O’Brien Greene has an unusually broad mix of clients, including insurance companies, trusts, charities, endowments, retirement plans, individuals and families. We think this clientele gives us a broader perspective on the wealth and asset management industry than many of our competitors, and that this perspective is appropriate for the long-term investment environment in which we operate. O’Brien Greene’s clients hold their invested assets directly in separately managed accounts, for which independent brokerages or banks such as Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and other well-known firms provide custody. Unlike a pooled investment vehicle such as a mutual fund, which commingle the assets of many investors, a separate account is an investment vehicle owned by each investor in his own name. This structure allows investors to hold individual stocks and bonds directly, and each account can be tailored to suit each investor’s unique situation.
Wealth Management for Individuals & Families
We work with our individual and family clients to define their investment objectives, which become our guide for investment recommendations and decisions. Each separate client account is reviewed on a regular basis. In a quarterly review, clients receive a personalized quarterly letter along with a detailed portfolio appraisal and performance report. We compare performance by asset class (e.g., stocks, bonds, etc.) to standard market indices, and we discuss the holdings in light of the client’s stated goals.
We encourage frequent contact with clients and are always available for consultation. We have a Certified Financial Planner on staff to assist with financial planning needs as they arise (and at no extra cost). Unlike large institutionalized firms that employ “relationship managers” to interact with their clients, our investment team’s portfolio manager and research analysts are available to meet directly to discuss investment strategy. As the firm has grown over the past four decades, we have developed many long-lasting client relationships. More than half of our clients have been with the firm for ten years or more, on the strength of investment performance and personal trust.
O’Brien Greene’s only product is independent investment advice, for which it receives a single, transparent, and competitive fee based on a percentage of assets under management. We do not sell stocks, bonds, funds, or other financial products, and we do not receive commissions on the purchases or sales of securities. Similarly, we recommend experienced banks and brokerages firms as custodians, but we do not charge or receive a fee for this service. We have deliberately limited the scope of our business to eliminate any conflict between our interests and those of our clients.
Asset Management for Institutions
O’Brien Greene has a long-track record of investing assets on behalf of a variety of institutional clients, working closely with the executive management of banks, credit unions, trust companies, insurance companies, and charitable endowments. Since the wave of mergers and acquisitions among local and regional banks in the 1990s, and the decline of defined benefit retirement plans, O’Brien Greene’s institutional asset management has focused upon investing on behalf of non-profit endowments (for schools, charities, and religious orders) and defined contribution retirement plans–i.e., 401(k) and 403(b) plans.
Members of our staff have considerable experience in serving on non-profit boards, and this experience has allowed O’Brien Greene to offer our non-profit clients money management within the context of broader financial advice and recommendations on good governance, which can be invaluable to both non-profit managers and boards of directors.
For retirement plan clients, we work with the managers of a corporation or partners of a practice to craft a retirement plan for their employees that is uniquely suited to their needs. O’Brien Greene’s status as a pure fiduciary, regulated by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, helps to limit the legal liability of employer plan sponsors. In the wake of new fee disclosure regulations from the Department of Labor in 2012, employers are increasingly liable to litigation regarding mismanaged 401(k) plans. In this environment it is more important than ever for retirement plan sponsors to work with a genuine fiduciary.
By taking advantage of the simple, transparent, and low-cost structure of separate accounts, O’Brien Greene offers employee retirement plan participants a vehicle for retirement investing that is superior to the conventional platform of mutual funds, which is often unnecessarily complicated and saddled with layers of hidden, excessive fees.
To learn more about O’Brien Greene’s professionally managed retirement plans, please click here.
What Sets O’Brien Greene Apart from Others?
On Investment Performance
Prospective clients of O’Brien Greene & Co. should be interested in performance, but not too interested in it. Let us explain. Trying to “beat the market” month in and month out can have some very unpleasant consequences. In the 1990’s, for instance, when the technology stocks in the S&P 500 Index was ballooning to an unprecedented size, the only way to outperform the S&P 500 was to own a handful of extremely over-priced high tech stocks. Some stocks had no earnings, and even no products, yet their stock prices were soaring. If you were going to beat the market, these were the stocks you had to own.
In other words, one had to suspend the rules of prudent investing in order to beat the stock market. This situation went on for a period of years until the bubble burst from 2000-2002, when the high tech sector crashed. But why not bend the rules of prudent investment for a little while, when potential returns are enormous? Suffice it to say that countless investors lost as much as 75% of their IRAs and other long-term savings when the 90’s tech bubble burst. Indeed, some of these unfortunate investors became our clients in the aftermath of devastating losses.
Perhaps a better way to think about performance is to expand the definition of the term to include the of preservation of principal, certainty of income stream, liquidity and transparency. These qualities are difficult to quantify, but they are just as important as raw mathematical comparisons.
Performance, therefore, is far more complicated than a set of numbers on a page. Clients should be prepared to look beyond the stated numbers to determine whether performance is appropriate for their circumstances. Performance that is remarkably good is often a red flag which marks a coming catastrophe. An investment portfolio that produces returns in line with the market, while taking less risk than the market, is a portfolio with superior performance.
Although at O’Brien Greene each of our clients has an individually customized portfolio, we have categorized all portfolios into five broad categories based upon investment objectives, for the sake of easy comparison. We have collected the investment returns of each respective group and presented the returns in a format approved by federal securities regulations. Our available composite portfolio data begins in the year 2000 at the peak of the market and then continues through the subsequent bear market and recovery, up to the present date. Thus the results trace performance through both good times and bad times in the market.
The numbers bear out our long term investment approach. The full gamut of performance numbers are available upon request. (Also, to facilitate a more concrete comparison, we can provide a prospective client with the performance statistics of an anonymous current client’s portfolio that most closely matches the prospective client’s financial situation.) Keep in mind, however, the performance averages are designed for making easy comparisons with mutual funds and other kinds of investments and are not the most accurate measure of absolute returns.