Ian Fuller, Westfuller Advisors
Ian Fuller is the co-founder of Westfuller Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm in New York City that builds and preserves legacies of wealth for progressive individuals, families and institutions. Crain Currency spoke with Fuller about aligning social impact with investment strategies to deliver financial returns and cultural change.
What types of family offices do you work with?
Westfuller provides investment advisory and outsourced chief investment officer services for family offices. While family offices represent a very diverse group, the family offices we tend to partner with are progressive, entrepreneurial and next-gen, seeking high-touch service combined with financial returns and impact through the lens of climate, economic and racial justice. As a certified B-corp, this archetype of family offices has come to value our purpose-driven approach and commitment to supporting a wide range of financial needs, from optimizing concentrated holdings to sourcing best-in-class impact-investing opportunities.
What’s the latest purposeful investment you made, and why did you do it?
Recently, Westfuller invested in Momentus Capital’s newly launched Equitable Prosperity Fund, a private equity fund vehicle aiming for market-rate returns while providing access to capital for high-growth, social enterprises led by people of color and/or serving communities of color. The innovative vehicle provides equity, debt and technical assistance for social enterprises seeking scale.
Westfuller also invested in Fund III of [the] Impact America Fund, led by GP Kesha Cash. Kesha is a CBS [Columbia Business School] graduate and former Merrill Lynch investment banker who has long been at the vanguard of impact investing. Impact America has a focus on high-growth entrepreneurs of color scaling businesses that provide real solutions to underserved communities. Fund III marks a significant milestone for Kesha, with her upcoming closing of over $100M, one of the largest VC fund closings by a Black woman general partner.
In each instance, these opportunities exemplify our firms’ focus on financial returns and deep impact-driven investments aiming to improve the lives of disinvested communities who have long been kept from the promise of capitalism.
What wealth strategies and planning tools help your clients meet their multigenerational goals?
As a planning-centric firm, we partner with our clients and their professional advisers (tax, legal, etc.) to develop tax-efficient, impact-driven wealth strategies that aim to protect and grow multigenerational wealth. From Monte Carlo simulations that model annual spending needs and strategic asset-allocation approaches, to philanthropic and governance advising that integrates the highest-impact charitable strategies, wealth planning and effective strategy implementation are key to helping our clients meet their multigenerational goals. We incorporate a diverse range of wealth planning tools, from sophisticated trust and estate structures to donor-advised funds and other charitable philanthropic strategies, to help our clients achieve multigenerational goals.
Obviously, there’s a huge racial wealth gap in this country, and there is not much diversity in the family-office community. Do you see that changing?
By now, most of us are familiar with stark statistics that less than 1% of assets managed in the U.S. (of the $70 trillion) are managed by women and people of color. While we see pockets of the industry changing, particularly in the spate of new VC funds being launched by people and women of color, diversity in the family-office community continues to remain stubbornly low. We are seeing an increasing number of family offices and their professional advisers begin to intentionally address diversity, equity and inclusion. A number of RFPs we’ve recently participated in — and won — have requested due-diligence information on DEI statistics alongside track record, investment strategy, research, etc. This clearly marks an evolution in how family offices are selecting investment advisory partners to support their vision.
The family-office community’s lack of diversity is naturally correlated to the profound racial wealth gap that exists in America, but we are seeing reasons for hope amidst a growing commitment by many family offices to intentionally incorporate diversity into their practices. Many family offices understand what we know to be true: Diversity is both a moral imperative and a practice that supports the best strategic outcomes over the long term, according to a wide body of research from sources such as McKinsey, Citigroup, Harvard, etc.
How do you define success for a family office?
Of course, we use many of the traditional metrics to define success for a family office: operational efficiency, alpha, risk-adjusted financial returns, long-term security and preservation of wealth, etc. That said, we have come to think of success for a family office distilled into the something far more essential — the alignment of a core value system built on well-being, joy, security, purpose and impact.
Interview by Marcus Baram, Crain Currency contributing editor