City Wire, $1.7bn Arkansas team sets up WAGN-backed RIA, April 13, 2021

Journal: City Wire

Author: Ian Wenik

Dated: 13/04/2021

A four-advisor, six-staffer team in Little Rock, Ark. previously affiliated with Stephens has set up a new RIA backed by consultancy Wealth Advisor Growth Network (WAGN).

Bentley Blackmon (pictured) serves as chief executive of the new firm, which is known as Naviter Wealth. The ex-Stephens staffers managed a combined $1.7bn in assets across roughly 80 families for the bank’s private wealth management division, according to the company.

WAGN, which is minority-backed by serial RIA investor Merchant Investment Management, has a majority stake in Naviter Wealth at the present moment but plans to trim its investment to a minority position. Former Envestnet executives Jay Hummel and John Phoenix launched WAGN in the fall of 2019.

‘We talked to the guys at Focus, we did a little of our own due diligence on Hightower and Dynasty and some of the other larger ones,’ Blackmon said. ‘Early on, we had a conversation with John. We pretty quickly realized he had probably forgotten more than we were going to be able to figure out in the next year. He became a more and more valuable source as we were figuring out what our next steps would be.’

Though Naviter Wealth launched in the middle of January, Blackmon was unable to join the RIA until the end of March, which Phoenix said was tied to his exit from Stephens. Stephens terminated Blackmon in September of 2020 after it determined he violated Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) and firm policies ‘as part of his participation in certain private securities transactions.’

A Stephens spokeswoman declined to comment on Blackmon’s termination beyond existing public record. Blackmon said the issue stemmed him inadvertently filing disclosures relating to personal private equity investments slightly late in March of 2020, which subsequently sat on his supervisor’s desk for over 90 days.

As of the end of 2020, Stephens managed $12.5bn, of which $9.3bn was discretionary. While at the RIA, Blackmon and the Naviter team specialized in managing money for families with a median of $20m-$25m in assets, many of whom were dealing with some sort of liquidity event.

‘I think at the end of the year, if we continue on the path we’re going, both from current clients and the significant interest of families that candidly have said they weren’t going to do business with us at Stephens and now have an interest, I think we’ll be at $1bn in AUM by year-end,’ Blackmon said.

Note: This story has been edited to correct the number of staffers at Naviter Wealth.