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Meeting The Challenge Of Rising Client Expectations By Offering The Best Of Both Worlds

Raj Bhattacharyya is the CEO of Robertson Stephens and has over 28 years of experience in the financial services industry. He worked at Deutsche Bank in New York and London for 17 years in various senior roles. He ran their Foreign Exchange and Emerging Markets businesses in the Americas and managed European and North American Capital Markets. He has also worked at Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs and has been an active venture investor, mentoring early-stage companies through their growth phase

Prince: What do you see as the future of wealth management?
Bhattacharyya: I see three major trends in the future of wealth management. The first two trends are breakaways from wirehouses and consolidation within the independent channel will continue. The primary reason is that it is good for clients. Sophisticated clients demand independent, unbiased advice and need a range of products and services, which require scale to produce. We provide an essential service to clients, and clients are what drive the trends in wealth management. The growth of boutique firms, such as Robertson Stephens, which offer independent, unbiased advice across comprehensive financial planning, curated public and private investment opportunities and innovative technology, will continue.

That said, this industry will continue to have a large range of firm types. The wirehouses will continue to attract advisors and clients who want to be part of a huge ecosystem, while others want complete independence. A large number of smaller independent firms like ours will remain for those who want independence with support offering the best of both worlds.

The third long-predicted industry trend is fee compression. I believe you will see it on one end of the market, where robo-advisors and custodians have a compelling offering. However, in the high-net-worth to ultra-high net worth segment, we find that people will always pay for personalized service and advice. Client expectations will continue to rise, and it is our job as private wealth managers to meet the challenge. Clients will always have many options in the industry, but it is our job to not take that for granted and earn our fee. That’s why at Robertson Stephens we believe in our four-pillar approach—high quality investments, comprehensive wealth planning, digital solutions all with a fiduciary approach—allows us to not only meet but exceed client expectations.

Prince: What is your criteria when it comes to bringing on new teams of advisors?
Bhattacharyya: We don’t believe in growth for growth’s sake. We believe growth is a vehicle to furthering the mission of Robertson Stephens. Adding new advisors is more than just assets when a merger, acquisition or new hire takes place. This is the reason why we have grown seven times since we started the firm in 2018. When we consider any prospective advisor team, most importantly we ask two questions: “Does the team fit the firm construct?,” and “Does the team believe in our culture and values?” If the answer is yes to both, then we look for advisors that have a growth mindset, and, above all, a mindset to offer the best service to clients with the highest fiduciary standard. We also look for different areas of expertise. In the past two years, we have added advisors with niche expertise in ESG, divorce, and pension and retirement plan consulting.

We are significantly growing both organically and inorganically while striving to be more efficient. Although we continue to expand inorganically, we have a strong focus on high organic growth once you arrive at Robertson Stephens. In 2021 to date, we increased net new client assets by 22%.

One other competitive, compelling advantage is our corporate structure. We look for prospective advisors who would like to be owners of the firm they’re joining. At Robertson Stephens advisors have the opportunity to own the equity upside in the business without the responsibility of running it. All our advisors and senior executives are equity owners, and everyone is a partner in our firm ensuring that our culture of collaboration and teamwork remains intact.

Prince: How are you helping your advisors better serve their clients? 
Bhattacharyya: There are two broad types of tasks that an advisor needs to do: first, run the business, and the second, be the best wealth advisor for their clients. We assume responsibility for the first, but as importantly, we substantially help our advisors with the second.

In the first area we provide compliance, billing, office management, HR and basic operations. But it is the second where we differentiate ourselves by being an extension of our advisors in the arena of investments and wealth planning providing them with innovative technology and creating custom marketing plans to grow their businesses.

With investments, it includes evaluating our asset allocation and manager selection decisions around the standard list of managers thinking through various alternative asset classes to apply to different clients and sourcing and conducting deep due diligence on distinguished opportunities in the alternative space.

For planning, it is keeping abreast of the various developments that even the most comprehensive planner wouldn’t have the time for and crafting tailored strategies to meet individual clients’ needs accordingly. We also provide our advisors with advanced technology, integrated into their workflow and delivered to the client to better monitor their wealth.

Marketing is imperative for advisor’s growth. Prior to joining, we handle all pre-onboarding marketing tasks so that they are operational within the first 30-60 days. Following the onboarding, we generate and execute tailored marketing plans with the goal of growing their business.

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