Last year was a good one for our firm. We wrote previously about adding Steve Sheflin to our investment team. We’ll likely add another capable body or two in the coming year, and are already interviewing to support our growth.
We’re not growing fast-and-furious, but gains have been steady since our inception. Mark started out in late 2008 managing less than $10 million in client assets. Eleven years later we’re a little shy of half a billion dollars entrusted to us. We see growth accelerating as we get bigger, but we want to make sure that growth is deliberate. We’ve been successful about anticipating and staying ahead of future needs, but the investment in people, systems, and processes is a never-ending pursuit.
We recently spent some time discussing our marketing strategy. Part of that process was thinking more deeply about why we do what we do, what our future holds, and what values we share. We all agreed that what we liked best about Armbruster Capital is that we are still small enough to offer a customized approach to our clients. We don’t run model portfolios or participate in any investment programs. We still do our own research, can accommodate unique client preferences, and can pay attention to the details that add extra value.
Most larger firms are not able to offer such customization. We all agreed to cling to this. That may mean even more hiring, or perhaps raising our minimum portfolio size in the future. For now, we’re happy with the way things are going. Clients seem to be as well, but please let us know if you see areas for improvement.
The biggest news of last year was related to the custodial firms we use, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade. Both firms cut their stock trading commissions to zero, which was great news for us and our clients. However, that may have caused the firms to search for better economies of scale, and ultimately led to the announcement that the firms are merging. We don’t necessarily view the merger as positive for us or our clients. It will result in less competition, creates a threat of future cost increases, will certainly be an administrative headache for 2020, and could create service disruptions while the firms integrate.
We don’t have enough details yet on what this will truly mean, but we are concerned about the direction things are heading. In response, we are starting to research additional custody firms. We have meetings set up with Fidelity and Pershing, the other leaders in the institutional custody industry. We’ll keep you apprised of any coming changes, but feel free to reach out if you have preferences or concerns about which custodial firm holds your account.
Our team has enjoyed working with each of you the past year, and we look forward to another fruitful year in 2020. Thank you for working with us and for sending referrals. Our growth and success have come because of your support.
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