Raleigh brokerage firm's growth spurt has taken them all the way to California

Capital Investment links with Calif. group

dranii@newsobserver.comDecember 26, 2012 

— Capital Investment Cos., one of the largest independent brokerage firms in the Southeast, has capped its recent growth spurt by adding an office in California – giving it a presence coast to coast.

Raleigh-based Capital has added about 45 financial advisers in the past four years, giving it about 210 financial advisers in 15 states. With its latest addition, Claremont Financial Group of Costa Mesa, Calif., Capital has more than 120 branch offices from Long Island to the West Coast.

“Bad times is when we grow,” said President Richard K. Bryant, who co-founded Capital in 1984 with Bobby Edgerton, the firm’s chief investment officer. “We put those seeds in for when the times are better. It has happened every downturn.”

Indeed, its new phalanx of financial advisers helped push annual revenue at Capital’s brokerage business up 16 percent to $23 million last year, and Bryant anticipates 2012 revenue will rise to about $27 million. Capital also has a money management business that oversees about $470 million in investments.

Bryant said Capital’s reputation and aggressive recruiting efforts have enabled it to pick up financial advisers whose previous broker-dealer went out of business as well as those who became disenchanted with national brokerage firms that altered their compensation plans.

Financial advisers at independent broker-dealers like Capital are independent contractors who rely on the broker-dealer to process transactions and ensure compliance with complex securities regulations. The largest independent broker-dealers – such as Raymond James, LPL Financial and Ameriprise Financial – have thousands of financial advisers.

“We don’t own the brick-and-mortar,” said Bryant. “We own the relationships.” Capital also has more than 30 employees of its own that provide broker-dealer services to its financial advisers and handle the money-management side of the firm’s business.

On the brokerage side, Capital makes its money by taking a share of the financial advisers’ commissions, typically about 12 percent.

“That’s why we don’t spend a lot of money on overhead,” said Bryant, acknowledging that the company’s offices on Glenwood Avenue are the antithesis of fancy. “I know that Persian rug you’re on is from my house when I was born – and I’m 53.”

Roughly two-thirds of the firm’s offices operate under the Capital brand, with the remainder operating under a variety of names.

Among the latter is Financial Resource Management, a financial planning firm with offices in Raleigh, Greensboro and Morehead City. Greg Hicks, the firm’s president and owner, has worked with Capital for at least 15 years.

“They don’t push things on us like I’ve heard other investment people talk about,” Hicks said of Capital. “From my side, I think that we have the freedom to help our clients as best we can and still have the broker-dealer overseeing everything we do. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Hicks also enjoys working with a firm of Capital’s size.

“I like that I can call Richard directly if I need to, and I can meet with the principals there any time,” he said.

After Capital’s revenue took a major hit in the wake of the financial crisis, Bryant resolved to be opportunistic by stepping up recruiting efforts. That included working the phones and “doing a lot of windshield time and flying around.”

That effort paid off with Renaissance Financial Partners of North Carolina, a Hickory firm whose three financial advisers teamed up with Capital in the summer of 2009.

Partner John Watts said they were about to sign on the dotted line with Raymond James when Bryant drove to Hickory – a three-hour drive – to meet him for lunch. Later that day, Watts called Bryant and told him he was impressed but that his two partners wanted to meet with him as well.

So Bryant made the drive all over again – that same day – for a dinner meeting.

“It made a real statement,” Watts said. “It showed us he was really eager to have us come on board.”

“The folks at Raymond James were real nice, but I had to fly down (to Florida) to see them,” Watts added. “I understood that. They’re a much larger firm.”

Indeed, Bryant views Capital’s size as a competitive advantage.

“We have a big-firm feel as far as products and services with a midsized or small-firm touch where we know everybody,” he said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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