George Clark, CFA® CIO and Founding Partner, Venturi Private Wealth
Venturi Viewpoints discusses the intersection of life, wealth, and wisdom. We hope you enjoy this installment featuring George Clark, who shares his knowledge of the investment markets.
Please tell us about your background and path to Venturi. My background is in institutional investing. Before joining Russ Norwood in 2012, I spent eighteen years as an Institutional Advisor with Merrill, where I managed relationships and provided investment advice to institutions with assets ranging from $2-100 billion. Each day I served my clients—CIOs, Portfolio Managers, and Sector Analysts—by sharing our market views, expressing ideas, and delivering firm resources. Before this time period, I served as a trader and analyst for a $10 billion endowment, so I possess experience both investing and advising.
As CIO of Venturi, what are your overarching goals for client investments? Many of our clients are first-generation wealth creators. We appreciate how hard they have worked to amass their wealth. As a result, we prioritize wealth preservation as a key tenet of our approach. We have a bias toward quality and a contrary mindset—meaning we look for opportunities that may be undervalued by the market yet feature sound fundamentals.
Generally, our goal is to invest client’s wealth to preserve their lifestyle, manage risk, and grow their assets. In light of these priorities, we incorporate features into our investment programs to (1) provide consistent cash flow, (2) offer the ability to “circle the wagons” during periods of market stress, and (3) support long-term growth.
You have managed significant assets for institutional clients. How has that experience influenced your approach to private wealth management? Working with institutions has underscored the value of some tried-and-true precepts: (1) Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand thoroughly. An example I share is, years back, an investment colleague of mine once resisted investing in a (then) popular energy stock enjoying a meteoric rise, quipping “un-analyzable = un-investable.” His caution proved prescient, as the company in question was Enron. (2) Dividends are important. Historically, dividends have constituted almost 40% of an investor’s return. Companies paying a regular dividend are traditionally more prudent in allocating their remaining capital, as it is more limited. (3) Over an entire business cycle, quality wins. Companies with a solid track record of success typically possess both a better balance sheet and operating history, allowing them to outperform their competitors. (4) Have a defined, repeatable process and remain disciplined in your approach. (5) Use technology and quantitative measures to distill an opportunity list of 30 – 50 ideas. From the list, further qualify your investment opportunities, using both quantitative and fundamental analysis. (6) Surround yourself with smart, hard-working investment professionals.
How did you find the transition from institutional to private wealth? I have really enjoyed the privilege of serving individuals and families, developing meaningful relationships with them, and seeing first-hand how our work has impacted their cash-flow, lifestyle preservation, and asset protection. I have also found it very rewarding to observe clients’ philanthropic interests and endeavors. A number of our clients have allocated their incremental wealth to promote truth and enhance the lives of the less fortunate. Their efforts have been truly life-changing, both for their beneficiaries and for the wider community.
What do you believe are the qualities of a successful investor? There are several characteristics that I believe are important: (1) Be a student of the markets and an able observer; (2) Receive proper training in an environment in which investing skills are honed; (3) Pursue the CFA designation to enhance your analytical ability; (4) Employ an investment framework and follow the process diligently; (5) Understand the drivers of investment performance, whether they are cyclical, secular, or other; (6) When the markets prove you wrong, act decisively.
Are there any books that were seminal in your approach to the investment markets? I have read a lot of investment books over the years. One that comes to mind is What Works on Wall Street by James P. O’Shaughnessy. Published in the late 1990s, the book’s concepts remain applicable today.
Are there any investment sources you believe are over-valued? I am not a big fan of the 24-hour business channels on television. Ratings and advertising are their primary concerns. Their objective is to foment fear, keep you glued to the screen, and thereby increase their viewership. As a result, their hosts tend to focus on a short-term view of the markets that typically does not align with the habits and mindsets of successful, more measured, long-term investors.
Do you have any advice for parents or grandparents who are interested in nurturing the next generation of successful investors? Yes: Encourage the next generation to start early, cultivate their interest, and try to make investing a game. If you bankroll investment accounts and compare returns across family members, you can incite a life-long interest in the markets that will facilitate sound stewardship later in life.
When your child or grandchild begins investing early, he or she can derive greater benefit from compounding. In addition, when you lengthen the investment horizon, you increase the probability of a favorable outcome. Finally, as seasoned investors, share your investment experience—both successes and failures—with the next generation so that they can benefit from practical advice and first-hand wisdom.
Venturi Private Wealth
Venturi’s core mission is to help organize, plan, and manage all aspects of wealth for families and entrepreneurs with substantial assets so they can focus on their personal and professional priorities. We manage more than $1.25 billion in assets, a significant portion in-house, often eliminating additional layers of management fees. Founded in Austin, Texas, we incorporate the city’s entrepreneurial energy into everything we do.
For more information, please reach out to us at email@example.com or (512) 220-2035.