After sticking together through various mergers and acquisitions, a local investment advisory group has left the big bank they were working for and struck out on their own. And their old boss and more recent boss have joined them.
Dover Advisors was launched in August by a foursome who all left Atlantic Union Bank’s wealth management division.
The new firm is led by President Jess Ellington, who until April was AUB’s chief investment officer.
Ellington led the Richmond-based bank’s trust and asset management unit, which handles more than $2 billion in client assets. He also built and led its registered investment advisor division, which AUB sold earlier this year to another local firm.
At age 59, Ellington has been in the business for 37 years and said he long dreamed of starting his own firm.
“This business is all about experience. It’s always been my goal to have an investment advisory firm,” he said. “The timing was right.”
All he needed was a team, and he found just the right group within his ranks at AUB in Maxwell Wallace, Ned Abbe and Tracy Gregory.
That trio had all been together for years at Tredegar Trust Co., which then became Middleburg Trust Co., and then was acquired by Access National Bank in 2017 and then Atlantic Union in 2019. In addition to their loyalty for each other, the group also had loyal clients that had stuck with them through the various moves and name changes.
“We had worked together and I knew they had this team that had been servicing this group of clients for 25 years,” Ellington said.
Also joining them is John Mason Antrim, who was Wallace, Abbey and Gregory’s former boss as the longtime head at Tredegar Trust and Middleburg Trust, before retiring in 2020. Antrim has come out of retirement for the new venture.
With Ellington piecing the firm together on the outside, Wallace, Abbe and Young ultimately resigned from AUB in mid-August. Dover Advisors launched thereafter on Aug. 19. Antrim also joined that month.
The young firm already has around $100 million in assets under management. It set up a headquarters at 2235 Staples Mill Road, across from Libbie Mill Midtown.
As to their decision to leave AUB, Wallace said he and his group had longed to get back to smaller confines like they experienced at Middleburg.
“We were kind of in an entrepreneurial setting,” at Middleburg, said Wallace, 50. “It was either stay the course until retirement or take an opportunity to get back to even more of an entrepreneurial leap.
“We’re pushing all in and we’re hoping we can make this work,” he said.
With Antrim un-retiring to rejoin the group, Ellington said they’ve joked that it’s a bit like getting the band back together.
“It’s a lot like that because there was a lot of magic and chemistry,” he said.
The firm represents generally high net-worth clients, including families, individuals, business owners, trusts and foundations. Wallace said their client base is heavily concentrated in Richmond and people from Richmond who may have moved elsewhere.
Ellington said the wealth management industry is in a state of flux and in some cases disjointed due to years of mergers and acquisitions.
“There’s been so much change, so many acquisitions, so many name changes,” Ellington said. “We want to build something consistent that’s generational for clients.”
He said some clients also are looking to simplify things after all the changes.
“The wealth space is very crowded and can be very confusing to clients,” Ellington said. “It’s hard to really weed through all of that. A lot of people claim a lot of things.”
Dover Advisors is the latest local group to leave a larger investment advisory firm to strike out on their own. Earlier this year, Preston Dillard and Scott Storey launched 3Chopt Investment Partners in the West End, after respective stints at TSW and BB&T.
Ellington said that state of flux will likely help fuel their growth strategy for the new firm. He said their first priority in year one will be focused on taking care of their current clients. But after that, growth via recruitment is on the drawing board.
“The next priority is to bring in like-minded teams to join what we’re building,” Ellington said. “It’ll be a combination of teams that are within other organizations that aren’t happy and a generational thing of teams aging out and wanting to transition their clients.”
The final leg of their plan is to set the firm and their clients up for the long-term.
“Priority three is we really want to acquire some young talent. There’s going to be this massive wealth transfer and it’s important to be connected to the younger generation,” Ellington said.
As for the origins of the Dover Advisors name, Ellington said choosing a brand proved to be one of the more difficult steps in the firm’s launch.
“Deciding on a name is very tough. You bat a lot of strange ones around,” he said. “We said, ‘what’s something that sounds like it has some age and experience and kind of a landmark?’”
They ultimately landed on the idea of a famous natural landmark in England.
“The White Cliffs of Dover have always appealed to me,” Ellington said.