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Combo of three area firms into Charter Oak Financial aims to be major presence in Northeast

The combination of Charter Oak Financial, MassMutual Greater Long Island and MassMutual Greater Hudson not only creates one of the largest financial services firms in the Northeast, it also represents a kind of homecoming for one of the resulting entity’s lead executives.

Brad Somma Charter Oak

“The two of us get along really well and have worked together on and off over the years,” Brad Somma said of Brendan Naughton, his fellow co-managing partner at the Norwalk firm, which retains the Charter Oak name. “My 12-year-old is pretty heavily into hockey, so I think we’ll be going to his lake house in Norwalk pretty regularly.”

The combined company has 375 advisers and a team of more than 100 specialists and staff. Somma estimated that today’s Charter Oak has close to 100,000 clients.

Charter Oak is a MassMutual firm, independently owned and operated by Somma and Naughton. They first encountered each other at New York Life Insurance Co. in 2001. After Naughton left to join Charter Oak in 2005, the pair stayed in touch, and Somma joined him in 2008 to run its Stamford office.

In 2011, MassMutual appointed Somma managing partner of MassMutual Greater Long Island.

“Brendan always jokes that I left a big hole here,” Somma laughed, noting that he’d been instrumental in establishing Charter Oak’s presence in Manhattan and Flushing, Queens.

Last year MassMutual decided that combining companies offering a similar menu of financial services and insurance in different regions “would ensure a consistent suite of services to customers with really capable advisers,” Somma explained. “The thinking was, with too many firms, it was hard to do that.”

“Brendan and Brad are visionary leaders who each bring unique experiences and leadership to the financial services industry at large,” remarked John Vaccaro, head of MassMutual Financial Advisors.

“Building on their excellent reputations and history,” he continued, “I am confident that Charter Oak Financial is well positioned to maximize the tremendous opportunities for residents and businesses across the markets they serve. The resources available in the larger firm will provide a tremendous opportunity to invest in progressive strategies to serve the evolving needs of customers.”

Somma, a Rye resident — Naughton lives in Newtown and is also president of the MassMutual General Agents’ Association — said that Charter Oak does not have what it considers a central office. Instead, the two men “are in the car a lot” visiting its 12 locations, which in addition to the aforementioned include Hamden; Latham and Saratoga Springs in New York; and Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The car tour includes setting Charter Oak’s vision and establishing a consistent culture, Somma said.

“When MassMutual approached us about combining the companies, we thought that the math made sense. Now there’s a lot of lifting to do to make sure the culture here is excellent,” he said.

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