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Private Equity

Wealth Management Firms Grow Via Specialization

Published: February 8th, 2024
With the proliferation of private equity-backed platforms in the space, wealth managers appear to be increasing their focus on certain demographics, from families with special needs children to women in transition, to separate themselves from the pack.

One of the earliest financial planning and wealth management clients of Sequoia Financial Advisors LLC, a childhood friend of CEO Tom Haught, has a special needs son who is about 22 years old.

“We were always involved in this client’s tax and retirement planning and worked with him through the sale of multiple businesses,” Haught said.

The intricacies of handling the financial planning for such a family essentially boil down to planning for the future of a member who might not be able to manage their financial lives, Haught explained.

Generally speaking, financial planning for homes with special needs children can include consideration of anything from the costs of special education and in-home caregivers to modifications to the home. The average cost of autism is $60,000 a year through childhood, according to the Autism Speaks charitable organization, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put the potential average lifetime cost for an individual with cerebral palsy above $1 million.

Meanwhile, in planning ahead for adulthood, parents need to consider early on whether or not their children will be able to attain post-secondary education, work and earn a wage and live independently and the costs associated with each of these scenarios.

Wealth management firms that serve such clients require a broad and deep understanding of these unique challenges, the scope of possible solutions and the experience in how to apply them to help these families achieve their financial objectives, Haught said.

After handling theses matters for many years, the veteran wealth manager has sought more extensive ways to serve this close-to-home demographic.

In August, Sequoia Financial scooped up special needs-focused Affinia Financial Group LLC, which caters to families with members with disabilities.

Amid a continued deal frenzy among wealth management firms in the past 12 months, Sequoia is far from the only firm to have targeted a unique area of specialization with its latest transaction — Curo Private Wealth and Creative Planning are firms that have also inked deals.

And with a range of other niches popping up across the space, there may be more to come.

Personal Business is Good Business

For its part, Haught sees Affinia as a means to gain scale at Sequoia while expanding his current team’s skillset to include the ability to extensively serve the special needs demographic. It may also be good for the soul.

“I would love to be able to help the people that Affinia helps, and maintaining and preserving that will be part of enriching our lives,” he opined.

“As part of our growth strategy, we look for partner firms with deep expertise in key areas that Sequoia would like to develop. We look for firms who excel at meeting the needs of specific communities and want to leverage Sequoia’s scale to help bring their knowledge to a wider audience.”

Editor’s note: The original, full version of this article was published Oct. 5, 2023, on The Deal’s premium subscription website. For access, log in to or use the form below to request a free trial.

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