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Analyst View / Management Talk Q&A: 
Prudent Risks
Author: Staff
Last Update: 11:20 PM ET February 16 2012


At the core of an individualized investment approach is the commitment to each family and its exclusive needs. BBR Partners responds to the specific requirements of their clients with the help of a tax-oriented methodology and by utilizing the firm’s resources in finding appropriate strategies and managers.

Q: What is the history and mission of your firm?

Brett Barth, Arthur Black and I co-founded BBR Partners in 2000. Two other partners, Todd Whitenack and Michael Anson, have been at the firm since its inception. BBR Partners is headquartered in New York City with offices in San Francisco.

We started the firm with a mission to provide tailor-made services to clients that at the time were hard to come by for most clients. Our idea was to establish a firm embodying the culture and values that we wanted while also giving us the freedom to be able to enact strategies that we felt were the best and most appropriate for our clients.

In the early part of the last decade, wealthy families had limited options as most services were provided by private banks and trust companies. Not only did we feel that those services were lacking but we were convinced that there was a need to provide more customized services. We thought that there were particular problems in servicing the entire family situation in any of the available models. In our view, the best way to achieve the highest level of service and best risk-adjusted returns was by serving the holistic needs of a family in a boutique, customized and individualized way.

Today, we serve more than 75 clients with a total of just under $6 billion in assets under management. We offer integrated investment solutions for a select group of individuals and families that include entrepreneurs, beneficiaries of inherited wealth, and investment professionals with hedge fund, private equity and real estate backgrounds.

Our mission is to develop a financial strategy and asset allocation to meet each family member’s goals, taking into consideration risk tolerance, return objectives and liquidity needs.

Q: What kinds of services do you offer?

Our services are not typical financial planning services. To start with, our clients belong to that spectrum or class where it is unlikely that they are going to make again the kind of wealth that they have already accumulated. Consequently, they come to us with a view of prudent risk taking.

Given the complexity and individualization that comes from a customized and personal approach, every client has a very different investment profile.

Our primary role for clients is investment management. We are neither a broker, nor a broker-dealer, and we do not trade stocks. Instead, we employ a manager-of-managers approach that allows us to find the best niche for more specialized managers in whatever strategy a particular clients needs exposure to.

To this end, we utilize a rigorous asset allocation framework. We are big believers in not only creating a strategy for families but also in being dynamic to take advantage of various market opportunities.

Because of the complexity of our clients’ situations, a chief investment officer approach is certainly not enough to serve the whole family. We consider all aspects of a family’s wealth including their tax, trust and estate, education and philanthropic issues and incorporate these areas into our advice..

Helping clients have a better understanding of their financial picture in terms of their investments is also an essential service for us. We have client symposiums, presentations, or discussions to explain different aspects of investing. We also make sure that we help our clients think through the different philanthropic options.

Q: What is your investment process?

Using a top-down investment process, we believe that the most important driver of investment returns is asset allocation.

For this reason, we create customized asset allocations, focusing on sophisticated strategies instead of simplistic definitions of asset classes. We carefully evaluate each investment to determine its risk/return characteristics, before structuring unique asset allocations with complementary low-risk and aggressive components.

The implementation of that asset allocation is through niche specialized managers. In general, the managers that we use not only have a specialized focus but also exploit a dynamic approach to the way in which they manage money.

For instance, in emerging markets, our managers have a macro overlay that allows them to determine what is going on economically in those regions and whether it is a good time to invest in emerging market equities.

With regard to the quantitative side of selecting managers, we use our own database to track performance as we seek strategies that would be a good fit for our clients.

On the qualitative side, we look for good managers, and are agnostic as to whether they are household names. We have a tendency to look for nimble managers with the ability to make changes when necessary depending on the economic environment in the market.
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