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Rochester Chamber Top 100: Financial firm has added space for its growth

Rochester Business Journal
November 25, 2016

Robert Bartolotta likes his independence. He started a corporate benefits firm with a partner in 1994, followed it with a payroll and benefits company in 2010 and then added a third, APFS Wealth Management Inc. in 2011.

Created under the banner of American Portfolios, APFS Wealth Management is an independent investment advisory firm, strictly fee-based, serving both individuals and businesses. Bartolotta serves as its president and CEO.

“It allows us to have ownership, be really more a part of the community and to have our company here and have some control over it,” he said.

Revenue at APFS Wealth Management is growing, from $2.6 million in 2014 to $3.4 million in 2015 to expected revenues of $4 million in 2016, Bartolotta said. The company has $420 million in assets under management and added nine employees over the past three years.

Patrick Manuel was one of those people. He joined the company in 2014 after watching Bartolotta, whom he knew, gather an impressive array of experts who work well together.

“It’s a very unified team, if you will, so everyone knows what our objectives are and where they fit into that puzzle and the importance of the role they play,” he said.

The company’s growth is also reflected in physical expansion. It’s adding 5,600 square feet of office space to the existing 11,000 square feet this fall.

“We have plenty of room now for growth,” Bartolotta said.

Starting next year, Bartolotta will be asserting his independence in a new way.

In early 2017, all three companies will be rebranded to create a new identity that no longer refers to American Portfolios, he said. That will be followed by a fresh marketing effort and outreach under the new name.

His desire for independence runs through his business decisions over the years, starting with his decision to leave an insurance-based financial planning firm where he first worked.

“The whole process, even back then when I migrated to form this business in ’94, the original business, was to have some autonomy and independence and custody and control over our recommendations—and essentially an ongoing theme of putting our customers first,” he said.

Bartolotta said his focus now is as much on his employees as his customers.

“At this point in my current role, I serve my employees, and I have to do that well because they serve our customers.... If we serve the employees well and treat them with respect, courtesy and properly compensate them and create a good environment, that comes through to the customer,” he said.

Accomplishing those goals requires flexibility. That is not always easy, he said, given that he approaches change “kicking and screaming.”

“We’re going to go to unlimited vacation time—and that’s out of my comfort zone because that’s not what I’m used to. But I know I have to do it because I trust the employee, and we have to move forward.”

Bartolotta already offers his employees flexible scheduling, which allows them to take off time as needed for doctor appointments or to attend a child’s sporting event. Providing terms of employment that are attractive to the best employees is essential if the company is going to continue to grow and prosper, he said.

He tries to stay on top of trends by reading and listening to his staff and sometimes running things by his 27-year-old daughter Chelsea, who works for him, Bartolotta said.

“I try not to get stuck in my own thoughts and the way I think it should be,” he said.

He hopes this approach also positions his company to handle the transition that is coming as wealth is handed down to the millennials. While this group may be heavily trusting of technology and rely on it more than previous generations, Bartolotta said he still sees a role for financial advisers.

Toward that end, Bartolotta said he is reinvesting profits into technology to provide new analytics, reporting systems and other tools. He is also spending more on personnel and on expanded offerings, he said.

“We manage money now for other advisers that aren’t our employees—so that’s grown,” he said.

And while he is concerned about the ways in which regulations and regulators continue to impose burdens on the financial services industry, he will continue to rely on his independence and adaptability to move forward.

The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.

APFS Wealth Management Inc.
Financial services firm offering financial planning, advisory, insurance and retirement plan services
Year founded: 2011
Top executive: Robert Bartolotta, president and CEO
Current employment: 19
2016 ranking: 37
Headquarters: Pittsford
Website: teamapfs.com

11/25/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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