The Mather Group CEO Chris Behrens won’t disclose exactly how his lead engine works, but it’s obviously working.
TMG increased client assets by more than 700% over five years, bolstered by its entrance into the mergers and acquisitions market, a fruitful Fidelity partnership and an enigmatic lead engine Behrens said has been scaled over the last four years.
“It’s our secret,” he said of the RIA’s lead generation initiative, which brought in approximately 900 new clients over the last two years and requires 30 interns each summer to manage. Describing the process as “well-defined” and “able to identify clients that are similar to those we have,” Behrens declined to divulge more.
“If you want to grow,” he advised, “you have to have more than one strategy.”
Behrens took the helm of TMG in late 2019, about a year after the firm completed its first acquisition. His appointment heralded the “next phase of strategic growth,” said the late Stewart Mather, who founded the Chicago-based practice in 2011 with just $150 million in assets.
Prior to the deal to buy Berman Investment Advisors in October of 2018, TMG had a 52% organic growth rate and $1.8 billion in client assets, as well as 55 employees and a presence in four U.S. markets, including Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. Berman added another $1 billion and a fifth location in San Francisco’s Bay Area.
Following 17 subsequent acquisitions, two of which were before Behren’s arrival, 11 new offices have been established in as many regional markets. The firm now employs 154 professionals—including 65 client-facing advisors and 15 executive leadership positions—overseeing $8.7 billion in AUM across approximately 4,000 clients.
According to data analyzed by RIA Edge and WMIQ in partnership with Discovery Data, TMG increased AUM by 715% between 2017 and 2021, and 180% year over year between 2018 and 2021. It then went on to add seven more firms and another $1.8 billion in 2022.
On the organic side, Behrens credits the firm’s service model and in-house lead machine, augmented by Fidelity’s Wealth Advisory Solutions referral program. “We have a very close working relationship with the Fidelity team,” he said. “We’re honored to be a part of that.”
“The Mather Group has done extraordinarily well in the Fidelity program,” said Steven Levitt, founder and managing director at Sutton Park Advisors, an M&A advisory firm with a team of bankers dedicated to the RIA space. “They’re one of the top participants and recipients of new business leads.”
The bulk of TMG’s clients are employees of Fortune 2000 companies and large private firms with significant retirement planning needs, but Levitt said the firm has been working to expand that focus and offer its family office-style services to an expanded field of wealthy investors.
“We do taxes for about 70% of our clients,” said Behrens, who characterized the average client as around 61 years old, with between $2.5 million and $2.7 million invested with the firm outside of its family office practice.
TMG’s core focus is financial planning, he said, and helping clients work through a successful retirement and subsequent legacy planning, and is reinforced by a host of other capabilities, including investment management and tax strategy and preparation.
“That’s all part of our fee structure. I think it’s what makes us unique,” said Behrens. “Hence, part of the reason for the growth that we’ve been fortunate to achieve.”
It didn’t take long for private equity to take notice. In the spring of 2022, TMG was acquired by next-gen private equity investor Vistria Group. It is currently one of three companies, and the only advisory firm, in Vistria’s financial services portfolio.
“This partnership is consistent with our long-term thesis about the value of, and tailwinds in, wealth management,” Vistria Co-Head of Financial Services Boris Rappaport said at the time. “TMG’s culture of service, innovation, professional development and growth provides a great opportunity to replicate in markets across the U.S.”
“The Mather Group is one of the very few firms that truly has a professional CEO,” said Levitt. “He had familiarity as a client of wealth management himself, but he worked in other industries around the world and really brings an interesting perspective on how to run a good business.”
“Scaling and growing a business—and doing it profitably—is a lot of hard work,” Behrens said. He explained that TMG is constantly developing and streamlining its Salesforce-based tech stack, its second-largest investment after payroll, and has a defined process to identify areas where more staffing is needed in all areas of the business. The firm has positions dedicated to human resources, business development and M&A, as well as managing the firm’s growing divisions—wealth management, tax services, various investment strategies and the TMG family office.
“They continue to upgrade the talent,” said Levitt. “I know that they recently brought in a new chief financial officer and they’re looking for a chief investment officer. They’re looking for a chief revenue officer.”
“We’ve been very fortunate to be able to hire the best talent that’s out in the marketplace,” said Behrens. “It’s a team of people that work together under a single vision, mission and objective to always do what’s in the best interest of our clients. And that’s really our guiding light. Without the people and without the team that we have, we would not be as successful we are.”