HBKS® Wealth Advisors is in the complex yet very personal business of helping people manage their wealth. For some HBKS clients, that means planning for retirement or funding their children’s education. For others, it could simply be the peace of mind of knowing they are financially secure.
“We’re shepherding people through some of the most challenging events they’re going to go through — whether that’s transitioning from work to retirement, selling a business, or the death of a loved one,” explains Managing Principal and Chief Executive Officer Chris Allegretti, CPA. “When something’s going on in our clients’ lives, we’re usually one of the first to hear
about it because we’re involved, engaged.”
A Strong Foundation
HBKS Wealth Advisors began as The Sorce Financial Group in January 1995. In 2001, the Sorce brothers, Greg and Chris, merged with the now 70-year-old accounting firm HBK CPAs & Consultants (then Hill, Barth & King, LLC). The merger spurred HBKS’ growth to what today is the ninth largest CPA affiliated wealth management firm in the United States. HBK is more than 600 professionals serving an estimated 10,000 personal, corporate and institutional clients from 19 offices located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Florida. HBKS manages approximately $4 billion in investment assets and employs nearly 100 of HBK’s professionals.
“We’re pioneers,” says HBKS Principal Dean Piccirillo, CFP®, CRPS®, AIFA®, “and relative to the independent investment adviser space, we’re huge.”
It all began when Chris and Greg Sorce took a leap of faith 25 years ago to go out on their own. The brothers had worked at IDS Financial Services and American Express Financial Services with their father Joseph, a respected financial planner in the Erie region for more than 50 years. In 1994, the Sorces purchased the historic 19th century Ross Pier Wright house on Sixth Street in Erie and, in January 1995, formed The Sorce Financial Group. Piccirillo joined the brothers as chief operating officer and chief compliance officer.
“We’re a true Erie success story,” Piccirillo explains of the firm’s evolution. “When we started, it was the three of us and a couple of administrative assistants.”
As opposed to what most institutional firms and brokers were doing — that is, charging commissions for buying and selling stocks — the Sorces’ approach was to charge an annual fee, a small percentage of the client’s portfolio. As such, their clients’ success and theirs was interlinked. The better their clients did, the better the firm did — and both did very well.
The industry took notice as many CPA firms at the time were looking to add wealth management to their menu of services. The Sorces became the merger target of several organizations, and eventually, through mutual industry associates, found themselves in negotiations with Hill, Barth & King.
The deal between the two firms has proven an undisputed win-win. HBK Sorce Financial expanded beyond Erie into Ohio and Florida and Western Pennsylvania. The firm also added licensed financial professionals in a wide range of disciplines, giving it a greater depth of resources and expertise. In January 2012, the firm’s name was changed to HBKS Wealth Advisors to more accurately describe the breadth of services the company offers to individuals and families, business owners and entrepreneurs.
Working Together With Employers
HBKS Wealth Advisors is a valuable resource for employers. The firm provides investment advice and counsel on company-sponsored, qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, as well as municipality sponsored 457(b)s and nonprofit 403(b)s. The firm’s Retirement Plan Services Unit works with well over 100 corporate clients on their qualified retirement plans.
“We work with businesses with the same independent, unbiased, fee-based approach we take with personal clients,” says Piccirillo, “and we’re willing to talk with anyone who’s serious about their long-term goals and putting a quality plan in place that’s going to give their employees the best chance at a comfortable retirement.”
By working closely with their CPA counterparts, HBKS’ financial advisors offer their clients a remarkably wide array of financial services under one roof, from tax work to managing money to comprehensive financial planning.
“Consider our corporate finance division,” Piccirillo points out. “We provide investment banking services essential to smaller and mid-size closely held business, like manufacturing companies. They aren’t going to get that kind of attention from the Goldman Sachs of the world.”
And it’s not just services that HBK and HBKS offer those small and mid-size businesses owners, it’s the personal attention they want and need.
“Many of our clients were their companies’ founders,” states Allegretti. “They’ve worked in their businesses for 25 or 30 years; it’s like their child. We’d rather be proactive in having discussions about estate planning or selling a business so the client understands their options and is in a position to maximize the value of what they’ve built. We have those conversations as early in their history as we can, well before the day they will be confronted with selling or naming a successor.”
HBKS Wealth Advisors and HBK CPAs & Consultants have been strategic in their vision and growth. The principals have aggressively built the HBK and HBKS brands across 1,300 miles between Florida and Northern New Jersey while creating an exceptional talent pipeline.
HBKS Wealth Advisors has consistently earned a coveted spot on the Financial Times’ 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers. The firm also has been ranked by Accounting Today among CPA firms with an investment advisory affiliate as the ninth largest in the United States based on assets under management.
HBKS Wealth Advisors continues to grow its presence in Erie, as well as other communities in which it operates. HBKS has actively recruited top talent from around the country and through its back office support function based in Erie. “Compliance, qualified retirement plans, asset management, firm operations — we’ve built a structure here in Erie that supports a national practice,” adds Piccirillo. As well, the firm recently moved its Youngtown, Ohio, office into a 40,000 square foot space, and took on expanded office space in Warrendale, Pennsylvania.
The Sorces’ commitment to Erie extends to their endowment of the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) program at Mercyhurst University’s business school. “The university’s job is to make sure their graduates get jobs, and we need people that have the skill sets we’re looking for, so it’s a good match,” notes Chris Sorce, CFP®. One of the firm’s rising stars and principals, Brittany Taylor, CFP®, was recruited through the program and has been with the firm for 18 years.
“There’s a whole new generation of talent here,” adds Greg Sorce, CFP®, MSFS. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure we’re re-investing in young professionals on a continuous basis.”
The brothers believe there is real value of investing in Erie and the region.
“We’re from Erie, and we’re committed to Erie and the Erie region,” Greg Sorce offers. “In fact, we think it’s incredibly important to be involved in all our markets.”
Invested in the Future
Training and technology have opened new doors of opportunity for HBKS and its clients. According to the firm’s principals, it’s not unusual for employees to undergo customer service training by Ritz Carlton or to be inspired by disruptive innovation expert Daniel Burris to help them deliver the best client experience possible.
One of the firm’s recent acquisitions, now named HBK High Performance, works with clients to train and develop their talent in sales, marketing and personal skills. “If it’s something that affects our clients’ financial lives, we’re looking at ways that we can help them,” says Piccirillo.
The firm is also ahead of the curve by investing in cybersecurity and staying abreast of new service-enhancing technology.
“Financial planning used to be stagnant. Now we have the technology to update a client’s plan every time we meet, so they can see how they are doing,” says Chris Sorce. “What artificial intelligence is going to bring into the industry and to the world is going to be mind-boggling. We need to make sure we keep pace with it.”
HBKS Wealth Advisors’ principals view growth as key to the firm’s future. “Look for us to grow more horizontally, not just vertically,” says Allegretti. “I think you’re going to see our organization attract people with different skills that you might not associate with financial services, because that will be what our clients need.”
The Best is Yet to Come
“For all these years, Greg and I have been working together and building this together and working with Dean and Chris Allegretti and a host of brilliant professionals who have joined our team along the way,” Chris Sorce recalls. “And it’s not over. The best is yet to come.”
As the partners explain, the firm is already positioned for the future, including second and third generation clients turning to HBKS Wealth Advisors for their financial planning and investment advice.
“We want thank our clients, particularly the people in this community who trusted us a long time ago when we were starting out,” says Picirillo. “We’re honored to have had the opportunity to serve such great people.”
And, at HBKS Wealth Advisors, that’s the true measure of success.
For more information, visit www.hbkswealth.com.