Randall Long – SageView Advisory Group
If you’re a millennial looking to enjoy the same retirement as your grandparents, veteran advisors like Randall Long recommend having a plan in place before the age of 30. Then again, if you’re really ambitious, you can always do what Long did: invest in a mutual fund at 12 years old.
“I saw how hard my parents worked, and I realized at an early age that I could really get a head start on building a life,” recalls Long, founder and managing principal at SageView Advisory Group. “Obviously not everyone has to start that early, but it is possible for younger people to lay that groundwork.”
Even today, Long still keeps an eye on that first portfolio. But it’s his firm’s growing clientele—1,200 and counting—that commands the lion’s share of his focus.
The real bottom line
For Long and his team, it all starts with SageView’s fiduciary commitment to work in the best interest of its clients, free of conflicts or selfish aims. To that end, the firm outsources 100 percent of its investments to outside parties, picking managers that best fit the client’s long-term objectives—while adding tangible value to their portfolios.
The strategy is executed solely in-house.
“We come up with our own asset allocation and capital market assumptions, but outsourcing the stewardship ensures we’re not compromising our objectivity,” Long explains. “These are people we’ve been working with for years. Their success and our success are inextricably linked.”
Once the client’s objectives are clearly laid out—SageView prides itself on using plain English to describe often complex processes—the real work begins. According to Long, technology is pivotal for crafting the resulting investment strategy, both for the firm’s individual clients as well as its growing ranks of small businesses, municipalities and government institutions.
That includes cutting-edge software and up-to-the-second analytics; this is 2018, after all. An interactive web portal and a state-of-the-art mobile app add polish.
“Given how fast information travels, if you’re not using the best tools available, you’re doing your client a disservice,” Long says. “We’ve always kept a robust IT budget that allows us to stay at the forefront.”
Getting IT right
That technology has also been critical in SageView’s efforts to properly scale its growth—an evolution punctuated by four major acquisitions since 1989. With 137 employees in 23 offices across 17 states, keeping everyone on the same page has been one of the firm’s most consistent challenges.
Lessening the difficulties, all of SageView’s satellite offices work off of the same custom financial platform. In addition, the firm produces monthly market commentary newsletters to ensure its advisors are using the most up-to-date information possible. There’s also a treasure trove of topic-specific webinars, in well-paced, 15-to-20-minute tutorials.
The bona fides speak for themselves: To date, SageView has brought more than $88 billion under management. Within the next few years, Long hopes to add a Dallas office to the roster, all while increasing its bullpen of 40 investment research members and 13 certified financial analysts.
Indeed, nearly 30 years after launching SageView, Long seems well-positioned to meet the next three decades with equivalent success.
“It’s never been more important to plan for the future,” Long says. “It’s not just about accumulation strategies. It’s about withdrawal and drawdown strategies. People increasingly need a more personalized approach, and that’s what we offer.”
The firm’s clients aren’t the only ones benefiting from the gangbusters growth. In 2011, Long and his wife launched The SageView Foundation. With a focus on providing health care and educational opportunities for at-risk women and children all over the world, the organization has donated more than $1.5 million.
The foundation has also partnered with Women for Women International on a comprehensive job-training program that benefited 75 women throughout the world. It helped establish an organic farm in Rwanda, creating a grant to train women in sustainable farming.
The foundation also supports microfinancing, the practice of offering small, low-interest loans to individuals and small businesses without access to traditional banking.
“About 25 percent of our investments are international, so we feel it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re having a positive impact beyond our backyard,” Long says. “It helps our team feel like they’re a part of something bigger. And when your team is as tight-knit as ours is, that carries over to the client relationship.”
As for all those budding 12-year-old investors, Long says there’s no need to rush.
“You’ll be fine if you start at 15,” he laughs.
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