Ken Fisher’s RIA, which employs 4,000 people, took 40 years to manage $ 100 billion in assets, experienced a downturn, and then resumed operations.
Ken Fisher fought against the cancellation of culture and won – to the tune of about $ 100 billion in new assets under management.
His eponymous company, Fisher Investments, topped all other RIAs in reporting $ 64 billion in new assets under management (AUM) in the past 12 months, bringing the company’s total to over $ 188 billion – in on track to reach a record $ 200. billion in assets under management this year.
“We are still firing on all cylinders … [and] we are expanding across all of our industries and geographies, adding new customers and retaining existing customers, ”senior vice president and spokesperson John Dillard said via email from headquarters from Fisher in Camas, Wash.
What a difference two years make. At the Tiburon CEO Summit in late October 2019, Fisher used a sexual benchmark to explain why stock brokers are inefficient salespeople.
Single or Individual Tweeter sparked a viral social media beating, unleashing an unprecedented level of cancellation-like outrage in RIA circles that tarnished Fisher’s reputation and cost his company an estimated $ 4 billion in assets under management. institutional accounts canceled.
The paradox is that Fisher’s “crisis” game was as much about staying focused as any fancy footwork to wake up, says Kirsten Plonner, president of the New York City public relations and marketing firm. , FiComm Partners.
“Fisher is growing up because they haven’t ignored the scandal. Even though the industry won’t admit it, they actually handled it well,” she said via email.
“[But] In fact, I don’t think they are “awake”. I think we see them authentically, and COVID-19 was either a boon or a failure for businesses – it all depended on how they handled themselves, ”she adds.
“Public shortcomings that are faced head-on can be a catalyst for positive change,” says Greg O’Gara, a New York-based wealth management consultant.
“The global health crisis has eclipsed the news [so Fisher had] an opportunity to take advantage of this environment with positive messages, especially in the context of outperforming stock markets. “
Significantly, the pandemic has brought about a shift in media imagery. Fisher, who had been the face of the brand for years in advertising campaigns, took a step back. Instead, the ads began to feature counselors – often women.
He founded the company in 1979, incorporated in 1986 and stepped down as CEO in 2016 in favor of longtime employee Damian Ornani. Fisher continues to keep his hand in the business as executive chairman and co-chief investment officer.
He finally apologized for his statements at the end of 2019, but he never hesitated to say that his comments were taken out of context. See: Ken Fisher returns to the offensive by attacking “completely bogus” media claims and letting readers know that the $ 4 billion in lost assets was easily replaced.
Nonetheless, Fisher’s efforts to “wake up” have proven to be good for business, an industry analyst said, speaking unofficially.
Dillard, however, dismisses the idea that the 2019 media storm played a big part in the company’s trajectory, one way or another.
“We are always focused on our customers and what is in their best interest. The results of this focus speak for themselves, he says.
Still Fisher seemed to be intentionally polishing his edges with women.
In the United States, for example, it launched an ad campaign featuring women, and in July Fisher’s UK subsidiary was recognized by an awards agency as one of the best places to work for women in Great Britain. -Brittany.
Fisher has also started adding ethical environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds to its investment allocation, at the request of clients.
A new managed account service for medium and large pension plans is also in development, according to the company.
Fisher didn’t let the outside voice shake him, Plonner said.
“It’s easy to confuse this crisis with their potential downfall – it could very well have been a bigger problem,” she explains.
“But, if anything, Fisher is an example of a company that has weathered its crisis successfully, with a very likely intensive and disciplined communications strategy,” she adds.
What is certain is that Fisher – already the AUM king of the RIA universe – has never added any assets like he has in the past couple of years.
It took 40 years for the company to pull off its first $ 100 billion, a mark it hit in February 2019. See: Ken Fisher hits $ 100 billion in assets under management and $ 1 billion mark dollars in revenue, but faces a new challenge: how to grow a mature business with competitors yapping at its heels.
As of March 2021, Fisher managed more than $ 159 billion in client assets. Over the next four months, he raised an additional $ 29 billion. See: Fisher Investments forms East Coast hub with 600 offices after adding $ 10 billion in assets under management, leaving last year’s social media storm in the dust.
Even taking into account the roughly $ 38 billion market appreciation since February 2019, assuming a 60:40 asset allocation, and using the S&P 500 and Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund as benchmarks, Fisher attracted approximately $ 50 billion in new net client assets in the past two years *.
Fisher has been more than just a beneficiary of a tide that lifts all aircraft carriers, according to Dilliard.
“There are not just one or two areas where we are growing. We have had strong net asset inflows … and excellent absolute and relative investment performance across a variety of investment strategies. investment.”
Big players roll
In total, Fisher operates four business units: a private client firm, an institutional enterprise which includes pension funds, an international private client enterprise, and a 401 (k) enterprise started in 2014 and run by Ken Fisher’s son, Nathan Fisher.
“All of them are growing robustly, albeit at slightly different paces,” said Dillard, who declined to name any of them as the engine of his successful year.
The company’s ADV indicates where the growth has been the strongest. The number of high net worth investors (HNWs) jumped 35% between March 2020 and March 2021. See: Ken Fisher continues to expand his $ 42 billion RIA empire despite UHNW headwinds.
During the same period, HNW’s assets under management jumped 43% to $ 93.2 billion from $ 64.6 billion, a sum that represented 58% of the company’s overall asset base.
The company currently serves more than 95,000 customers and employs 4,000 people.
Fisher manages approximately $ 41 billion through its institutional operations, $ 1 billion through its 401 (k) operations, and $ 144 billion on behalf of private investors, of which at least $ 19 billion is held by foreign clients.
“There are many more people, small businesses and institutions around the world who could benefit from our services… and [we] have plans for further geographic market expansion underway, ”Dillard said.
Fisher also continued to enter new markets, and in the past two months the company launched new HNW businesses in Sydney, Australia, and Dublin, Ireland.
The company announced its move to Australia on June 1. The company is led by the subsidiary Fisher Investments Australasia, which has served institutional clients in New Zealand and Australia since 2013.
Fisher revealed his entry into Ireland, the company’s 17th international private client operation, on July 20.
Greed and grumbling
Yet for all the redemption Fisher has found in his flourishing growth, some people in the industry are not ready to forgive and forget – though the growls seem to exist now for the most part in an unofficial fashion.
“I have no idea why people always support Fisher, other than maybe people give him another chance because it works,” a female media official said, speaking unofficially.
“Does greed reign over everything? Or have consumers simply not paid attention? ” she asks.
The initial social media storm was pervasive and powerful – sparked by Alex Chalekian, who attended the RIA and Tiburon CEO Summit at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco and heard Fisher speak.
Chalekian, founder and CEO of Integrated Partners affiliate RIA Lake Avenue Financial, shared his outrage in a video tweet that went viral. See: How Ken Fisher’s remarks on ‘girl’s pants’ sparked an RIA-led tweeting storm that turned into a slow-burning PR disaster that remains uncontained
Yet most of the outrage has remained in the financial advice bubble, Smith says.
“While the challenges Fisher faced in 2019 were a priority for us in the industry, they barely registered for the average retail investor.
“People lead busy lives, they don’t scan Twitter for that sort of thing and don’t hang on to it, and even though it did register it was probably forgotten a few minutes later,” adds. he does.
Ultimately, the real reason for Fisher’s recent successes is a bit boring, a number of industry sources say.
The company invests well, it doesn’t skimp, and it has a great marketing strategy that emphasizes its fiduciary role, so it’s reaping the dividends, says Smith.
“Outside of the larger vendors, few companies have Fisher’s major integrated marketing campaigns. I rarely go a day without hearing about Fisher’s fiduciary commitment. ” he says.
Simply put, they’re good at what they do, O’Gara adds.
“They’re aggressive marketers with a solid product… and they leverage a simple, easy-to-understand value proposition,” he says.
** Fisher declined to confirm the accuracy of the approximate $ 50 billion new net assets figure used in this article. The splitting of stocks into fixed income securities in its investment strategy has also “shifted[ed] higher ”, in light of the recent poor performance of fixed income securities.