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Century-Old Investment Manager Opens Door to RIAs for the First Time

“This is not your typical evolution,” said Matt Glaser, head of Manager Research at Wilmington Trust.

New funds and strategies launch all the time. But it’s not often that a longstanding money manager decides to offer its in-house ones to everybody. That happened last week.

For the first time in its 116-year history, Wilmington Trust is opening up its proprietary funds and strategies to outside retail investors and institutions. The company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of M&T Bank that manages over $97 billion, will begin offering them under a new brand, Wilmington Investment Management.

“This is not your typical evolution,” Matt Glaser, the head of Equity and Alternative Investments and Manager Research at Wilmington Trust, told RIA Intel. 

The timing was right to open its doors and grow assets under management (and fee revenue). “Now we're offering some of the things that we think are commercially viable to the outside world,” Glaser said.

As fear of a recession heightens, Wilmington also thinks that private and institutional investors, and the advisors and consultants who help them allocate their money, will be drawn to its economics-led investment approach. The company is already in talks with some, Glaser said.

An inaugural Wilmington Investment Management survey of 500 investors reinforced what studies have repeatedly shown: Investors hate to lose money more than they like to watch it grow. More than half (61%) said they would surrender growth for downside protection. The percentage willing to make that trade-off was even higher for households with annual income totaling more than $500,000 per year (76%).

As both an investor and allocator for its own clients, Glaser said that Wilmington Investment Management should resonate with advisors who chose to be RIAs and fiduciaries to their clients.

But, unlike some other asset managers, Wilmington’s size is an advantage, he said.

“We’re big enough to matter in the sense that we’re an institutional firm, which gives us access to world-class managers and opportunities. But we’re not so big that we’re competing against wirehouses or the mega firms. We’re able to bring to our clients sometimes more esoteric, interesting opportunities.”

The bulk of the firm’s investments are made through “hundreds” of third-party managers selected by Wilmington, giving it a broad purview of the world, Glaser said. The company employs 96 economists, portfolio managers, analysts and others.

To start, Wilmington Investment Management is opening up 20 equity, fixed income, multi-asset, and alternative funds, and will offer separately managed accounts. 

"We're in a different economic environment than just a few years ago. We're seeing now that the upside on many investments is limited and the yield environment is challenged," said Tony Roth, Chief Investment Officer. 

"As a result, we know investors need differentiated strategies that are risk-adjusted and fee sensitive in order to meet their specific needs. Our deeper understanding of global opportunities means we can offer a wider range of investors solutions and access to institutional-quality separate account managers around the world."