The name Alex. Brown has always had a special meaning for Barry Garber. The legacy investment banking firm is where Garber, 60, got his start in the wealth management industry more than 25 years ago and has remained ever since.
So having the opportunity to bring the Alex. Brown name back to the forefront is something Garber started to ponder more than a year-and-a-half ago when he learned the division of its parent company was on the selling block.
On Tuesday, Raymond James Financial, the seventh-largest assets brokerage firm in the country, made its acquisition of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management’s U.S. Private Client Services Unit official and announced it would rebrand the unit as Alex. Brown.
“I think what is particularly interesting about this is I anticipate a major reinvestment back into the Baltimore region,” Garber said. “I think the [Alex. Brown] name will be more prominent than it has been over the last 15 years.”
Founded in 1800, Alex. Brown & Sons — the name it went by throughout much of its history — started as a linen-trading firm on Gay Street before it morphed into an investment and brokerage house. During its early years, the company was instrumental in the construction of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the formation of the Baltimore Water Co. and the financing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with bond sales.
As the firm grew, it became known for taking companies such as Microsoft, Microsystems, Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse and Krispy Kreme, among others, public so investors could buy stock options.
The company was acquired by Bankers Trust in September 1997 for about $2.5 billion. A little less than two years later, in June 1999, Germany-based Deutsche Bank purchased Bankers Trust for more than $10 billion and rebranded the Alex. Brown name.
But if anyone can accelerate the progression of the Alex. Brown name, Garber figures to be at the top of the list.
“What Barry brings to the table in terms of his connections to the community and the business end is invaluable,” said Marcus Aiello, the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., regional executive director at Alex. Brown. “With Barry possessing the experience he does — we’ve worked together for 16 years — along with the rest of our team, I know we’re a great position moving forward.”
After graduating magna cum laude from Syracuse University’s School of Management and earning his master’s degree from New York University, Garber entered management training at General Food Corp. From there, he joined what is now known as Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company, where he was a product manager responsible for profit and loss statements. Prior to joining Alex. Brown, he was recruited as a senior executive for U.S. Health, which owned and operated about 65 fitness centers across the country.
Now, he specializes in building custom portfolios with expertise in overlaying alternative investments — including private equity, hedge funds, real estate and structured solutions — as head of the Garber Wealth Management Team.
Garber attributes much of his success to the right mix of people working together, heading a team of six associates with more than 100 combined years of experience in the wealth management industry. Together, he and his staff oversee about $2.4 billion in assets for more than 100 clients that include entrepreneurs, institutions, endowments, family offices and high-net-worth individuals.
All of his business comes from referrals, and Garber says he doesn’t make cold calls to solicit business and is at advantage to gain new clients because of the focus he puts on them.
“If I lose my own money, that’s too bad,” Garber said. “But if I lose other people’s money or don’t do the right thing, then that’s unacceptable.”
That’s the kind of self- assured attitude that has helped Garber gain national recognition.
Garber has been featured in Forbes magazine, which this year ranked him No. 81 on its list of the top 100 wealth managers in the nation. In addition, he has been featured on Barron’s annual list of Top Financial Advisors for the past seven years and has been recognized by the Financial Times as a Top 401 Retirement Advisor.
Under the Alex. Brown name, Garber is helping the firm do its part to reestablish its footing in the city and giving back to a number of causes to underserved citizens. It’s also part of the growth strategy Garber and Aiello plan to incorporate into their aggressive strategy for the region.
“To be able to do what I do and have the platform to give back is what I have found to be really worthwhile in all this,” Garber said. “That’s an important piece of all this. What good is what we do if you can’t give back to the community?”
With his work ethic as strong as ever, Garber has no plans of retiring anytime soon. Once his youngest daughter, a senior at Roland Park Country School, graduates from college, then Garber said he might entertain that notion.
And who knows? If she’s anything like her older brother, Zack, 28, who went to work for his father recently, she may take up the family business as well.
“If you love what you do and can continue to meet the demands of yourself and your clients, you have to keep going,” Garber said. “It’s a very unique and interesting element to have my son now working for me.”