Over the next month or so, we’ll all be bombarded by a variety of investment professionals’ recaps of the economic and market landscape. Big firms, small firms, banks, brokers, economists, investment advisors and others all have their spin on what happened during 2022. At SWP, we don’t often provide general market commentary; typically, we only comment on specific and unusual events that may cause investors to consider changing their plan. Put another way, we like to share thoughts on things that really matter to our clients and tune out the noise.
So this isn’t that kind of year-end letter.
But I do think a couple of very quick year-end thoughts are worth mentioning:
- Overall, investing in 2022 kinda sucked.
- Traditional bond investing was especially brutal. My favorite stat on that topic: the 10-year US Treasury bond (as of late October) has had its worst year since 1788. Not sure I’ve ever seen a market statistic that goes back 234 years!
- All things considered; it could have been worse. As of this writing, both stocks and bonds have recovered a nice chunk of their earlier losses. More importantly, many investor portfolios are still better off than they were a few years ago.
- By and large, alternative investments were a tremendous help to portfolios.
On that last point, I urge you to listen to a podcast that recently featured my co-founder David Copeland. Dave has always been an expert on alternative investing, and it’s one of the reasons we started SWP together in 2008. It’s long overdue, but Dave is quickly becoming recognized as a real guru in this space. Our approach to alternatives is very different from that of most financial advisors, and we believe it’s a topic that deserves more attention by many.
Ok, so even a guy like me who really doesn’t like talking about the markets can’t help himself. But that’s the end of the market stuff… on to (for me, at least) some more interesting thoughts.
Although 2022 wasn’t the year we all hoped it might be, we are exceptionally proud of and grateful for much of what transpired at SWP.
First, we were incredibly fortunate to add five fantastic new members to our team. Kris Gutowski, Jordan Dombrowski, Dan Sullivan, Andrew Sekera and Lerroy Ongadi have all bolstered our existing team by adding much needed capacity and have helped us get better at what we do for our clients every day.
As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to better organize how the behind-the-scenes work gets done. In 2022 in particular, we re-built and streamlined our investment research and decision-making processes, and we’re in the early stages of implementing a more efficient and consistent process for day-to-day portfolio management. Being more efficient behind the scenes will allow us to continue to provide the great personalized service that our clients expect and deserve. More on some of this and other initiatives below.
Despite the challenging investment environment, I am incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish as a firm. Collectively, our team brought in more new client business in 2022 than ever before. While that may seem surprising in tough markets, it’s actually quite typical. Throughout my career, I’ve found that times of stress lead to more people seeking our counsel. Not that I wish for tough times, but the work we do for clients is more evident during rough patches.
Largely as a result of our new client development efforts, as a firm we achieved modest revenue gains this year. Given that a) our revenues are tied to portfolio values, and that b) those portfolio values faced significant headwinds in 2022, we’re quite pleased with that result. Of course, on the expense side of things, we’re hardly immune to the inflationary pressures around us. So it’s not all great news, but we’ll take the moral victory in today’s world.
Finally, on the purely personal side of things, amazingly, six of our team members celebrated weddings this year. Brian Wendt, AJ Price, Cory Rappaport, Toni Bregenzer, Adam Shemaria-Rudolph, and Christina Cartes all got married this past year. We’re all very excited for them as they begin their married lives. Being able to witness and celebrate these types of events (as well as the many births of children and grandchildren in past years) is one of the greatest joys of having this business.
While 2022 isn’t quite in the history books yet, I think many of us at SWP are excited turn the page and get on with 2023.
Literally as soon as the new year starts, we will begin using Addepar, our new portfolio reporting system. The work to make this change started nearly 15 months ago, and only accelerated during the past year. Lauren Novak and her team, which include Vishaal Tummala, Matthew Cox, Dan Sullivan, Lindsay Pflug, and Toni Bregenzer, have worked tirelessly to make this transition happen, and we are all excited to show off the new system.
Many other important changes are coming soon, though I can’t reveal too much just yet:
- We will unveil our new ‘family office’ service model. We have always provided some of these services to many of our more complex clients, but we will soon have a more distinct and robust offering.
- We expect to begin using a new system to help us onboard clients and trade portfolios more efficiently.
- Several important new hires are in the pipeline, with at least one expected to be announced shortly after the new year. In addition to helping fuel our growth, these team members will help ensure we continue to provide proactive and responsive service to our clients.
- A few very exciting promotions are in the works for folks who have really helped us ‘move the needle’ as a firm. I’m excited to share more very soon.
Perhaps most importantly, as I look back at where we are as a firm today, I couldn’t be more proud and excited. Especially after the work we did in 2022 and some of the soon-to-be-announced items above, it is evident that we are a very different firm than we were when we launched in 2008. One of the key goals Dave and I set out to accomplish was to create a business that could be a key partner to our clients for decades – and importantly – for generations to come. Back then, virtually everything that happened at SWP depended in some way on the two of us.
Not anymore. Today, we have 35 team members (with several more coming soon), three generations of Advisors, an incredible group of dedicated folks that keep the operations and infrastructure humming, and a technology suite I couldn’t have even imagined. Over the past four years, we have also welcomed a number of our key people into the partnership. I’m not ready to say that Dave and I aren’t needed anymore(!), but I’m very comfortable saying that SWP will thrive for long after the two of us have moved on.
This past year has been tough on many levels, yet we have accomplished so much. I’m as excited as I’ve ever been about 2023 and beyond, and I know our team shares that view.
In gratitude to this fantastic team, and to give ourselves an opportunity to recharge and refresh heading into what will surely be another exciting year, we are closing our offices the last week of the year. As separately communicated earlier this week, we will be closed from December 26 through December 30, with a few team members available to assist you during this week as needed. Of course, our advisors and client service team will be available as needed should any service needs arise prior to year-end, but we’re working really hard to get as much done as possible prior to that week.
Finally, we are forever grateful to you, our clients, and friends for the trust and confidence you place in us every day. I wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.
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