LENOX — When is it prudent to hire a novice over the expert?
Whether for car brakes or a double bypass, you want expertise, as your well-being is at stake.
Choosing your investment adviser is no different.
But, before dialing New York, looking for international depth and reach, know that a nexus of global investment wisdom is already here in the Berkshires.
Trevor Forbes is that nexus. He’s the president and chief investment officer of the Renaissance Investment Group in Lenox.
From the Citi to the country
Shortly before joining Renaissance some 14 years ago, Forbes headed up the global equity division of CitiGroup, leading a team of seven investment businesses in London, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Australia and New Zealand. It’s no exaggeration to say that his former work helped to lay the very financial underpinnings of nations.
“I ran investment management for some very significant governments, globally,” says Forbes. The transplant from the British Isles, who now makes his home in Great Barrington, sat down with The Eagle recently to talk about what his four decades of investment experience means for the individual Renaissance investor.
Most apparent is that not every firm provides this kind of access to investment management expertise, customization, research and personalization, notes Forbes. He knows because he’s been there; at other firms, this level of white glove service and access is reserved solely for ultra-high-net worth clients, upward of $25 million, he notes.
“At a lot of our peer groups, you won’t get access to either a personalized financial counselor, or certainly the person who’s actually involved with investing your wealth,” says Forbes. “For financial counseling, you’ll be part of their overall computer-driven program. For investment management, you’d be outsourced to a central office, probably many miles away. It’s much more remote.”
With Renaissance, communication is how it best suits you, whether that’s in person, over the phone or on video. It’s worked for the firm’s clients for years; they hail from all over, with about 65 percent living in Western Massachusetts and neighboring New York and Northern Connecticut. The remaining 35 percent are from all over the U.S., with groupings in California, Colorado, Florida, and elsewhere.
Talk your way through it
At Renaissance, clients can sit down with Forbes, or any member of his team, and understand exactly how their investments have been structured, why they’ve been structured in that way, and review their investment performance.
Moreover, even if all the investments are made with stateside entities, Forbes provides a world view when globalism is at work.
“It puts a lot of the investment options into perspective. None of the global financial environments operate in isolation. They’re all part of a big global system, so those particular aspects are very important even for domestic U.S. private clients,” says Forbes.
Other firms believe that it is important to have a little bit of investment everywhere, notes Forbes, and it might not matter whether it’s in emerging market debt, junk bonds or investments, maybe some hedge funds, domestically and abroad.
“Instead, I try to work out where the natural investment home is for clients,” says Forbes. “It’s not part of some great mathematical study. It actually comes right home to the financial planning for the client. What do we have to deliver to the client at the end of the day when they need their money? In most cases, that will be U.S. dollars. That doesn’t mean to say that we can’t take investments outside the U.S., but we have to understand the extra risk that produces; we need to ensure that the expected reward for that extra risk is there.”
Social, environmental, ethical investing
Aside from geography and world market considerations, more and more investors are coming to Renaissance Investment Group with particular ethical concerns, such as avoiding investment in fossil fuels or increasing a portion of shares in renewable energy and clean water solutions. For Forbes, picking individual stocks and bonds goes hand in hand with Environmental, Social and Governance investing, as it’s called these days.
“I’ve been investing in some shape or form in ethical investments for the last 35 years,” says Forbes, who set up one of the first ethical investment funds in the U.K. at the end of the eighties.
Forbes says that ESG investing tends to be personal, as the firm must learn from clients exactly what type of companies they are keen to support or avoid.
“These are conversations that we’re having all the time with our clients, and they form a basic part of our research coverage,” says Forbes.
Forbes’ and the firm’s work is grounded in analysis. It is how he got his start in the industry in the 1970s in London. He went on to manage pension plan investments for a number of U.K. divisions of U.S. companies, which in some respects paved the way for his work today.
In the early 2000s, Forbes decided to move directly into private client management — and subsequently to the Berkshires from the United Kingdom. Soon after, he discovered Renaissance Investment Group.
“I found an organization in Renaissance that treated its clients very similarly to the way I believed private clients should be treated, in terms of the approach to investments, but also financial planning as well,” notes Forbes.
He says the firm’s roots melded with his acumen, and for years Renaissance clients have had the benefit of relying on a former manager of some of the world’s largest investment funds.
“The client in particular, I think, needs to have access to the people who are running their money. They will have questions about how the investments are being made, and how those investments fit in with their financial plan,” says Forbes. “Some organizations almost seem to treat it as part of their ‘secret sauce’ for the investments, as if it really shouldn’t be of any real concern to the client. We take it rather differently.”
It’s all part of the Renaissance Investment Group’s personalized approach to each client, notes Forbes
“We don’t ever, as an organization, treat clients as one bloc. They all have different aims, goals, objectives. Some clients have very significant requirements in terms of environmental, social responsibility, ethical type of investments, too. It means that we have a lot of in-depth research. But that’s exactly what we do, on a client-by-client basis,” says Forbes.
To speak with Forbes or his team of veteran financial planners at Renaissance Investment Group, call 413-445-2481, or visit their website at rigllc.com.
This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to Renaissance’s investment advisory services. It is for informational purposes only and should not be construed by a consumer and/or prospective client as a solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation. Renaissance’s specific advice is given only within the context of our contractual agreements with each client. Advice may only be rendered after delivery of Form ADV Part 2 and the execution of an agreement by the client and Renaissance.