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Blue Ocean caps year of growth in 2012

By Journal Staff


SYRACUSE — Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, LLC went through a growth spurt in 2012, adding two new staff members from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Syracuse and acquiring Hebert Financial Strategies of Liverpool.

Stephen Chow and Jeffrey Moro joined Blue Ocean from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in July. It’s one of the first times in Syracuse that brokers moved from a large investment house to a smaller firm like Blue Ocean, says Theodore Sarenski, Blue Ocean CEO.

It’s a trend that’s occurring nationwide, he adds.

“I think the industry is changing,” he says. “Clients want more than just transactional business. They want advice. They want guidance. It’s not just about their investments. It’s about their whole lives.”

Chow is now president at Syracuse–based Blue Ocean. The firm provides financial planning and investment management.

In August, Blue Ocean acquired Hebert Financial Strategies. Dennis Hebert and Jennifer Spagnola of Hebert Financial joined Blue Ocean as a result.

Both additions brought new clients to Blue Ocean, which took the firm from $165 million in assets under management to $270 million. Blue Ocean had $91 million in assets under management when it first formed in 2010.

The firm spun off from Syracuse accounting firm Dermody, Burke & Brown CPAs, LLC. It originally began in 1997 as Dermody’s financial-services arm.

The additions over the summer were the first of their kind for Blue Ocean, but they probably won’t be the last, Sarenski says. The firm is in talks on another potential acquisition now, which would add two more people.

Further growth is a long-term goal for Blue Ocean, Sarenski says.

Nearly half of the firm’s new business comes in the form of referrals from existing clients, he notes. Adding more clients through acquisitions means greater potential for such word of mouth.

Blue Ocean now employs 10 people and is outgrowing its 4,200-square-foot space at 443 North Franklin St. The firm will relocate in April to a 7,500-square-foot space at 333 W. Washington St. in downtown Syracuse.

The building, called Washington Station, opened in 2010 and is the headquarters of the engineering firm O’Brien & Gere. It houses several other businesses as well.

The move will give Blue Ocean room to grow in the years ahead, Sarenski says.

“We’re not filling it all right away,” he says. “We’re moving with the idea that we will continue to expand and grow in the future.”

About 20 percent of Blue Ocean’s clients are company 401(k) plans and another 10 percent are nonprofits that use Blue Ocean to manage their endowments. The rest of the firm’s clients are individuals and families.

And while much of the firm’s business started out in Upstate and Central New York, Blue Ocean now has clients in 10 states, including Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and the New England area. The firm has at least five clients in four states.

Much of Blue Ocean’s business in other states results from local clients who leave the area, Sarenski says. They often stay with Blue Ocean when they move and also refer business from their new locations to the firm.


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