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Financial advisory firm establishes Charlotte office as first in Mid-Atlantic region

A Dallas-based financial advisory firm is looking to build a presence in Charlotte — its first office in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Embark on Monday opened an office in the WeWork space at South End's The RailYard. It is looking to hire a handful of consultants in the next two or three months, potentially growing to 30 employees over the next year, said Jon Wilkinson, senior vice president of market development at the Charlotte office.

Embark, which provides consulting and advisory services, was founded by Paul Allen in 2010. Many of its consultants come with experience from the Big Four accounting firms. Compensation is directly correlated with what a consultant contributes to the firm, Wilkinson said. Embark primarily targets middle-market business clients with $250 million to $750 million in annual revenue. It has worked with big-name clients, such as Neiman Marcus and GameStop. It often looks for private companies that could go public, he said.

Wilkinson sees potential for Charlotte to become one of Embark's largest markets. He said the firm has been in a hyper-growth stage in the last few years — with more than 110% year-over-year growth projected in 2021, following a slowdown due to Covid-19. Embark had already surpassed the full-year revenue total for 2020 as of this year's second quarter.

"What I've seen so far is this is a company that, when they find the right opportunity — and the right opportunity means the right location, plus the right people — they're going to be ready and willing to pull the trigger," Wilkinson said.

Embark has made a big push in its business development team, Wilkinson said. This year, it has been building up its first East Coast market in Tampa, Florida. The firm has a significant presence in Texas and has expanded into other cities such as Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. He said Covid-19 has not affected expansion plans. The Phoenix and Salt Lake City offices, for example, were opened last year during the pandemic, he noted.

Wilkinson said Charlotte is an attractive market because of its strong business sectors, ranging from financial services to industrial manufacturing. He said it also has a good talent pool, with proximity to multiple universities for younger hires.

Charlotte has attracted some major employers in the last year. Wilkinson noted Robinhood Markets Inc., which plans to add nearly 400 jobs here by 2025 as part of a $11.8 million investment. Another example is Centene Corp. The health insurance company is setting up an East Coast headquarters at University Research Park. Fortune 100 firm USAA confirmed this spring it is opening an office in South End and will hire about 750 local employees.

"When you look back at the last year, there's just a tremendous amount of investments that are going on in the Charlotte market. It's just a very fast-growing city," Wilkinson said.

He said Raleigh is another city of interest for him. There is also Atlanta and Miami.

Embark has yet to secure any clients in Charlotte...

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