Profile: Stephen Biggs, managing director and head of alternative investments at The Mather Group
- June 1, 2023: Vol. 10, Number 6

Profile: Stephen Biggs, managing director and head of alternative investments at The Mather Group

by Mike Consol

Never discount the influence of happenstance.

It’s an influence Stephen Biggs became acquainted with after earning his master’s degree in business and finance at San Diego State University in the mid-’90s, after which he started his career as an equity analyst at the Montana Board of Investments. The pension fund’s investments included some KKR funds, which was where Biggs became acquainted with alternative investments. At one conference he attended, Biggs — young and shy at the time — sought out a quiet table. In short order, two men joined Biggs and started peppering him with questions.

As luck or fate would have it, they turned out to be investment industry legends George Roberts and Henry Kravis, two of KKR’s co-founders and nameplate partners.

“They asked me questions all night,” he recalls. “It was way more conversation than I was hoping for, but they seemed super down-to-earth nice guys; they just wanted to talk and have a conversation. It was pretty easy going. They were really interested to get our view on the market and why we were allocating, and how we saw alternatives in the portfolio. It was a pretty interesting experience to be able to have that at such an early stage.”

For Biggs, now managing director, head of alternative investments at The Mather Group, it was an auspicious moment for a career ready to bloom.


Stephen Biggs came of age in San Diego, the son of parents who emigrated from Great Britain to the United States in search of professional opportunities. His only sibling was a brother named Mike. For the most part it was the four of them, with occasional trips to England to visit extended family members.

“They got married and came right out,” Biggs said about his parent move to the United States. “I think originally the plan was to make enough money to move back and afford a house. … My dad had an aunt who lived in La Jolla, [Calif.] so they came out to San Diego and never went back. They may have stayed for the weather.”

The elder Biggs was an accountant, leading son Stephen to assume his own aptitude with numbers was likely inherited from his father.

“I was always interested in stocks and in the market,” he says. “When I was in college, I saved money and bought stocks in my own account. I lived through the ’87 crash and still wanted to do it.”

In time, Biggs headed off to San Diego State University and proved one of those seemingly rare college students who arrived in academia with a firm grasp on what he wanted to do with his professional life. Both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees were earned at San Diego State, the former a degree in business and management, the latter a degree in business and finance.

His efforts to land a gainful position in the investment industry with an undergrad degree were to no avail, convincing him to pursue a master’s degree. As part of the master’s program, Biggs and his fellow classmates managed a small piece of the university’s endowment — investing only the capital they raised by calling asset managers and hedge funds and persuading them to contribute money to the endowment for them to manage.

“It wasn’t a lot of assets,” he says. “At most, probably $100,000.”

Still, not bad for college students. Biggs and his colleagues focused on their portfolio’s performance vis-à-vis the S&P 500, only to discover post-graduation that his prospective employers were asking more questions about how he went about raising money, rather than the performance of the dollars invested.

But it took more than an advanced degree for Biggs to insinuate himself into the private wealth and asset management business. “Determination” was also a critical element, he says, as his lack of a vaunted Ivy League degree appeared to handicap his progress.

“I was making cold calls toward the end of graduate school, spent a lot of time in New York meeting with people, and none of those particularly led to a job,” he says. “But I learned a lot about the industry just going out and interviewing people that I had cold-called at investment firms. I think the willingness to be flexible and move around helped. We lived in Montana, we lived in Rochester, New York, and San Francisco, so having that persistence and flexibility showed I was willing to do what it takes to contribute and to learn more about the industry.”


After his start at the Montana State Fund, Biggs’ career took a turn when he was hired by Wells Capital Group (part of Wells Fargo) in San Francisco, where he was co-managing a large growth strategy.

“It was a great place to learn,” he says. “I met a lot of great colleagues there.”

His next career move took him to Manning & Napier, an asset and wealth management firm in Rochester, N.Y., focused primarily on the technology sector. Biggs considered the firm — which did far more in-depth research than he had access to at Wells Capital — a great learning opportunity.

His stint as a technology analyst at Zacks Investment Research brought him into contact with people at Palm, the company that created the Palm Pilot, a handheld computer and a whiz-bang precursor to the smartphone. The Palm Pilot was the first personal digital assistant (or PDA) successfully marketed worldwide, with the Palm Treo 600 becoming one of the early successful smartphones.

With the advent of the iPhone and its Android competitors, Palm gradually faded from relevance. Wikipedia recounts that, in July 2010, Palm was acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP), and in 2011 announced a new range of webOS products. But after poor sales, HP announced in August 2011 that it would end production and support of the Palm and webOS devices, marking the end of the Palm brand after 19 years.

At Zacks, Biggs and his colleagues prepared institutional equity research on small-cap companies and provided research reports for broker/dealers.

The next career opportunity landed Biggs at HC Financial, where he served as CIO and principal. He and his fellow partners managed the assets of individuals and families with 20 percent to 30 percent allocations to alternatives for most clients. In time, however, one of the eldest partners started discussing a succession plan — as well as providing professional growth opportunities to staff members, and a long-term solution for clients — that eventually led to an August 2022 acquisition by a burgeoning Chicago-based firm named The Mather Group, LLC.

“There were a number of other firms out there, but we aligned with The Mather Group very much on how we view investments, working with clients and the additional services that we could offer to our client base that we weren’t able to offer as an independent firm,” Biggs says of the deal.


When not on the job, one will often find Biggs cycling. Among the favorite of his several bikes is the Pivot Switchblade, which he uses for mountain biking.

“It is just a good all-around trail bike; it makes you feel more comfortable going down rough trails,” he says. “You can really get out in the wilderness and see a lot of different things and, having a nice bike, the ability to go over some bigger obstacles.”

Living and working from the northern California town of Lafayette (where The Mather Group established an office with the acquisition of HC Financial), Biggs has endless miles of biking trails of all kinds.

He adds, “I have always enjoyed hiking, too. We did a lot of that growing up. I did weeklong treks through the Sierra Nevadas with backpacks. I like being out in the mountains, and I always enjoyed cycling, too. So, having the ability to mountain bike is how you really get to cover a lot of ground and see a lot of things that I don’t think you would otherwise be able to see. I do road bike too, but having the mountain bike and getting away from traffic and all that noise is a lot more relaxing. Even after work during the summer, I love being able to go out for a couple of hours, just for the peace and quiet; I find it very relaxing.”

Tragically, Biggs lost his younger brother Mike, his only sibling, to a solo bicycling accident in December 2017. Despite the significance and nature of his brother’s death, Biggs managed to get back on the seat and resume his passion for cycling.

“I have been doing it my whole life,” he says. “Everything carries risk.”

The aftermath of the loss brought the Biggs family closer together, with Biggs and his wife Pam buying a second home in the San Diego area to be closer to his parents, in-laws and other family members.

His favorite San Diego County waterfront is Solana Beach where, when growing up, he and a group of friends hung out and raced bikes — some of them making national cycling teams, and even the Olympic team.

“I also like Solana Beach because there’s a dog beach there. I had a dog and used to take him over to the beach,” he says. “And there was a favorite place to go for pizza and maybe a beer. It was called Pizza Port.”


Early in life, Biggs became interested in how companies and businesses operated, and would analyze their annual reports, stock prices and movements, and market dynamics. That led to his interest in picking stocks. It wasn’t until later in life that he learned what an alternative investment was and started bringing them into the fold of his portfolio.

Currently, Biggs estimates that 30 percent to 40 percent of his personal holdings are alternatives, and the bulk of those illiquid.

“I probably have a higher allocation to alternatives than most people,” he says, “but I feel very confident in something like an infrastructure investment where other people might debate whether it’s truly risk-averse or not. To me, I would rather own that than, say, a bond that doesn’t give you the inflation protection, is subject to interest rates, and has a fairly low return overall.”

In part, Biggs acknowledges he was motivated in his career choice by a desire to accumulate wealth.

“It is generally a high-paying profession, so I’m sure some of that was there, but there are also other fields that pay well, so I think it was an interest in investing and how business worked overall.”

When he started working in the investing field, Biggs got the prime opportunity to meet with the management teams to learn about the businesses in question, their strategies, how they planned to drive sales and their perspectives on the market.

Biggs felt fully embedded in the investment field when he became the reason assets started coming into the firm.

“You feel a lot more secure when clients directly trust you with their money,” he explains. “It’s a much different feeling than managing a mutual fund where you don’t see the shareholders.”

They key, he learned, was being able to explain investment plans and options in plain English rather than industry jargon.

“Giving them a better ability to understand what is actually going on with their investments or the economy is a big reassurance.”


While The Mather Group has offices in big markets such as Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., and smaller markets such as offices in places such as Beaverton, Ore., and Knoxville, Tenn., its ambitions are larger still.

The Mather Group’s geographic expansion is largely pinned to its acquisitions of firms including Cedar Financial Advisors (in Beaverton) and Barrow Asset Management (in Tampa).

In accordance with the firm’s growth strategy, more acquisitions are to come.

Already, The Mather Group dubs itself as one of the fastest-growing independent, fee-only registered investment advisory firms in the country.

Whether Biggs and The Mather Group hit their targets only time — and maybe happenstance — will tell.


Mike Consol ( is senior editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter (@mikeconsol) and LinkedIn ( to read his latest postings.

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