Father knows best

Kelsey Butler

Just ahead of Father’s Day, industry experts shared the lessons they have learned from their parents and how they anticipate the space evolving.


Mark Travis, co-founder, president and CEO of Jacksonville Beach, FL, advisory firm Intrepid Capital Management, told PAM: My father [Forrest Travis, co-founder of Intrepid] has always been very good at interacting with client. He has empathy and provides one-on-one service, regardless of account size. So, when we first started the business we decided to serve customers of any size and provide the same level of service to all. We have continued to run Intrepid Capital Funds that way to this day, which has allowed us to serve a broader range of customers.”

Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of New York-based Lebenthal Holdings, which includes wealth advisory, asset management and financial planning divisions, also learned the lesson of client service from her father, Jim Lebenthal, co-founder of Lebenthal Holdings.

“My Dad’s advice which was given to him from his mother, who started our company, was to cater to the client. There are so many firms that say they put the client first, but because we have always been very public as a family running the company, it has been something we have had to do.”


Ari Sass, CFA, senior vice president at New York investment management firm M.D. Sass, explained: “When I entered into the business just over 10 years ago (after managing my own unrelated business), I had no idea what it took to be a successful investor. Over the years, I learned by watching and listening to my father [Marty Sass, chairman and CEO at M.D. Sass] and began to put the pieces together. My father always said that he would make a poor teacher because he isn’t the type who will patiently sit down and teach Investing 101. However, having worked closely with him for a decade now, I have learned a lot from him through “real world” training. Over time, he taught me what it takes to be a successful stock picker – rigorous research, independent thinking, an open mind, common sense and humility. I’m sure that over the next decade I will learn even more from him and I look forward to that opportunity.”


Jon Sundt, CEO of Altegris, a La Jolla, CA, provider of alternative investment products, stressed that discipline learned from the father has been the most beneficial lesson he’s learned while working in this industry. “My Dad was a Navy SEAL. He used to teach us principles he learned in his training. He believed in discipline and hard work. One of his favorites was ‘the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.’”


Marty Sass of M.D. Sass spoke about some of the largest shifts he’s seen throughout his career and what will give industry professionals continued success moving forward. “The biggest change has been tremendous flows into a growing number of different types of ETFs and alternative Investment strategies.  The first ETF, the S&P 500 Depository Receipt, or SPDR, began trading in January 1993 and ETFs have since become one of the most popular investment vehicles. Hedge funds started to proliferate in the 1960s after a 1966 Fortune magazine article highlighted the performance of the original hedge fund, A.W. Jones. While ETFs will grow, great stock-pickers who far outperform market indices will also thrive in the years ahead and many alternative investment strategies will continue to grow. Sustainable superior performance will remain the key to long term success in the industry.”

Meanwhile, Forrest Travis of Intrepid, added:  “The biggest changes I have seen over the last 50 years are the much wider dispersion of wealth, particularly among younger people and the size of portfolios. Inflation is, obviously, a huge factor but the internet and reaching large market size quickly in smaller businesses, and larger, without great capital requirements has helped many prosper. My expectation is that those changes will continue at an even faster rate.”

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