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HighTower Poised to Launch White-Label Unit

By Thomas Coyle February 6, 2014

HighTower, a Chicago-based hybrid RIA designed to attract disaffected wirehouse brokers, is getting set to launch a new business line, CEO and cofounder Elliot Weissbluth tells FA-IQ.

Whereas the firm’s HighTower Advisors unit, launched in 2008, offers advisors a partnership model, and HighTower Network, started last year, is for independent advisors, HighTower Alliance will represent a new business model, according to Weissbluth. “It’s the next iteration,” he says. Beyond that, however, he’ll add only that the Alliance will debut in a couple of months.

But Alois Pirker, head of wealth-management research at Aite Group, tells FA-IQ he thinks it’s a white-label version of HighTower Network. Both feature custody-neutral investment and back-office support. But where advisors who sign on with the Network use HighTower’s branding, Alliance advisors will use their own brands, cover their own overhead and get a higher payout, Pirker believes.

Meanwhile, Weissbluth says HighTower Network continues to expand after adding two teams in 2013. Three more “are slated to join” soon for a “total of five or six by the end of the year.” The firm started the Network in response to affiliation requests from successful advisors who didn’t happen to be in markets the HighTower Advisors unit was ready to enter, according to Weissbluth. With about 40 mainly ex-wirehouse advisors and $22 billion in end-client assets, Advisors remains the firm’s core model and revenue mainstay.

Different Talents

Commenting on the recent departure of Kevin Geary, who spearheaded HighTower’s business-development efforts in the western U.S., Weissbluth calls him “a wonderful young man and a great professional” and says he left the firm on good terms.

In response to rumors of more departures to come, Weissbluth says attrition among mid-level home-office personnel like Geary is a natural part of their career development. But it’s also inevitable at this stage in HighTower’s evolution, he adds. “As we develop multiple lines of business, we’re looking for different kinds of talent.”