Brown Brothers Harriman
- Adrienne Penta, a managing director at Brown Brothers Harriman, spoke with Business Insider about the firm’s digital strategy and her communication with wealth management clients.
- While the firm is constantly updating its technology, it isn’t necessarily planning to go all-in on an online-only product, Penta said.
- The firm has a total of $36.4 billion in private wealth assets under management.
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Brown Brothers Harriman managing director Adrienne Penta is trying to bring fresh perspectives to the 200-year-old private bank, but sees the art of conversation — even if it’s via text — as a better way to impress wealth management clients than flashy tech tools.
"I don’t really see us going to online financial planning tools or a robo experience, because it just doesn’t speak to our clientele," she told Business Insider.
The firm launched a new online interface for its clients last year, but Penta, who advises clients in the private wealth business and also created a communication strategy for the firm to connect better with women, "wouldn’t call it a digital experience."
The firm’s private wealth arm is doubling down on tried-and-true methods of communication at a time when technology is upending the wealth management industry, with app-based entrants vying — and sometimes failing — to catch the attention of new investors.
"We’re not hearing from clients a lot of want on the digital side," she said during a recent interview in the firm’s New York office, and wondered whether that’s because there are already so many investing apps out there already.
"Where we are getting more innovative is with the high-touch experience for our larger clients, being more holistic in how we serve them," Penta said, adding the firm is aiming to provide an increasingly "family office-like experience" for those clients, whether that’s meshing with household management or paying bills.
Brown Brothers Harriman
In the US, Brown Brothers Harriman has around 100 client-facing relationship professionals, which includes wealth planners. The firm declined to disclose how many planners its private wealth business houses, or how that number has shifted in recent years.
Its average private banking client has about $30 million in assets managed by the firm, and private wealth assets under management total $36.4 billion.
Penta highlighted that text messaging is key when communicating with clients, particularly with those who are younger — older clients typically don’t prefer that method — as they are often busy with their jobs.
"They have limited bandwidth, so how do you make the experience they have with us impactful, even if we don’t get to see them on a quarterly basis?" she asked.
Texting changes the "pattern and the cadence" of relationships, she said. "It means you can actually be much more part of somebody’s life even if you’re not sitting in the room with them."
Across Brown Brothers’ client base, where in the private wealth segment individuals and families range from having a minimum of $10 million in liquid assets managed by the firm to more than $1 billion, Penta said she’s witnessing a changing landscape.
"It’s become only recently that the client base has really diversified," she said, referring to gender, cultural backgrounds, education levels, and sexual orientation. "The clients we serve have become very diverse, very quickly."
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