by the former president of BNY Mellon Bank in Rhode Island.
“The acquisition of Financial Focus accelerated the growth of our financial planning capabilities,” Manning said. “As those pieces came together, the model has just been incredibly attractive to prospective clients.”
He explained that each client has two dedicated advisors: one investment advisor focused on portfolio construction and tax strategy and one financial planner working on all other non-investment related needs.
“That way, the client gets two experts rather than one individual that tries to handle both sides of the equation,” he said.
All the firm’s financial planners are CFPs, and the staff includes a veritable alphabet soup of other key professional designations.
“Anyone that is looking to grow within our organization, we’re supporting them in acquiring these designations,” said Manning.
In 2021, FL. Putnam acquired Atrato Consulting, adding a new alternative investment consulting business to complement the firm’s existing capabilities and creating another line of revenue providing outsourced service to other firms, family offices and institutions.
In late 2022, the firm received debt investment capital from Emigrant Partners, the private equity arm of Emigrant Bank headed up by CEO Karl Heckenberg. “Under Tom Manning’s leadership, F.L.Putnam has built out an amazing management team and culture that will continue to help accelerate their already incredible growth,” Heckenberg said.
The added capital will be used “solely for growth,” said Manning. “To continue to invest back into the business, into the capabilities we already have, but also to attract new advisors, continue our M&A effort and really focusing on trying to continue to build out the services that we can provide to our clients to add to the value proposition that we deliver to them.”
Those investments includes scaling the consulting business, expanding capabilities around taxes, estate planning and trust services and adding capabilities around 401(k) management. The firm is also looking into adding bill pay and tax preparation services.
Manning said he’s open to building, acquiring or hiring for desired capabilities—but remains primarily focused on beginning with talent.
“We’re first seeking people that we know that provide these services,” he said. “We’ve really been able to build our business around people that we know and trust, and the culture of the firm is incredibly important. So, when we think about M&A, we’re really being thoughtful about the people that we’re bringing in first and foremost.”
Manning recognizes that continued growth is neccessary to attract and retain top talent, and anticipates growing F.L.Putnam at an annual rate of around 12% going forward, saying that 10-15% annual growth would be “a great pace.”
“The growth component is really something that allows us to promote, to retain and to recruit people into the firm,” he said. “Without that, we look like did seven or 10 years ago, where we’re only growing by virtue of market appreciation, and we have employees rotating in and out. Our retention rate now is incredible and the people we have here are among the best in the industry.”
Manning said he hasn’t had the same difficulty finding talent that much of the industry is experiencing and that F.L.Putnam has been successful not only hiring for the roles it needs but attracting the specific people it wants. “It may take a little longer,” he said, “but we’ve been very successful in our recruiting.”
Employees are allowed to work remotely, in an office or in a hybrid setting—depending on their roles and individual needs—and Manning said he is willing to build offices around desired and existing talent, provided the office will be used at least three days a week. He said the firm is currently in talks with “some tremendous advisors scattered around the country,” but is mainly focused on expanding existing locations and pursuing opportunities in areas where the firm has concentrated pockets of clients, including the nation’s mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.
At the end of the day, Manning said: “We want to make sure that we continue to create opportunities for our people and for our clients, and we need to grow to be able to do that. Everyone is on board with that here. They understand it. We’re all rowing in the same direction, and we’re really enjoying the process. It’s been a great run here the last seven years, and our hope is we can keep it going in the future.”