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Blue Ocean settles into new space in Washington Station

By Adam Rombel


The financial planning and investment advisory firm also readies another acquisition

SYRACUSE — Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, LLC has settled into a larger office in downtown Syracuse that provides the financial planning and investment advisory firm more room to implement its growth strategy.

In mid-April, Blue Ocean moved to a 7,500-square-foot space on the second floor of the Washington Station building from its 4,400-square-foot office at 443 North Franklin St.

Blue Ocean, which has grown from five employees to nine in the last year, is on the verge of completing the acquisition of a local investment advisory firm that will bring it another two employees. The acquisition, which should close in July, will be Blue Ocean’s third deal in a year and bring the firm about $30 million in assets under management, according to Theodore Sarenski, CEO. That would take Blue Ocean up to $260 million in total assets under management.

Sarenski, who couldn’t provide further details until the acquisition closes, says the forthcoming deal is similar to Blue Ocean’s purchase of Hebert Financial Strategieslast August. Dennis Hebert and Jennifer Spagnola of Hebert Financial joined Blue Ocean as a result.

Sarenski says the upcoming acquisition “gives us an individual that’s been in the [investment] business for many years” and provides personal financial planning and estate-planning services.

Blue Ocean’s other deal in 2012 involved adding two new staff members from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Syracuse — Jeffrey Moro and Stephen Chow, who became president and part-owner of Blue Ocean.

Chow has since departed Blue Ocean, leaving in May for a job as senior VP and senior portfolio manager at Pinnacle Investments, LLC. Pinnacle is a diversified financial services company with businesses in brokerage, money management, and insurance. It has offices in Syracuse, Fayetteville, Auburn, Albany, and Buffalo. Chow took about $40 million in assets under management with him, according to Sarenski.

Sarenski has now taken back the president title at Blue Ocean. Sarenski says he now owns about a two-thirds stake in Blue Ocean, while Kevin VandenBerg, chief operating officer and chief investment officer, owns the other one-third.

The move to new office space has “revitalized” the firm, Sarenski says. “It has people excited about being downtown and being able to dine downtown.”

The office offers the firm copious room for individual clients waiting for their appointments and three conference rooms that nonprofit endowment clients could possibly use to host meetings at Blue Ocean.

Ultimately, Blue Ocean could fit 15-17 employees in its new space. But after completing its next deal, the firm is not planning to pursue any more acquisitions for a while to get there, according to Sarenski.

“The idea is to pause [on making deals] to make sure everything is in order,” he says. “We want to focus on the clients we have so they can refer business to us and we can grow more organically than through acquisitions.”

Blue Ocean gets almost half of its new business from referrals from existing clients, and adding more clients through acquisitions provides more opportunity for such word of mouth.

The firm had more than 480 total clients, as of its March 2013 regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. That was before Chow’s departure.

Blue Ocean was founded in 2010, when the firm spun off from Syracuse–based accounting firm Dermody, Burke & Brown CPAs, LLC. It originally began in 1997 as Dermody’s financial-services arm, called DB&B Financial Services.

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


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