LibertyFi founders on growth track, starting a business in Bham
Local privately-owned wealth management platform and middle-office support consultancy LibertyFi recently reached a milestone in its growth plan.
CEO Trey Ruch and COO Alli Jordan launched LibertyFi in mid-2017 to fill a niche market helping advisers implement advisory technology, as many firms are facing the challenge of successful adoption, deployment and ongoing administration of technology.
In its first year, the company began administering more than $3 billion in assets and gained about 14 clients around the country.
The company provides advisers with tailored technological and administrative systems to help them grow their firms through Envestnet, one of the most widely used financial services platforms for independent investment advisory firms with about 95,000 advisers on the platform.
Envestnet’s suite of tools provides access to a full menu of managers and strategists, trading and reporting, advanced client access, account aggregation, turnkey billing, and account aggregation tools, to provide advisers with the resources they need to scale their businesses. LibertyFi works with each client to configure the platform around its operating priorities and provides efficient transition management, hands-on training, and ongoing operations support.
“There are lots of crowded segments within this industry, but one thing everybody seems to need help with on the independent side of the business model is technology and figuring out how to use it,” Ruch said. “We were perfectly suited to do both things because we understood the back office and middle office sides of it because we built the platform, were running them for a lot of different advisors and different companies that worked in different ways using the same basic apparatus. But we also spent a lot of time running business units that were using this technology to service clients. So, we understood the frustrations and the opportunities and the trials and tribulations that’s associated with being on the user end.”
Ruch has about 35 years of experience in the financial services industry, working in the trust business before working for broker-dealer Morgan Keegan out of Memphis and later Sterne Agee, where he worked with Jordan. At both companies, Ruch helped develop wealth management platforms.
Ruch and Jordan recently sat down with the BBJ to talk about LibertyFi’s growth since opening, its growth goals in the next five years and what it was like launching a startup in Birmingham.
How has the company grown since launching in 2017?
In our first six months, we brought on a couple firms around $500 million. Then we quickly hired two additional members in October and November 2017. Last year is really where all of our growth was. We went from $300 million to $3.5 billion in assets, added another member to the team in July 2018 and have been running a lean company. We are in the process at looking to add another team member and probably one more toward the end of the year, all here in Birmingham. We credit our quick growth to the niche market we’re in. There is a real need for independent advisors who are wanting to run their business utilizing the Envestnet platform. It can be a complex system because there’s so much to it, so when they hear they can work with us at a competitive rate, most we have pitched to have jumped on the opportunity.
What are your goals for the company’s growth in the next one to five years?
Our target – our dream – is to reach about $20 billion in five years, and we got off to a pretty good start with $3 billion the first year. We would like to try to double this year. I think we have a chance of doing that. Our progression is according to a five-year track. We’d like to get to $20 billion, and we’d like to do it by attracting larger firms than we opened with in order to maintain the focus and scale we require to do a great job. If we have to strike a balance between that and hiring more people, we think that Birmingham – because it was the headquarters for four $50 billion banks – has a pool of expertise that we can convert into our company. So, we think we’re in the right place to deal with an exercise that’s, maybe in two or three years, a lot more massive than where we began. We think we can find the people we need and have had success thus far doing so right in the heart of the matter, and that’s Birmingham for us.
What was it like starting a company in Birmingham?
For us, the nice thing about starting a company…when we first started, it was just the two of us working out of our homes and everything’s on the Cloud. So, starting a company is so much easier today because you do have the cloud. From the point of Birmingham, we had great partners from who we banked with and our accounting and everyone very local to Birmingham. We found a space right off the Rotary Trail. It’s kind of an incubator building, and it has just been an awesome experience… There is a lot of southern hospitality we’ve gotten to take advantage of, and the quality of life, we really have enjoyed here in Birmingham.
What do you think Birmingham can do better to help businesses get off the ground?
I’d like to see more local venture money take advantage of the intellectual capital I think is piling up in Birmingham. I think there’s just an awful lot of bright young people. The business we’re in is sort of a balance between knowing the industry and having experience in terms of understanding the processes and how they apply to client situations that you can help firms take technology and conform it to meet their business requirements, but it also takes the tech know-how. And I think that’s where, if you go to a place like Birmingham or Chattanooga or Asheville, North Carolina, you find all these bright young people who are ready to go to work and just see an opportunity. I think in every community I mentioned, I see more and more local venture capital taking advantage of all these smart, resourceful people that live right next door. I’m excited about the fact we were able to do a startup here in Birmingham. We were profitable the first year, and that speaks volumes, I think, about what kind of business environment Birmingham has fostered and the fact that these local investments in these new ideas and companies work.