SYRACUSE — Two Syracuse investment-management firms, Rockbridge Investment Management and RJR Associates, Inc., recently announced their agreement to consolidate their accounts to “better serve” their individual and institutional clients.
Rockbridge Investment Management, which operates on the 9th floor of the Merchants Commons at 220 S. Warren St. in Syracuse, describes itself as an independent, fee-only investment management firm serving individuals and families with an estimated $350 million in assets under management.
RJR Associates, located on the 7th floor at 101 S. Salina St., describes itself as an independent advisory firm serving foundations, endowments, and institutions. It currently serves more than 20 institutional clients and has $450 million in assets under management.
The principals of both firms — Robert Ryan of RJR Associates and Craig Buckhout of Rockbridge Investment — have worked together previously, having formed Disciplined Capital Management in the early 1990s, which eventually evolved into RJR Associates.
The account consolidation between the two firms took effect in early January, but both RJR and Rockbridge continue operating as separate entities, says Buckhout.
The two organizations are now serving “distinctive audiences” where the individual clients that RJR Associates had been serving are now part of the Rockbridge client group, Buckhout says.
“The number of accounts we have assigned to Rockbridge [is] roughly 300,” Ryan says, noting the consolidation increases the number of individual investment accounts at Rockbridge to more than 600.
RJR Associates had been focused on both institutional and individual investment accounts, but Ryan felt the individual accounts deserved more attention than what he could provide.
“You could bring those individuals to Rockbridge where the focus in exclusively on individuals, and I think it does a better job for them,” Ryan says.
And the shift in focus at the investment firms has resulted in a realignment in staffing as well.
Prior to the account consolidation, Rockbridge Investments had eight employees. With the additional individual investment accounts from RJR, the Rockbridge employee count increased to 14, according to Buckhout.
That includes Ryan, who is now serving as chief investment officer at Rockbridge.
“Essentially, everybody that was at RJR Associates is now part of Rockbridge, but RJR Associates continues to exist with a focus on the institutional clients,” Buckhout says.
RJR’s institutional clients include Oswego Health, Roman the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, and the Syracuse Home Association Foundation, according to the RJR website.
Rockbridge sent four institutional customers to RJR, Buckhout says.
At the same time, Ryan, Buckhout, and two colleagues comprise the employee base at RJR Associates, Buckhout says.
“We have a telephone system where all those people in both offices are tied together,” Buckhout says.
RJR Associates leases its 101 S. Salina St. space from M&T Bank.
Rockbridge Investment Management operates in a 3,700-square-foot space in the Merchants Commons building that it leases from Washington St. Partners, Buckhout says.
Both Buckhout and Ryan declined to disclose the revenue totals their respective investment firms generated in 2013, but indicated that both firms posted revenue increases between 10 percent and 15 percent compared to 2012.
The consolidation represents the latest chapter of Ryan’s and Buckhout’s working relationship, which dates back to the early 1980s, they say.
Ryan worked as a treasurer and Buckhout as assistant treasurer in their days at Agway where their duties included management of the company’s defined-benefit pension plan.
In 1991, both Ryan and Buckhout left Agway and started a firm that began as Disciplined Capital Management (DCM). At the time, each man had an additional full-time occupation, so a partner focused on DCM, Buckhout says.
Both men returned to DCM near the end of the 1990s. DCM eventually evolved into three separate investment-advisory firms, including DCM, RJR Associates, and AgriInvest, which was the precursor to Rockbridge, Buckhout says.
Then, in 2009, the partners split up the firms.
Buckhout and partner Anthony Farella worked with individual investment clients at Rockbridge, while Ryan worked with individual investment clients and institutional clients at RJR.
That arrangement continued through the end of 2013, Buckhout says.
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