WealthManagement Magazine

Studies In Contrast

Blending Big Pictures and Small Details Meet teams whose members have different personalities and investment styles. How do their relationships work and why do they stay together?They share a first name. But their styles and duties aren't the same.Partners for the past two years, Michael Ball and Mike D'Epagnier, brokers with Mutual Asset Advisors in Denver, an office of Sentra Securities, embrace

Blending Big Pictures and Small Details Meet teams whose members have different personalities and investment styles. How do their relationships work and why do they stay together?

They share a first name. But their styles and duties aren't the same.

Partners for the past two years, Michael Ball and Mike D'Epagnier, brokers with Mutual Asset Advisors in Denver, an office of Sentra Securities, embrace their differences.

"Each of us has an area [of expertise] and we'll gladly defer to the one in that area," Ball says.

For example, Ball handled an unsolicited call from a prospect who was having some problems with his current firm and was considering moving his account. "I talked to him for about 45 minutes, took a look at the numbers and walked it over to Mike [D'Epagnier]."

D'Epagnier says, "I reviewed it, talked to the client about what best suited him and set up a meeting."

"He could've been my client," Ball says, "but I don't want any more accounts of that kind. Having a partner like Mike lets me do other things."

That client wanted to open an individual account and make transactions, which is something D'Epagnier does regularly. Meanwhile, Ball is developing an expertise in managed money. He's been working on a 403(b) retirement plan for a local school district.

Together, the reps have $100 million under management.

In addition to serving dissimilar clients, the pair handles different aspects of service for their book of 900 clients. D'Epagnier issues regular account updates for clients, does research and provides advice.

Ball "is a big-picture-type of guy," D'Epagnier says. "He wants to know what the completed picture - the finished product - is going to look like in five years."

"I don't want to be bothered by details," Ball says. "I learned early in this business that if you're not good at something, find someone who is."

D'Epagnier is good at details.

"If we were the movie, `Pirates of Silicon Valley,' I'd be Paul Allen and Mike [Ball] would be Steve Jobs," D'Epagnier says.

Clients like working with two different types. "Clients know they don't have an individual broker here," D'Epagnier says. "We're a team, and we'll point them in the right direction toward someone who is more of an expert if a client has a question or problem."

In the end, one core value keeps the team humming. Concludes Ball, "The simplest way to explain how our partnership works is we respect what each other does."

Developing Ideas and Implementing Them Earl Feldhorn at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles is a great idea man.

His partner, Timary Koller, is the first to announce that. She will also say he is not an "implementer." She is.

And that's one reason why this 18-year-old partnership flourishes.

Case in point: Several years ago, Feldhorn had an idea to analyze the effect the devaluation of Mexico's peso would have on clients' portfolios. Using Feldhorn's report, Koller compiled a list of relevant points clients should know.

Their collaborative effort worked well. And still does.

Each year, the two bring their distinct perspectives together in the "January Fact Report." Their popular missive includes a broad economic outlook and specific stock recommendations for the coming year. "Clients start asking for it in October," Koller says.

In the report and elsewhere, the pair doesn't hide their differences. "Our clients find [our contrasting styles] comfortable," Koller says. "There's a varying of opinion on certain stocks. We give the clients something to think about."

Some clients, of course, prefer dealing with one broker over the other. "That's only natural," Feldhorn says, "but there is never a time when either one of us says, `I'm doing all the work here.' We both pull our weight."

They have to. Feldhorn estimates that he alone takes 75 phone calls a day. The team has about $150 million in assets under management for 1,500 clients.

Even though the pair occasionally clashes on certain investments, they "completely trust each other to ethically and morally serve the clients," Feldhorn says.

"It helps that we like each other," Koller adds. "It makes for a good balance. We're able to vent our frustration. Your partner understands what you're going through."

And working with a partner helps you learn more about your style, Feldhorn says. "A partner is useful because you don't see yourself," he says. "You can critique your partner's technique and tell your partner that you think he or she is not handling a client or an account correctly."

In addition to offering constructive criticism, partners can offer up appreciation for each other's accomplishments. For example, Feldhorn used to go visit companies in which he was considering an investment. Koller, instead, frequently invites company representatives to Wedbush Morgan offices, where they can meet with analysts and bankers as well.

"Timary has turned these meetings into an art form," Feldhorn says. "Getting them to come out for a face-to-face is very effective."

At the end of the day, how does Feldhorn sum up his relationship with Koller? "We root for each other," he says. "And we enjoy the fruits of our labor. In our case, one plus one is a lot more than just two."

Years of Experience: 9 Investment Style: Active in managed money using a tactical approach weighing risk versus reward.

Client Base: A mix of business owners and retirees. Developing retirement plans for the public sector.

Years of Experience: 11 Investment Style: Believes in asset allocation and making adjustments depending on market conditions. Subscribes to the "buy-and-hold" philosophy.

Client Base: Most clients are retirees ages 60 to 70, with moderate risk parameters. Also has numerous small accounts.

Years of Experience: 38 Investment Style: Focuses on value-oriented investments, primarily with large-cap stocks and covered-call writing.

Client Service Style: Develops personal relationships. Likes to spend time with clients to understand their thinking and to impart his investment philosophy.

Years of Experience: 22 Investment Style: Prefers to deal with mid- and micro-cap markets. Uses derivatives to enhance yield. Views market in a contrarian manner.

Client Service Style: Seeks frequent interaction with clients so they agree on objectives and goals and fully understand her philosophy. Likes to meet personally with individuals from companies she invests in.

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