When William J. Peterson was a baby – the child of an abandoned, homeless young mother – a New York-based social service agency facilitated his adoption, delivering him to a fulfilling life.
Today, this organization is its biggest client.
It’s proof that life has come full circle, says her colleague Laurie A. Davis. But it’s also a metaphor for how the personal and the professional blend at Neuberger Berman, a private, independent, Manhattan-based investment management firm owned by its employees. There are no outside influences on investment choices. At Neuberger Berman, “100% of employee deferred cash compensation is directly tied to team and company strategies,” according to its website. Or as Peterson, Managing Director and Senior Wealth Advisor puts it: “We eat our own cooking.”
Neuberger Berman’s recipe for success? Start with classic financial ingredients, including 669 investment professionals – out of more than 2,500 employees – in 37 cities in 25 countries who have decades of asset management experience, most of them inside the company . (Its retention level for senior investment professionals is 96%, says Davis, senior vice president and wealth advisor.) Then add diversified portfolios tailored to each client’s needs. Some clients have short-term goals, which Neuberger Berman can accommodate. But New Brunswick’s quintessential clients — individuals, corporations and foundations — are playing the long game with a mix of equity, fixed income, private equity and hedge fund instruments that nonetheless cash flow. “You need to be able to eat well and sleep well,” adds Peterson.
The result is a company – whose past and present have strong ties to Westchester and Fairfield counties – with a customer retention rate of over 90% and $447 billion in assets.
The art of investing,
an investment in art
It’s also a company that the journal Pensions&Investments has cited as “one of the best places to work in money management.” Peterson and Davis credit the collegiate atmosphere. “We’re all colleagues here,” Davis says.
They are surrounded by some 500 works of contemporary art in various media that the company began collecting in 1990, offering tours to customers. (When Lehman Brothers acquired Neuberger Berman in 2003, it also acquired the artwork. Five years later, Lehman Brothers would fold amid the Great Recession. In July 2010 and May 2011, newly independent Neuberger Berman purchased much of this work from the Lehman Brothers estate.)
But then, Neuberger Berman has always wanted to invest in art as well as the art of investing. The company was founded in 1939 primarily by Roy R. Neuberger, perhaps as well known to our readers as the founding patron of the Neuberger Museum of Art.
Spiritual and aesthetic — Peterhis son quotes him as describing the stock market as ‘the only market people run away from when there’s a sell-off’ – the Bridgeport native Neuberger was as passionate about art as he was about tennis. Indeed, during several interviews during his 107 years on this earth (1903-2010), he confided to us that if he had embarked on the financial game, it was to support artists, so much was he outraged after having read in “Vincent Fels” by Floret Fels van Gogh” (Paris, 1928) that the painter sold only one work, “La Vigne rouge” (1890), during his lifetime.
“Roy’s first (financial) job was at a bucket shop,” Peterson says, supposedly because young helpers like Neuberger took chalk from a bucket to record the gains and losses of the Dow 30. In the In one of Wall Street’s big stories, Neuberger shorted 300 shares of the day’s most popular stock, RCA (Radio Corporation of America), betting it would fall from its lofty height of $500 per share. When the market crashed in 1929, ushering in the Great Depression, Neuberger lost only 15% of his money while others lost it all.
He subsequently collected a Who’s Who of modern art, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and especially Milton Avery, whose color-block style close to Matisse made him the favorite artist. by Neuberger.
And although he liked to joke that his good friend and fellow collector Nelson A. Rockefeller – former Governor of New York State and Vice President of the United States under Gerald R. Ford – twisted his arm to donate 300 works from his collection to establish the Neuberger Museum of Art in 1969 as part of the State University of New York, conservatory-style College at Purchase (now Purchase College), he always says he hoped to inspire a new generation of patrons.
Investing in communities
This philanthropic legacy is also part of Neuberger Berman. We first met Peterson and Davis at the recent fundraising luncheon for the Fairfield County Community Foundation, The Fund for Women & Girls, where the company sponsors a table each year. As part of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, Neuberger Berman is a signatory to the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, whose objective is to achieve net zero emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
In addition, the company runs a volunteer, mentorship and partnership program through the Neuberger Berman Foundation, says Maria Angelov, who leads the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and is president. of the foundation (annual budget of $1.75 million).
Some of the organizations Neuberger Berman has worked with, Davis says, include Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco, Guidance Center of Westchester in Mount Vernon, Neuberger Museum of Art, Volunteer New York! At Tarrytown and at the Westchester Land Trust in Bedford Hills. Neuberger Berman has also done beautification projects in Connecticut with the YMCA of Stamford and Save the Sound in New Haven.
“Ninety percent of grant recipients are referred by employees,” who do everything from sitting on boards to providing boots in the field, Angelov says. Peterson, who studied economics and psychology at Fairfield University before joining Neuberger Berman in 1992, has not forgotten his humble roots. He mentors at-risk youth and runs a non-profit sailing education program. A graduate of the University of Delaware and an MBA from Fordham University, Davis serves on the board of LIFT-New York, which helps people achieve economic stability.
Angelov says: “We care about the communities in which we live and work.”
To learn more, visit nb.com.