Another year has come and gone. In our business the New Year means lots of reporting. Certainly, clients like to know how the year went for their portfolios, and doing those meetings is the fun part of our jobs. However, the other type of reporting that we could do without is filing documents each year with the SEC and other regulators. Still, it forces us to look at our business and take stock of our progress.
A Year of Growth
In that regard, 2021 was a very solid year for us. We brought on around twenty new clients, expanded our reach into the institutional market, and grew our managed assets significantly.
We have mostly approached growth organically over the years. Being technicians rather than salespeople, our focus has not always been on getting larger. We have become larger, but mostly because our clients and colleagues in the community have thought enough of us to spread the word. We certainly recognize that firms need to grow over time to remain relevant and stay in business, but we have made a conscious decision to sacrifice growth in an effort to retain our quality. We are still one of the few investment management firms in the Rochester region that individually manage portfolios and take care to focus on hard-to-manage details such as asset location, continual tax-loss selling, and other planning techniques. We like that we are able to do that but worry that at some point firms get too large to efficiently manage those details.
Nevertheless, we did grow significantly in 2021. A big part of that was because of a merger we effected toward year end. I’d like to say that happened because of some deliberate planning on our part, but really it just sort of fell in our laps. Beth Barrette from Apex Advisors reached out and asked if we would be interested in discussing a combination. She did all the leg work, researched us, showed us how our philosophies were similar, and took the lead on all the legal stuff. She was the driver, and we’re sure glad she was. Because, while we added roughly 40 new relationships and $85 million in new assets, mostly we added a very nice, smart new colleague with similar values. Beth is now a valuable member of our team and has transitioned in seamlessly.
Our managed assets now exceed $700 million, a far cry from the early days when it was Mark, a laptop computer, and a cell phone. After our first full year in business, at the end of 2009, we managed $16 million. Our goal is to hit $1 billion in managed assets before too many years, but we want to be deliberate about this growth and hope to add additional staff as we grow our client base.
In fact, we did add new staff last year to ensure adequate “horsepower” to support our clients. In particular, we hired two investment analysts early last year. Luca and Adam have significantly improved our efficiency in trading and portfolio management. They are both enrolled in the CFA program, recently passed the first level, and are shaping up to be well-rounded investment professionals. For those unfamiliar with the CFA program, it is a very difficult series of exams given over three years. The pass rate this year on the first level was only 27%, so we’re exceptionally proud that both of our guys passed on their first try. Chris and I are in agreement that the firm has never been stronger or run as well as it does currently, thanks to our new analysts and of course our other operational superstars Tarryn and Craig.
One initiative we worked on during 2021 for both growth and client service was our VidCast series. If you haven’t checked them out, they are short educational videos we have been producing on timely investment and economic topics. We launched seven new VidCasts in 2021 and have others in the works. If there are topics you would like to see us discuss, just let us know. We’re always looking for ideas. You can watch our VidCasts at www.youtube.com/ ArmbrusterCapitalManagement or by searching YouTube for Armbruster Capital Management.
Our dedicated YouTube channel, ACM InvestEd, has racked up almost 3,000 views and 225 hours of watch time.
Along the lines of marketing, we have been working on a new logo, website, and other materials. We’re not quite ready to launch, but they should be out shortly.
In an era with a lot of uncertainty, our little firm has performed quite well and grown nicely. This is largely because of the support of our clients, and our entire team is thankful for the trust you put in our hands.
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