A longtime partner at private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners has invested in Venturi Private Wealth Management, an Austin-based RIA managing $2 billion and aspiring to reach $10 billion or more.
Kent Weldon, an advisory partner at THL who has worked at the private equity firm for 30 years, is investing his own money in Venturi through Bravura Capital, an investment vehicle of his family office. Bravura was the only party that contributed to Venturi’s capital raise that was announced Thursday.
Weldon will be a minority owner of the RIA. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I really believe in what they have built, where they are going with the company, [and] their aspirations with organic growth,” Weldon told RIA Intel.
Assets under management at Venturi had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30 percent over the past five years, Venturi CEO and founder Russell Norwood said. About half of that growth can be attributed to rising markets, he added. That means Venturi is growing faster than most RIAs. Schwab’s 2021 RIA Benchmarking study found the median RIA grew assets under management 14.5 percent last year, but that growth included the appreciation of assets due to markets.
Venturi works primarily with high-net-worth individuals, many who are business owners (or sold their business) and have suddenly become especially wealthy. The firm’s investment management is one of the reasons those investors are choosing it, according to Norwood. Venturi believes alternative investments should account for roughly 25 percent of portfolios, that it’s choosing good asset managers, and successfully sourcing deals itself on behalf of clients. And it continues to invest in that capability. Earlier this year, Venturi hired Christopher Schelling to be its director of alternative investments. Schelling was previously the director of private equity for the Texas Municipal Retirement System, the deputy chief investment officer at Kentucky Retirement Systems, and taught at an alternative investments course at the University of Kentucky. (He’s also a columnist at Institutional Investor.)
Norwood said Venturi is “well-funded and very profitable” but the RIA wanted to find an investor like Weldon to fund and help guide it through future growth. Venturi’s strategic plan leads it down a path to managing $5 billion and then $10 billion, or more, in the next several years, Norwood said.
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Venturi chief operating officer Sylvia Bell, who was previously the COO of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas investment management division, where she helped oversee the $180 billion public pension and more than 800 employees, is already encouraging the firm to think even bigger, Norwood said.
But Venturi is unwilling to grow at the expense of its culture or clients. It didn’t want a strategic investor pushing it to acquire other wealth managers that weren’t the best fit. Weldon said he could be an investor “for an indefinite period of time.”
“They are very thoughtful about growth and they invest basically ahead of the growth that is coming. The depth and breadth of the firm is pretty impressive,” Weldon said.
Venturi has acquired one other wealth manager but plans to do more deals in the future, which Weldon’s capital will help fund. Norwood said he plans to focus on growing the company in the southwest but would consider acquiring businesses across the country.
“Venturi Private Wealth stood out immediately. Venturi’s strategy of building an integrated, market-leading regional company serving clients in the Southwest is different than many other growth strategies I see in the independent [RIA] space today,” Weldon said.
Venturi is also already benefiting from Weldon’s experience working at THL, Norwood said.
In 2020, Venturi partnered with the University of Texas to create a wealth management program, part of an effort to get more students and young professionals interested in the profession that badly needs them.
Michael Thrasher (@Mike_Thrasher) is the editor of RIA Intel and based in New York City.