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Briggs builds his firm after turbulent times

Rochester Business Journal
February 3, 2012

More than five years after a former business partner was charged with taking $11 million from investors by fraud, Jeffrey Briggs has weathered the repercussions of that association, growing his firm by 40 percent in the last three years.
 
Briggs, 50, is CEO at Rochester Wealth Management Group LLC on East Avenue. It employs three staff members and 19 brokers full time. The firm has 2,000 clients in 1,200 households and an asset base of $300 million, Briggs said.
 
"Our goal is to have 25 to 30 reps averaging $250,000 in annual gross production in five years," Briggs said. "Our milestone is the $5 million revenue number in Rochester.
 
"We don't aspire to be in Buffalo or Syracuse. We want to be the premier investment advisory firm in Rochester, period."
 
Rochester Wealth Management is 13th on the Rochester Business Journal's most recent list of local brokerages, ranked on the number of local brokers.
 
It is designated as an office of supervisory jurisdiction of Capitol Securities Management Inc., a retail brokerage in Richmond, Va., with 200 investment professionals serving 15,000 accounts and $3 billion in assets nationwide.
 
The local brokers are independent contractors, licensed and paid by Capitol Securities.
 
"That's a little bit different, but what we get in exchange for that is entrepreneurial people to come on board to build their business within our business and work as a team," Briggs said.
 
"Our relationship with Capitol gives us an opportunity to have the back office and compliance resources of a firm five times our size, yet operate here," Briggs said.
 
Rochester Wealth Management's portfolio includes investments, retirement planning, annuities and life insurance.
 
The firm was founded in 2005 after Briggs purchased the Rochester office of Kirlin Securities Inc. and merged it with Pittsford Capital Group Inc., co-founded by Edward Tackaberry and Mark Palazzo.
 
One year later, Tackaberry and Palazzo were charged with fraud and misappropriation of funds by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, accused of cheating roughly 200 retirees out of more than $11 million. Tackaberry and Palazzo were ordered to repay some $25.8 million, including $14.7 million in pre-judgment interest, federal court records show.
 
Tackaberry and Palazzo raised $15 million in unregistered transactions from 275 investors from 1996 to 2004, the SEC complaint stated. Neither Briggs nor Kirlin Securities was involved; neither was mentioned in the complaint.
 
Nonetheless, confusion ensued because of similarities among corporate names listed in the complaint and the Pittsford Capital Wealth Management LLC name taken when Briggs merged his firm with that of Tackaberry and Palazzo.
 
Pittsford Capital LLC, Pittsford Capital Group Inc., Pittsford Capital Mortgage Partners LLC and Pittsford Capital Income Partners LLC were among nine names listed as defendants in the SEC suit.
 
"After I purchased my branch from Kirlin, Ted Tackaberry and two of his associates joined us and we formed Pittsford Capital Wealth Management," Briggs said. "None of the prior business of Pittsford Capital Group came into that entity.
 
"Ted Tackaberry continued to manage the mortgage fund as an outside business. It was listed and disclosed in a (central registration depository) that it was outside business."
 
Tackaberry resigned from the merged firm five days after the SEC complaint was filed.
 
The confusion took a toll on Briggs, personally and financially. The merged firm was to move to the East Avenue location, which was purchased in 2005. Some $120,000 was spent, Briggs said, on renovation of a residential structure built in 1930.
 
Briggs moved his business from the Harro East Building on Andrews Street. Tackaberry and Palazzo moved their business from the Tobey Village Office Park in Pittsford.
 
"We're operating for just a few weeks and waiting for our closing, and the issue came out with the mortgage funds," Briggs said. "There was no warning for me, maybe six hours before it became public.
 
"I immediately notified HSBC that there was an issue that wouldn't affect the building. However, the next day HSBC sent someone in to look at the building. I was asked to sign some documents because their back office didn't have the paperwork right. Then I was notified that I had 30 days to move our accounts."
 
The bank rescinded its loan.
 
"I had to make several adjustments, ultimately going through a lender who in a very roundabout way financed the building," Briggs said. "HSBC told me that I was tied to (the SEC complaint).
 
"Their fear was that, potentially, thenegative publicity would impact our revenues going forward and we would not be able to honor our obligation to HSBC."
 
Brian Venton, 52, joined Rochester Wealth Management three years ago as its president. He has worked in financial services since 1998. Prior to that, he worked in adult protective services for Monroe County.
 
"I've spearheaded a lot of the branding of the firm, making sure we've evened out the platform and offerings we can give to clients for different solutions," Venton said.
 
Rochester Wealth Management has been involved with equities and public and private offerings with companies such as Document Security Systems Inc., Auction Direct USA, Arista Power Inc. and, most recently, Natcore Technology Inc.
 
"We're looking at new technologies, new opportunities," Briggs said. "Natcore, a New Jersey business, is now building roots in Rochester, and we're trying to get our arms around that company because I think it's a very exciting opportunity."
 
The developer of thin-film technology for semiconductors and fiber optics has research and development operations in the Eastman Business Park. Its president and CEO, Charles Provini, is a former top executive at Kirlin Securities.
 
"I'm a believer in Rochester, and I think it can be great again," Briggs said. "Natcore developed a technology that could change the solar industry.
 
"If what they say they have is true, that could be game changing for their investors. If they have high-net-worth individuals investing in this company, why not do it through Rochester Wealth Management? I want to take advantage of the momentum and get a seat on the train."

2/3/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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