Conte's new Florida office targets niche market
Many independently owned, one-location midstate businesses reach a point where they think they'd like to expand.
Most times, it's to another local spot. Sometimes businesses open a second location in a bigger metropolitan area such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh when they believe they're ready for the big time.
Then there is the move that Camp Hill-based Conte Wealth Advisors LLC made recently.
"You'd think if a company from around here would open a second office, it would be in York or Lancaster," said Frank A. Conte, managing partner of the firm. "Not Fort Myers."
But that's just what the company did in late October, opening a second office in the south Florida Gulf Coast city, a move that already has helped business boom for the firm.
While the office has been physically open just a few weeks, Conte said it's been doing business for about six months and already has helped the firm grow about 25 percent, to $350 million in assets managed.
From the firm's projections, that growth should remain consistent over the first few years.
"We're expecting to see about 25 to 30 percent growth each year because of the new office," he said. "(The new office) seemed to make sense at the time, and it's really making sense now."
The new office has been more than five years in the works after Conte's friend, Jim Ruttenberg, who ran an Ohio investment firm, retired to the Fort Myers area. Conte has a part-time home there as well, and the two 30-year business friends now lived 10 minutes apart.
After both men had homes there, the plan hatched to open a new office targeting a niche market of businesses and individuals in the region who were still working.
"Every firm that was down there, or at least most firms down there, had been targeting retirees," said Anthony M. Conte, Frank Conte's son and managing partner of the firm. "We all know there are a lot of retirees in the area, but the area has been built up, and now there is a lot of business and industry there as well. No one seemed to be targeting them."
But during the planning — and when it seemed like the office could be close to a reality — Ruttenberg died in May 2010 after a six-month bout with bile duct cancer, and the plan was put on hold. But the Contes still had a connection — Ruttenberg's son, who also was living in Fort Myers and originally was going to be part of the new office.
Early this year, Matthew J. Ruttenburg said, the Contes called and said they were ready to open the office. Ruttenburg was more than ready and knew the business model was one that would work in the area.
"When the retirees pass away down here," Ruttenburg, now a partner with Conte Wealth Advisors, said from the Florida office, "the money goes back up north with the kids and we never see them again. This way, we could be one of the few firms down here that could work with generation after generation."
The new office will have two advisers by the time it holds its grand opening in January, adding to the 10 employees at the Camp Hill office. All calls to the Florida office will go through the Camp Hill office and be transferred to Florida, allowing the firm to keep its full support staff local and not be forced to hire staff in Florida.
If the new office continues to produce the kind of results it already has, Frank Conte said, there likely will be more expansion.
"Maybe closer to home this time," he said.