Got a few hundred million? Boise's Caprock Group wants you

SPECIAL TO BUSINESS INSIDERMay 29, 2013 

  • THE CAPROCK GROUP INC.

    Telephone: 368-9600

    Website: www.thecaprockgroup.com

    Business type: S corporation.

    Revenues: Not disclosed

    Number of family clients: 70

  • The other five co-founders and co-owners:

    Gregory A. Brown

    Richard Rock

    A. Craig Olson

    Mark Gustafson

    Matthew Weatherley-White

Call it a sign of good fortune that you might be searching for a company like The Caprock Group. Its financial advisers work with a select group of individuals and families known as "high net worth."

Caprock's service is customized wealth management. The business is based on a model called the private or single-family office, expanded to a multifamily office representing several well-heeled clans. The company provides those families information and tailored advice to make financial decisions.

"Private family offices emerged in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries at a time when a handful of elite families amassed staggering wealth," Caprock says in a brochure. "To manage this wealth, the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Phippes, Carnegies and others organized offices and staffed them with full-time attorneys, accountants and investment professionals."

As far as we know there aren't any Rockefellers or Vanderbilts in town these days, but there is family money, and Caprock has its sights set on the well-to-do near and far.

"Each one of those families has an entirely different and unique set of circumstances, needs, assets, issues and problems," says Bill Gilbert, who co-founded the firm in 2005 and is one of seven active managing directors.

Have $500 million? Who you gonna call?

You could call a single-family office. "But to really do that well from a single family office and hire in the talent you need, those costs are pretty significant," Gilbert says. "You need to have upwards of a billion dollars to make that work financially. So what do you do if you're a family between $20 million and $400 or $500 million (in assets)?"

Gilbert and his partners are standing by.

LAUNCHING AND MARKETING BY WORD OF MOUTH

He and another partner, Matthew Weatherly-White, were investment advisers and had developed a core group of family clients from the Boise office of investment firm Smith Barney. "But there were some significant limitations on us on really being able to give advice across the balance sheet when you're at an investment banker or wire-house firm," he says. "Because you can only really give advice on what's on your platform. We wanted to be able to provide advice on any asset on a client's balance sheet and be agnostic on where those investments were or what they were in.

"So we launched (Caprock) with a couple of families out of the gate. They became full family-office clients. They gave us a bit of a start."

The firm works with rich clients from across the country from an old Downtown Boise office that includes the one-time corner suite of the late Idaho agriculture mogul J.R. Simplot. It charges a percentage of their portfolio amounts - up to 1 percent for small portfolios, less for big ones.

Caprock's marketing consists of word of mouth and three brochures, Gilbert says.

"Among the things that our families pay us for is our discretion, and for being able to be really effective stewards of their balance sheets - but do it in a quiet way," he says. "That means you're not going to see our name very often. Many people here in Boise know one or two or three of us at Caprock, and they know we have something to do with investments and finance, but they don't really know exactly what we do, and that's kind of OK in many ways. The families that we serve do know what we do."

BOISE-BASED, EXPANDING JUDICIOUSLY

Caprock is in Suite 200 of the 805 Idaho Building, the former Boise City National Bank building at 805 W. Idaho St. Twelve of Caprock's 22 employees, including four directors, work there. They provide services to clients spread across the country and back-office support for small, client-facing offices in San Jose, Seattle and Park City, Utah. The Park City office opened last November.

Those offices were made possible by finding the right people, Gilbert says. "You have to add very talented people to work on and go deep on all of those (family and financial) issues."

"One of the nice things about Boise," he adds, "is that you can add that talent and pay them what is above-market for this locale. They can live a very nice lifestyle, and you still have a much cheaper infrastructure than if you're trying to do that in, say, Palo Alto, Calif. We decided to build as many of those back-office functions (as we could) here in Boise."

Gilbert is from Boise and studied at the University of Idaho. He declined to say what employees earn, but said comparable client-service, investment research and analysis employees in the Bay Area would earn at least 1 1/2 times as much yet have a lower standard of living.

None of the partners has a controlling share, Gilbert says. Other Boise-based co-founders manage the company's day-to-day operations and provide financial due diligence. Gilbert says Weatherley-White is an expert in impact investing. "It's where people invest their balance sheet to align with their values," he says. "It goes beyond socially responsible investing to the next level, where venture philanthropy and socially responsible investing meet."

MEASURING UP

The Family Office Exchange, or FOX, a member-based professional organization of wealthy families and their advisers, placed Caprock on its list of 34 leading wealth advisers in the U.S. Caprock is not a FOX member, Gilbert says. FOX says its criteria for listing include financial strength, commitment to the multigenerational needs of client families, and the competency and tenure of senior management.

BEING THE FAMILY CFO

"We are responsible for helping the client manage every asset and track every asset on your balance sheet, Gilbert says. "If you think about it in a very corporate model, (the family head is) the CEO of the family investments. We are the CFO. At the end of the day we provide strategic advice and tactical implantation across your balance sheet. It spans the gamut, from private investments to real estate, to public investments, to cash."

For the financially empowered, Gilbert claims that "deals and opportunities and investments come their way all the time, often tens a week. It's not only being able to sort through the good and the bad, but having somebody that is incented to sort through the good from the bad and doesn't have a bias one way or the other, and figuring out where they fit relative to all the other assets."

•••

sreid@nextploration.com

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