Webster Financial Advisors, the investment management arm of Waterbury-based Webster Bank, has opened its new headquarters at Two Stamford Plaza, located at 281 Tresser Blvd. in Stamford.

As part of its strategy to expand into Fairfield County, Waterbury-based Webster Bank has set up a new investment hub in the heart of Stamford’s central business district.

Webster Financial Advisors, the investment management arm of the bank, has hung its shingle in downtown Stamford, with Bruce Wolfe, executive vice president of Webster Investment Management, running the new Stamford office.

In celebration of the grand opening last week, Webster Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James C. Smith, alongside Wolfe, hosted a reception at the new headquarters at Two Stamford Plaza, which is located at 281 Tresser Blvd.

Webster Financial Advisors offers financial planning and investment management services for individuals, business owners and not-for-profit institutions. The group also provides premium services for the investment management, trust, private banking and estate planning needs of more than 1,000 clients with over $1.2 billion in assets under management or administration. Webster’s investment practice also offers mutual funds and other investment products to 50,000 additional accounts representing $1 billion in account assets.

‘Long-Term Goals’

Webster initiated its de novo branch expansion into Fairfield County in February 2002 with branch openings on Summer Street and Atlantic Street in Stamford, Boston Post Road in Darien and Mill Plain Road in Danbury.

Webster Economic Advisor Dr. Nicholas S. Perna and Webster Financial Advisors Chief Investment Officer Patricia E. Magida were the scheduled speakers for the celebration.

Wolfe noted that Connecticut is the nation’s wealthiest state by income per capita and wealth per capita, which is exactly the type of market that his new office is looking to break into.

“I see we have a strong presence in the state, but as a bank we’ve been moving into the Fairfield County area. From my personal view, Fairfield is a fantastic market for us. There’s a lot of competition, but it’s a great market.”

Currently, Webster has two investment hubs – one in Hartford and the new one in Stamford. Each office is staffed with resource officers such as insurance specialists, lending specialists and fiduciary specialists.

“I almost have several mini-businesses under one roof, but you need to be able to deliver all of those services because there will be products and business issues that come up when you do a plan for someone,” said Wolfe. “When competing against the little guys, we have a lot more resources than they do. When it comes to the big guys, we can be more customized and more local.”

The new space is 10,000 square feet in the Stamford central business district that the investment group shares with Webster’s commercial group. The investment side, which has room for 35 people and staffs roughly 22, is actively recruiting in the Stamford area and has plans to grow into a “substantial business over the next few years,” according to Wolfe.

The group physically moved in March 1 and is now up and running.

The Stamford office will cover primarily Fairfield and Westchester counties, while the Hartford hub covers Hartford and New Haven counties. Wolfe noted, however, that the territories aren’t “hard and fast,” and the specialists from each office will cover the “gray area” of New Haven.

In looking for a potential client base, Wolfe’s team cross-referenced Webster’s database with an external database that tracks census information and liquid wealth. They then were able to determine that there are approximately 5,400 millionaires who are existing clients of Webster.

“We’re aggressively working with our other business lines to get access to those clients and offer them our financial planning capabilities,” said Wolfe. “If we had to go cold calling it would be difficult, but we’re working with individuals who already have relationships with the bank.”

Millionaires are the investment group’s target market, and Wolfe is aiming at the $1 million to $10 million individual – a market that he believes is underserved. While he believes that he doesn’t yet have the resources to go after individuals with $15 million to $30 million, he said that the $10 million range will be his “sweet spot.”

“Our plans take more than 20 hours to prepare,” he said. “They’re extremely complicated, and our philosophy is that if the client doesn’t like the plan we give them their money back.” Plans cost $3,500, which Wolfe said is easy for the bank to swallow if the plan doesn’t work out.

Wolfe joined the bank in October of 2002 after leaving Morgan Stanley, where he worked as an investment manager.

“I came in here to bring together a couple of investment businesses and implement a slightly different business plan,” he said. “Historically we were working in a pretty straightforward mode, and I felt that we needed to be dealing primarily in high-net-worth base.”

Wolfe was interested in changing to a financial planning/private bank type of model based around high-net-worth clients. A first step in this process was the acquisition of a company called Fleming Perry & Cox One, which, for the last 16 years, had been a small shop performing planning and investment advisory work for high-net-worth individuals.

“One of the best ways to build a relationship with a customer is to look at them in a more holistic way and not just look at their insurance needs, or their estate needs,” said Wolfe. “We’re dealing with wealthier, more complex financial situations, so it’s much better to look at them as a whole and connect the dots.”

He added, “We want to meet our customers’ long-term goals, or their kids’ goals or their grandkids’ goals. I measure my plans in decades.”

Webster Financial Corp. is the holding company for Webster Bank and Webster Insurance. With $14 billion in assets, Connecticut-based Webster Bank provides business and consumer banking, mortgage, insurance, trust and investment services through 109 banking offices, 219 ATMs, a Connecticut-based call center and the Internet. Webster Financial Corp. is majority owner of Chicago-based Duff & Phelps, a financial advisory services firm. Webster Bank owns the asset-based lending firm Whitehall Business Credit Corp., the Farmington-based equipment financing company Center Capital Corp. and Webster Trust Co.