The brother and sister team of Christopher and Michelle Mackin attribute the development of their advisory niche to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was August of 2020 when Christopher, 37, and Michelle, 31, had transitioned to Bleakley Financial Group and realized the growing uncertainty around the pandemic was shutting down their traditional means of client prospecting.
“Up until last year, one of the primary ways we had grown our business was through networking and traveling,” said Christopher, a partner at Bleakley, based in Boca Raton, Florida.
Michelle, who is based in Fairfield, New Jersey, said the duo had built a successful business through “conversations within our network,” but that they “didn’t really have a focus, so it was almost overwhelming at times.”
Aware of the trend toward niche practices, Christopher and Michelle put their heads together to consider all possible options, including determining whether they should continue working as a team.
“We want to enjoy speaking with our clients and we want to align with them,” Michelle said. “It’s not just us helping them with their finances, it’s a relationship.”
What rose to the surface from those brainstorming and whiteboard sessions was a focus on owners of environmentally conscious companies.
“We talked about focusing on doctors or lawyers, but that wasn’t exciting to us,” she said. “We thought about what drives us both, and it came to us that we’re both passionate about the environment. We spent so much time on the water throughout our lives fishing and boating, and we want people to enjoy that in the future. We’re passionate about sustaining it.”
As niches go, this one is certainly unique.
While the focus taps into the popular trend of investments focused on environmental, social and governance causes, Christopher explained that ESG isn’t necessarily the primary investment objective of their niche clients, even if it does describe the general category of their clients’ respective businesses.
“While some of our clients do want an ESG investment tilt, we don’t view it as a one-size-fits-all,” he said. “Most of the owners of environmentally conscious companies don’t have an investment strategy that’s in line with their values. Some of them have an interest in doing so, but others not as much.”
While the niche might seem narrow in some ways, it can also be quite broad, which is why they are trying to concentrate on small- to middle-market size companies in areas such as solar power, wind power, waste management, and recycling.
Like all advisers developing a niche, there is the issue of dealing with non-niche clients, both current and prospective.
“We’ve made the commitment to keep any client we had prior to our niche,” Christopher said. “And any referrals we get (that don’t fit the niche) we’ve aligned with another team at Bleakly to refer over to them.”
In terms of building out the niche client base, Michelle said it will still rely heavily on referrals, but in a more focused manner.
“So much our existing book is from referrals, and it was hard for us to explain for future referrals who to introduce us to,” she said. “We really don’t want to bring in 100 more clients. Twenty or 30 ideal clients would let us continue our service model of keeping them happy.”