Women named co-CEOs at $4.4bn impact investing-focused RIA Citywire USA
Impact Investing Forum 2023
London. Dec 05-06, 2023.
Santa Monica RIA Abacus Wealth Partners has named two women, Mary Beth Storjohann, the firm’s chief marketing officer, and Neela Hummel, the firm’s chief advisory officer, as co-chief executive officers.
The two replace co-founder Brent Kessel, who will stay with Abacus full time to help spearhead value-based investing initiatives. Kessel also remains on the firm’s board of directors.
‘We’re really excited about the opportunity and the precedent this is setting for the industry, having two women in this seat for a firm of our size, and the stage I hope we’re setting for the women to come behind us,’ Storjohann (pictured, right) told Citywire.
Storjohann, who joined Abacus in 2019 after merging her virtual RIA, Workable Wealth, into Abacus, will lead strategic business growth efforts and public communications for the company. Hummel (pictured, left), who has risen in the ranks after starting at Abacus 12 years ago as an unpaid intern, will focus on employee development and client service.
Having two co-CEOs, Storjohann said, presents an opportunity for ‘better organizational performance through dividing and conquering. There’s more time available to balance those strategic and tactical issues, and we’ll have expanded availability to speak and engage with the public while still managing the business.’
Hummel said the move sets Abacus up to ‘grow and evolve’ in a future without the leadership of the firm’s founders.
‘This industry is mostly founder-led and founder-owned. What this does is it catalyzes some major changes to our cap table and ownership structure that might’ve otherwise stayed stagnant for years,’ she said. ‘Having more equity in more hands creates a bigger, better table.’
Abacus was formed in 2004 through the merger of Abacus Wealth Management and Sherman Financial. Brent Kessel and Spencer Sherman, who founded the respective firms, each hold a 25.2% stake in Abacus, according to the firm’s latest Form ADV filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The remaining equity is held between a group of 22 employee partners, each with varying percentages of ownership. How Storjohann and Hummel’s equity holdings in Abacus will change as a result of their promotion was not disclosed.
Abacus today employs more than 40 advisors – more than half of whom are women – who manage a combined $4.4bn in assets across more than 1,600 clients. The firm is heavily focused on impact investing and is certified by the non-profit B Lab as a B-Corp., a private company that meets certain social sustainability, environmental and transparency standards. Hummel said Abacus is the first financial services firm to achieve such a certification.
The co-CEOs will focus on scaling Abacus through M&A, particularly seeking smaller firms with ‘one to five employees,’ Storjohann said. The firm is engaged with several M&A consultants and is targeting purchase opportunities in ‘values-aligned markets’ including Austin, Denver and Portland. Outside of its Santa Monica headquarters, Abacus maintains one office in Philadelphia.
‘One of the goals since I took the seat as chief marketing officer was to change us from a company into a brand. You see that in terms of the content that we’re putting out. We have money meditations, we have LGBTQ+ content on our website, there’s a space for women,’ Storjohann said. ‘We are looking to become a national brand.’