Acacia Financial Group Inc. has opened an office in the heart of Manhattan as the financial advisory firm looks to gain additional market share in the Northeast.
“I believe it makes a statement about our commitment to New York and our view of the city and state as a client,” said Kim Whelan, co-president of the independent, women-owned firm.
The New York office, located at 7 Times Square, will be the Marlton, N.J.-based firm’s sixth office, following ones in Montclair, N.J.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; and Anchorage, Alaska.
Rich Lopatin, vice president at the firm, will be stationed in the New York office full time, and Noreen White, Acacia’s co-president, will spend time there as well.
White added that staffing in the new office will depend on client work and opportunities, noting that the firm was recently selected by the New York Bridge Authority as a financial adviser, and is also in a qualified pool of financial advisers for the New York Thruway Authority.
“It has been a long time coming,” White said. “We’ve contributed to a number of New York clients and projects over the years, and we’ve worked hard building a solid reputation and relationships.”
The New York office “paves the way for future opportunities for us to deliver our unique brand of financial advisory expertise and services to the public sector in one of the most important metropolitan areas in the world,” she said.
Whelan added that the expansion into New York is part of an ongoing strategy. “We are continuing to expand the firm and when we look at expansion, we don’t look at developing franchises in places,” she said. “It is a strategic business plan where we look at low-risk, high-reward opportunities.”
Last May, the firm opened its Alaska office, adding Carol Howarth and Debbie Schnebel, who came from Chicago-based Scott Balice Strategies LLC when it was bought by Public Finance Management Inc. earlier in the month. It was the firm’s third professional nabbed from Scott Balice — the firm also tapped Phoebe Selden for its Chicago office in early May.
Whelan said Acacia is looking now to open an office in Philadelphia. “We have done a lot of work for the city of Philadelphia and the Delaware Port Authority and we’d like to continue growth not just in the city of Philadelphia, but in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” She declined to say when the Philadelphia office would open, but said “it will be soon.”
As an independent FA, the firm has been able to more easily navigate the shallow waters of the low-issuance environment, Whelan said.
“Underwriters and broker-dealers are driven by transactions,” Whelan said. “But financial advisers take on fiduciary roles so we look at ourselves as an extension of staff. We are not just working on transactions, or hired for one deal, but typically have two-year engagements,” making the business less concerned about the dip in business during periods of low issuance.
“In a typical two-year engagement, we will help clients look at budgets, review operating expenses, and review debt management,” she said. “So a lot of the work we do is on a consulting basis.”
“Obviously everyone goes through ups and downs, but we were less hurt than others in the industry during the credit crisis because we have long-term relationships with our clients and we are helping them in various areas of those financial plans,” Whelan said. “We are the extension of their staff in areas where we have expertise.”
From 2008 to 2010, Acacia moved up in the financial adviser rankings to 10th from 18th. It advised on 133 deals worth $5.6 billion in 2010, up from 51 issues worth $2.6 billion in 2008. So far this year, Acacia has participated in about $1 billion of deals on 32 issues, currently ranking it 14th.