The Lessons a Chairman Brought From His Brewery to a $9 Billion Wealth Manager

How Lyle LaMothe’s passion for beer has helped him lead and grow Snowden Lane Partners.

Bigstock photo

Bigstock photo

Lyle LaMothe traveled a lot while working for Merrill Lynch, a business he ultimately led and helped merge with Bank of America. While on the road for the wealth management firm, in unfamiliar cities and after his meetings concluded, LaMothe turned to hotel concierges for suggestions on what sites he should see.

Many times, LaMothe was steered toward local craft breweries, where he developed a passion for beer.

“I was a really terrible golfer,” LaMothe said chuckling. “I needed a different passion.”

After LaMothe’s son graduated from college in 2005, they started brewing their own beer as a hobby. Eventually, the entire family got involved, entered and won a few local beer contests, and even created a book of beer recipes. In 2012, shortly after LaMothe retired from Bank of America, the hobbyists decided to become professionals and opened Broken Bow, a brewery named after the birthplace of LaMothe’s wife.

Broken Bow, located in Tuckahoe, New York and a short walk from a Metro-North Railroad stop, has 12 to 16 different lagers, IPAs, ales, stouts, and hard seltzers on tap at any given time. The brewery has 10 employees but remains a true family business. LaMothe’s son is the president of the brewery. One of his daughters, who has a degree in biomedical engineering and brewing science, is the head brewer, and another daughter is the head of marketing. LaMothe’s wife serves as the chief financial officer and chief investment officer.

LaMothe consults with his family about Broken Bow, but most of his time is dedicated to his job as the executive chairman of Snowden Lane Partners, a New York-based wealth management firm with 65 advisors managing more than $9 billion in assets. He’s active in the day-to-day running of the company, a member of the operating committee, helps recruit employees and advisors to the company, routinely visits with clients and investors, and often gives advice to the firm’s advisors.

Independent wealth management firms and small breweries have a lot in common, according to LaMothe, and each business has helped him lead the other. Both are independent, creative, built on relationships, and focused on quality over of quantity, LaMothe said. “There’s tremendous overlap and it’s probably the reason I was attracted to craft beer.”

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The Covid-19 pandemic forced the brewery and the wealth management firm to change how they did business and best serve their customers under the circumstances. Historically, both have depended on face-to-face interactions. “How do you change [those companies] to keep the conversation going or sales moving?” LaMothe said.

Finance and manufacturing are industries with little in common, but Lamothe said his experience communicating with Broken Bow’s customers and partners helped inform the conversations that Snowden Lane had with clients who own or work for manufacturing companies.

“All of the manufacturing clients that Snowden Lane advisors work with, are going through a very difficult time right now, so what can we do to help them? How can we elevate or escalate the level of communication with sectors, employees [and] employers that are probably in a more difficult spot right now than other industries?” LaMothe said.

Snowden Lane decided it needed to more proactively reach out to clients, companies, and individuals who were trying to adjust their personal and professional lives.

“Rather than have them have to look up our phone number and call, we called them. We were out on our front foot. We were very visible. And so, I think the level of communication escalated,” LaMothe said. That effort helped Snowden Lane grow organically and inorganically.

The wealth manager still added eight advisory teams with an aggregate of $2.5 billion in client assets last year, helping it reach more than $9 billion in assets, 50 percent more than a year ago. It also doubled the total number of high-net-worth, ultra-high-net-worth, and institutional clients it works with to 4,600. The firm also grew from 90 to 115 employees last year.

While LaMothe worked remotely for Snowden, he and his family took proactive steps to help the brewery business. Broken Bow’s outdoor beer garden was a simple patio space with picnic tables. Now, it has more grass and includes a 1951 GMC Dually pickup truck that the brewery turned into a bar. The brewery also redesigned its labels and made a greater effort to get its beer into local grocery stores, such as DeCicco & Sons, and expand its distribution area through Whole Foods and Wegmans from a 25-mile radius around the brewery to a 50-mile radius. Like other breweries during the pandemic, it also started manufacturing sanitizer.

Similar to what Snowden Lane did for clients and prospects, the brewery reached out to existing and potential partners to ask how it could help them.

“Instead of our salespeople calling and saying, ‘Gee, I have a new beer to sell you.’ We were calling and saying ‘How are you doing? Is there anything we can do to help? Would it help if we extend a little more liberal credit on your accounts? What are your business plans? How are your hours changing?” LaMothe said.

Revenue at Broken Bow fell in 2020 due to certain periods it had to be closed. But revenue has since climbed back to pre-pandemic levels and is on track to grow 25 percent in 2022.

Along with business lessons, LaMothe said Broken Bow has taught him to better appreciate how hard people work to earn a living and accumulate wealth. He is grateful for the opportunity to work at both companies, he said.

Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.

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