The small but formal advertisement peeks out from the pages of the Kennedy Center stage bill and proclaims, "We specialize in managing America's family fortunes." It is signed "Bessemer Trust" and lists offices in Washington, New York, Palm Beach, Fla., London and Grand Cayman, Bahamas.
Bessemer Trust, the ad declares, has provided financial services "for a limited number of individuals and families for seven decades." The ad concludes, "We manage over $5 billion for fewer than 500 clients."
While that is an average of $10 million a client, you can obtain Bessemer's services for less. The minimum investment is only $5 million.
If you wonder who might have that much money to invest, David G. Curry, head of Bessemer's Washington office, notes that Bessemer is managing $240 million for 30 Washington area clients. Half of the clients are wealthy individuals, half are institutions, such as pension funds and college endowments.
Some of the wealthy individuals, Curry says, have come in with what he calls "newly liquified money" -- money earned from the sale of real estate or businesses; sales made for tax reasons before the end of last year.
The heart of Bessemer's worldwide approach to investing is "global asset allocation," Curry said. In its simplest form, it means deciding how much money one should put in which investment area. It's another name for trying to be in the right place at the right time.
During the past 10 years, Curry said, Bessemer has turned in an annualized return of 20 percent on its equity portfolios.
Bessemer opened its Washington office 18 months ago. "We felt that the Washington market had matured from a wealth standpoint," Curry said. Before joining Bessemer in 1985, Curry was a banker, working in the trust divisions of several local banks, including Sovran Financial Corp.
Bank trust departments are still the major money managers in Washington, but the arrival of Bessemer and the opening of a number of small money management firms testifies to the power of the bull market to generate wealth; to the scores of financial planners who are switching to money management, and the continuing growth of Washington as a business, investment and money center.
A sampling of Washington money management firms reveals a number of common themes: The money managers think of themselves as long-term investors, rather than in-and-out traders or market timers. And they look for low-cost, high-value stocks that will grow steadily.
Here is a sampling of those firms:
Davidge & Co. of Washington. Founded in 1950, Davidge manages $687 million in 415 accounts belonging chiefly to individuals and families in the Washington area.
Davidge President John T. Beaty said his firm serves investors looking for better-than-average total return.
Davidge sets a portfolio minimum of $500,000 and has a minimum fee of $5,000.
Portfolios at Davidge tend to be 40 percent to 60 percent in equities. But the firm will lighten up when it seems necessary.
"When the wind blows strongly either way, we tend to lean against it," said Beaty.
James K. Ferguson, executive vice president, said, "Since we work for individuals and families, we look at investments in an after-tax light. In other words, how much do you have left after you've paid your tax?"
Beaty said some of his best gains over the years had come from investing in Washington area companies. Among Davidge's more successful investments were: Giant Food Inc., Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, Federal Realty Investment Trust, Hechinger Co. and Student Loan Marketing Association.
Beaty noted that Washington historically has not been a major financial center and that most wealthy people here either inherited their money or made it in real estate. But, he added, "there is a growing recognition from around the country that Washington is attractive for financial services."
Justin Asset Management of Washington. A six-year-old firm, Justin manages $21 million for 49 individual and business clients. The minimum portfolio is $100,000 and the firm charges a 1 percent fee for accounts under $1 million.
President Christopher M. Niemczewski said he lives by three rules:
"We do not believe in market timing"; that is, moving funds in and out of stocks and trying to anticipate the market's direction.
"We are a value-oriented investor," emphasizing well-managed, dividend-paying companies with low price-earnings ratios that are temporarily out of favor.
"We employ a disciplined investment approach that focuses on the long-term," maintaining the same principles of investment through all kinds of stock market conditions.
Niemczewski looks for companies that have a significant business niche, a return on equity of at least 11 to 12 percent and a 7 to 10 percent return on assets.
Bill Kapner, a managing partner, reports that in 1986, the firm's equity portfolio was up 24.1 percent, compared with 14.6 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500.
Potomac Asset Management of Washington. Headed by Peter Ladd Gilsey, the firm manages $350 million for 25 institutional and 20 individual clients. Institutional accounts hold about 75 percent of their assets in equities, 25 percent in bonds and other investments. Potomac charges a 0.75 percent fee for the first $20 million and has a $1 million minimum.
Potomac's goal is to provide its clients with a 15 to 20 percent compounded annual return, and in slightly more than nine years the company has chalked up a 20 percent gain, said Robert E. Long, senior vice president.
Long said his firm looks for stocks with strong intrinsic value reflecting a potential for strong earnings growth -- perhaps as much as 15 to 20 percent a year. If those stocks are selling at a discount, so much the better.
If their stocks become overpriced, they will sell them but they do relatively little trading. "We are long-term investors," he said.
Potomac Asset likes Washington area companies and has 25 percent of its assets in 20 Washington area firms. Five of their largest holdings are Giant Food, Geico, Student Loan Marketing Association, Citizens Bank of Maryland and Media General.
J.W. Redmond & Co. of Washington. Redmond manages $150 million in about 30 accounts, most held by individuals.
President Woody Redmond said his firm's clients are "fairly aggressive" and interested in capital appreciation. The firm doesn't do much in-and-out trading, looking instead for longer-term growth. They have a $1 million minimum investment and a minimum fee of 0.75 percent.
Redmond's portfolios gained 20.2 percent in 1986, compared with 14.6 for the S&P 500. For five years, Redmond rose 19 percent while the S&P moved up 14.6 percent.
Redmond, in business for 25 years, has seen many changes -- especially in the pension fund area. Pension funds now select managers for specific styles and categorize them as value managers, growth managers, market timers, etc. Redmond doesn't like that approach, believing the funds should choose a manager and let him pick the investing style that is most appropriate for the future.
"It is like saying that people can only make one suit. You can't make a sports coat and a tuxedo," he said.
Redmond thinks flexibility is the key to good investing. At the moment he is 90 percent invested with a special interest in drug stocks, media stocks and regional banks.
American Investment Managers of Rockville. Founded in 1972, American Investment manages $100 million for 15 institutional and five individual clients, said President Gordon B. Lamb. The firm has a minimum investment of $1 million and a fee of one half of 1 percent.
The firm also has a subsidiary called, American Asset Management Group that has a $100,000 minimum and a fee of 1.5 percent.
Lamb said he looks for good quality stocks that have good rates of growth in the payment of dividends. As dividends rise, so will the prices of the stocks, he said.
"Dividends are the engine that drives capital appreciation," Lamb said.
The firm's equity and cash investments since 1972, he said, returned 18.1 percent.
His portfolios tend to lag during bull markets but do better in down markets, Lamb said. In 1981, his investments were up 7.4 percent while the S&P 500 was down 5 percent.