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Updated: February 6, 2020

Maine's largest wealth management firm poised for further growth

Four members of the leadership team of R.M. Davis Photos / Courtesy R.M. Davis Leading R.M. Davis, from left, are CEO Geoff Alexander; Scott Draeger, president and general counsel; Brian Noyes, chairman of the board of directors; and Wendy Laidlaw, COO and CFO.

Maine's largest wealth management firm, R.M. Davis Inc., is poised for further growth under a new executive team led by Geoff Alexander. He became CEO on Jan. 1, succeeding founder Robert M. (Mal) Davis.

"We have been in a really proactive position for a long time in planning for leadership changes, and we've had a lot of retirements of former owners," Alexander told Mainebiz this week. "We really have a strong foundation here for keeping the firm private and healthy."

The Portland-based firm, which also has an office in Portsmouth, N.H., manages $5 billion in assets and employs 54 people. The staff includes 14 advisers who work directly with clients.

R.M. Davis is the state's largest investment advising firm, ahead of hometown peers H.M. Payson (No. 2) and Vigilant Capital Management (No. 3), according to a Mainebiz ranking published in May 2019.

On the hiring front, R.M. Davis is currently seeking a portfolio administrator and a client services associate amid a growing field of rivals that includes Boston Financial Management,  which opened an office in Portland last year, and Great Diamond Partners, launched by four ex-UBS bankers last year and led by Steve Tenney.

At R.M. Davis, Alexander remains confident of his firm's ability to attract talent now and in the future, though he admits it's more difficult in today's low-unemployment climate.

"We don't see a lot of swapping of employers and staff," he noted. "We are the largest, and I would argue the most well-established firm in our space, we enjoy a good reputation, and I think local competition doesn't really affect us as much as the overall economic climate."

He also underscored that the firm is always on the hunt for qualified people beyond specific, advertised positions, saying, "We're always looking for people even if we don't officially have a job opening."

Alexander has been with the firm for 23 years, ascending to president seven years ago. He serves on the board of governors of the Washington, D.C.-based Investment Adviser Association.

Leadership team includes two other newcomers 

Two others joined Alexander on the leadership team at the start of this year, attorney Scott Draeger as president and general counsel and portfolio manager Brian Noyes as board chairman. Rounding out the team is Wendy Laidlaw, who will continue as COO and CFO. 

Alexander, Noyes and Laidlaw are also all portfolio managers.

Alexander said he's excited to have Draeger on the leadership team after three years at R.M. Davis. Draeger was previously with Bernstein Shur, where he was a shareholder and chaired the Portland-based law firm's financial services and securities practice.

"He has a wonderful field of vision of our industry because of his prior law practice," Alexander said.

The company, set up as an S corporation, has been employee-owned since 1978. 

Alexander sees the employee ownership model, and the company's priority on succession planning, as two pluses that set it apart from competitors.

'Autonomy and control' 

"One of the things systemic in our industry is a lack of succession planning, as well as concentrated ownership," Alexander said. "One of the things I give Mal a great deal of credit for is that many years ago he spread the ownership around. We never really had concentrated ownership."

He also said that the company's eight owners are active participants in the firm, adding that "as the client base evolves, having that degree of autonomy and control is really best for both our clients and our employees."

Alexander cited the firm's full-service offer as another plus, with lawyers and certified financial planners on staff, as well as a trusts and estates department.

"We've got the full complement of skill sets here," he said, "and that's the reason why we really are and have been for many years a true wealth management firm."

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