Manarin marks anniversary with new offices, plan for succession

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Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 12:00 am

Roland Manarin may be past traditional retirement age, but he's still building for the future.

The Omaha investment adviser who tells clients, “Your money doesn't know how old you are,” is putting the finishing touches on a new office building as his firm celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Manarin Investment Counsel moved in March to 505 N. 210th St., a lot with West Dodge Road frontage northwest of the North 204th Street exit in the Elkhorn area. It's the third Dodge Street location in the firm's history, and the first where the firm owns and designed its own space. Manarin spent about $4 million on the project, including land and building costs.

Getting here was a bigger headache than Roland Manarin anticipated. He was hoping to be occupying the office last June, but there were delays in the process of redeveloping the land, especially with a neighboring 20-acre lot used as a mobile home park. Old streets and utilities have been removed and Manarin is now marketing the property north of the firm's new headquarters to developers.

“We're investment advisers, not real estate developers,” Manarin said.

With nearly $549 million in assets under management, Manarin Investment Counsel is considered “large” by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a term that refers to advisers managing more than $100 million.

But it is not the largest independent firm in Omaha. Tributary Capital Management oversees $1.02 billion, and Carson Wealth Management has $962 million. Other large independent firms include Feltz Wealthplan with $503 million, Bridges Investment Management with $601 million, Bridges Investment Counsel with $619 million, and Karstens Investment Counsel with $544 million, according to recent SEC filings.

Manarin, 68, plans to eventually turn ownership of the firm over to his son-in-law, vice president Aron Huddleston. Huddleston, 34, a Chartered Financial Analyst, earned a master's degree in security analysis and portfolio management at Creighton University after graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a bachelor's in business administration.

Huddleston now owns 20 percent of the firm and will become majority owner in coming years.

Manarin will still be an owner of the firm, which he started in 1983 after becoming frustrated with the commission-centered approach of the national investment firm he worked for, managing about $18 million in assets.

Manarin has gained a national reputation since starting out on his own. He was named in 2004 to Barron's list of America's Best Wealth Advisors, and from 2007 to 2010 to the publication's list of Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors. The list of top independent advisers is based on the amount of assets managed, the revenue produced and the quality of the practice, a measure that includes an adviser's regulatory record, Barron's said. Investment returns are not a factor because they are influenced by client risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance is an area where Manarin has counseled clients out of their initial comfort zones. His basic message is that investments generally considered “safe” are anything but. Taking inflation into account, he said, allowing money to sit in cash, bonds or treasury bills is akin to letting the money “rot.”

Rather than traditional advice to shift money out of volatile stocks and into stable bonds as retirement nears, Manarin tells clients of any age that, except for a few years of short-term living expenses, they should have “nearly 100 percent” of their nest egg in equities. As a hedge against inflation and stock losses, he advises owning gold.

Declining gold prices have hurt returns of the mutual fund managed by Manarin and Huddleston. About $190 million of client assets are held in the Lifetime Achievement Fund.

The fund's results have trailed the S&P 500 over the past one-, three- and five-year periods. Over 10 years, returns slightly exceeded the S&P 500.

Huddleston said the fund's investments differ from the large-cap S&P 500 firms. “We have foreign stocks, we have small-cap stocks, we hedge with gold,” he said. “These things don't all move the same. Especially lately, the gold hedge has hurt us quite a bit. It's for the long-term investor who wants a fund for their core nest egg, for their growth portion.”

Manarin also disagrees with other advisers who recommend using a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) instead of a traditional IRA or 401(k). He believes it's better to let money grow tax-deferred and pay taxes later, while other advisers say it can be best to pay taxes up front in case tax rates rise or in case the investor moves into a higher tax bracket.

Along with criticism of the current administration's fiscal policy and the “Obamacare” health insurance plan, those are the same lessons Manarin offers on his Sunday morning radio show, which airs on KFAB in Omaha. He also has provided commentary on Fox Business and CNBC and is the author of the self-published “Manarin on Money: A Real World Guide to Building & Maintaining Wealth.”

With a radio studio built into the new office building, Manarin hopes now to buy air time on other stations around the region, taking his message to new markets.

Another feature of the new building is a large public meeting room that is being outfitted with high-tech presentation equipment and will be used for the free public classes the firm is known for.

Manarin said about half of his new clients come in through the classes; the other half come through referrals from existing clients. The classes, taught by Roland Manarin and by adviser Dave Blair, are offered in three two-hour blocks or in one condensed three-hour session. They'll still be offered at locations such as area hotels but will also help bring potential clients into the firm's new offices.

The rest of the new offices are decorated in an old-world style that reflects Manarin's childhood in northern Italy. In 1954, he came to Omaha, where his father, part of a family of marble workers, was recruited as a craftsman by a U.S. contractor. The offices have marble floors, a three-story ceiling, a stone fireplace, bronze accents and framed prints with scenes of cloistered gardens and gondoliers.

The nine investment advisers' private offices ring the building designed by Slate Architecture with Royal Homes as the contractor — while frontline and support staff have desks in the central “bullpen” illuminated by skylights. An exercise room, kitchen and outdoor patio are amenities for staff.

Huddleston looks around the 12,000 square feet of new office space, considers the nine current investment advisers on staff now, and says, “We could double that here.” There are unoccupied offices, plus a large garage space that is wired and ready to be remodeled into offices when the need arises.

Huddleston shares Manarin's philosophy of taking the long view.

“It's not high-turnover trading,” he said. “It's time, discipline and knowledge. You've got to save over time. It's boring.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1336, barbara.soderlin@owh.com

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Editor's note, April 19: An earlier version of this article included incomplete information about the value of assets under management held by Omaha firms. Bridges Investment Counsel has $619 million in assets under management, in addition to the $601 million held by its affiliated company Bridges Investment Management.

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