In September 2021, Berman Capital Advisors merged with Cresset Asset Management, creating a $19.8 billion multi-family office serving clients across the country. That merger was the culmination of a decade of growth at Berman Capital Advisors, which Justin Berman founded in 2010. Over the ensuing years, Berman grew into a $4.7 billion multi-family office with offices in Atlanta and Austin.
But after all the success his firm experienced, Justin knew the time had come to partner with the right firm to take the way he was serving his clients and team to the next level. Below, Justin shares why he chose Cresset and the advice he has for others considering a transition:
How long before you merged with Cresset did you begin seriously considering firms to partner with?
Justin: We started exploring other firms to partner with at the beginning of 2021. We didn’t really know the landscape that well in terms of potential partners, so we knew that we needed to take the time and dig deeply into the capabilities and values of each. That’s exactly what we did. We owed that to our clients and our team.
What was the catalyst to begin that search? How did you know the time was right to merge?
Justin: This is a growing, fast-paced industry that has seen an unparalleled level of convergence over the last few years. This trend signals the emergence of multi-region RIAs, and we understood that the market could only sustain a handful successfully. We wanted to be one of those firms. Berman could have either continued to grow at the rate we were, or we could merge with a firm that had the scale and resources to be one of the nation’s leading RIAs. We knew that if we didn’t, we would lose opportunities to attract top talent, and with that, our top prospects.
Why did you select Cresset? You could have partnered with any number of firms. What did Cresset offer that the others didn’t?
Justin: I liked that Cresset is a young, entrepreneurial firm. That was very attractive. I feel like we’re still in inning three of building this business, and Cresset shares that growth mentality. We wanted to join a firm that was nimble, flexible, and aligned in values and principles—a true partner. Importantly, the story of how and why founders Avy Stein and Eric Becker built Cresset resonated with me personally—a firm by clients, for clients. It’s the same reason I built Berman. Finally, the culture is just incredible. Everyone is an owner at Cresset. Everyone smiles. Everyone is all in. With Cresset we truly found the ideal partner. I really believe 1+1 will equal 3 … or even 4 … with Cresset.
Did anything surprise you about the process? What advice do you have for others that are in the position you were a year or two ago?
Justin: Pick a firm that is going to be a true partner—one that will allow and encourage you to keep doing what you do best. And don’t underestimate the power of technology. What Cresset is doing on the tech front is truly eye-opening. Those capabilities are not only an incredible differentiator, but they are crucial to our continued success.
Ultimately, you have to make sure whomever you are going to partner with will be the best solution for your clients and the best solution for your team. You cannot worry about what’s best for yourself. That is being short-term greedy. If you put those things together, you’re going to win.
What about those who are reluctant to partner with another firm? What risks do they face in this marketplace going forward?
Justin: It all comes down to consolidation in this industry. The multi-region RIAs will continue to take market share. Some of the smaller firms won’t be able to keep up in terms of attracting talent and clients. This train is moving so fast. Without the fresh perspective gained by partnering with another firm, you’re more likely to get left behind. You have to step back, put yourself in a vulnerable position, and identify the areas where you’d like to expand your expertise … and check your ego at the door.
Also, really think about the type of firm you want to partner with. Do you want to partner with a firm that is employee- and client-owned with permanent capital, or do you want to be sold in a few years? A lot of firms will want to be your “partner.” Choose the one that truly embodies your vision and values.
What’s it like “on the other side”? How are you feeling now that Berman and Cresset have officially come together?
Justin: It’s interesting. I’m working harder now than ever before because of all the opportunities that have surfaced following our announcement. That feels really good. The talent inside the firm is just incredible. It’s so invigorating. The response from our clients is, “I’m so glad everything I need is under one roof now.” They don’t have to go outside to get the holistic advice they need. It just makes the firm so much more formidable. Everything I wanted for the team and for our clients is coming to fruition, so I feel great.