HBKS® Principal and Chief Investment Officer Brian Sommers oversees the firm’s investment management processes for HBKS® investment advisory representatives. He chairs the firm’s Investment Policy Committee and is instrumental in the identification, evaluation and recommendation of the investments that make up the firm’s client portfolios. He brings HBKS® clients the expertise of more than 20 years managing a wide range of portfolios for both high net worth individuals and institutional clients.
Prior to joining HBKS® in 2014, Mr. Sommers ran the outsourced CIO service for Fusion Investment Group, where he developed the asset allocation strategies and performed manager due-diligence for three wealth management firms. He also managed Fusion’s Equity Enhanced Income product. He has managed an impressive array of investments, including Taft-Hartley plans and endowments, and plans for foundations, corporations, individuals and public entities. He has held positions in investment consulting and client service for both institutional and high net worth clients.
Mr. Sommers holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, has earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and is a member of the CFA Institute and CFA Society of Pittsburgh.
Describe your role and responsibilities at the firm.
As chief investment officer, I lead our Asset Management Group and am responsible for developing and implementing our investment processes and procedures. I’m also responsible for the HBKS® investment philosophy, which determines the appropriate asset allocation for each client’s risk profile. And I manage the HBKS® staff responsible for selecting and monitoring the investments in our portfolios. Essentially, I oversee every aspect of the HBKS® investment decision-making process, managing our investment analysts, sourcing investment opportunities, reviewing current portfolios and communicating the firm’s investment direction and philosophy to clients and prospects.
The Asset Management Group makes investment recommendations to our Investment Policy Committee. I chair that committee, which makes the final determination on all the firm’s investment decisions.
Communication is a very important part of what I do. I review the data and reports from analysts, advisors and portfolio managers. I apply those to our process, where appropriate, and then translate the reasons for an investment so that they are easily understood by advisors and our clients.
What are some of the major challenges faced by your team?
The biggest challenge our Asset Management Group faces is the pressure to provide certainty in a very uncertain business. Investing carries with it a lot of uncertainty and a fair amount of risk – especially when stock valuations are near all-time highs and interest rates near all-time lows, when there is heightened geopolitical risk in many parts of the world.
We recognize that the capital markets are unpredictable. History has shown it’s impossible to accurately predict asset prices on a consistent and long-term basis. However, our clients are seeking some level of comfort that they will be able to meet their financial goals and objectives.
We rely on the tenets of Modern Portfolio Theory to provide some answers. Modern Portfolio Theory is based on long-term analysis of asset prices and the correlation of returns between each asset class. By studying these relationships we can provide our clients with broadly diversified portfolios.
Over the long term, a disciplined investment process that employs a broadly diversified approach and includes assets that do not have a high correlation to the traditional markets can provide a less volatile portfolio than a less diversified approach. That translates to a higher probability of meeting an investor’s financial goals and objectives.
How had your process changed in the past five to 10 years considering advances in technology and information availability?
We’re fortunate to be a part of an organization that is large enough to afford the best research available. We have partnered with several top providers of research on asset allocation and manager selection. We also leverage the increasing power of technology by creating proprietary computer screening and modeling tools.
Advances in technology have greatly improved our implementation and trading of our clients’ accounts. We have invested in a very sophisticated tool so whenever we make a decision to change an investment, we are able to make the change across thousands of accounts in a single trading day. This truly levels the field and benefits our clients because all of our clients get the benefit of the change at around the same time.
What do you like most about the HBKS® culture?
I was drawn to HBKS® by our investment advisors’ extremely high level of knowledge and understanding of investment planning. Everyone at HBKS® understands that our clients are best served by a holistic approach to client management. While a world-class investment process is a very important component, there are many other components to a successful client relationship that are just as important. Our Advisors look at our clients’ entire financial picture and can provide advice on every aspect of their financial lives including financial, tax, and insurance planning.
In addition, we have a very strong collaborative culture. This is especially important because our clients can have extremely complex circumstances to address. It’s imperative that everyone does their part, and everyone is professional and we work together with one goal in mind – to arrive at the best possible outcome for our clients.
The HBKS® focus on hard work and teamwork matches the values my wife and I have instilled in both our son and daughter. Spending time with my family is very important to me, and I am fortunate HBKS® shares our values.
“Communication is a very important part of what I do. I review the data and reports from analysts, advisors and portfolio managers. I apply those to our process, where appropriate, and then translate the reasons for an investment so that they are easily understood by advisors and our clients.”
Articles from Brian Sommers
- A Conversation on the Economy
- Recent Market Slides Create Opportunities for Long-Term Investors
- Watch: The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Economics and Markets
- Maintaining Our Disciplined Investment Process
- What’s Going on in the Bond Market?
- Market Volatility Continues
- Our Perspective on the Coronavirus Epidemic
- Outlook for 2020: Global Economic Growth Expected to Strengthen
- Recessions are a Normal Part of the Business Cycle
- The Benefits of a Globally Diversified Portfolio Approach
- Fears of an Impending Recession Are Overblown
- Outlook for Economic Growth Brightens
- HBKS 2019 Market and Economic Outlook
- Investors Should Remain Focused on Their Long-Term Investment Plan During Stock Market Turmoil
- Economic Fundamentals Drive Markets More Than Mid-Term Elections
- The Recent Volatility in Stock Markets Could Indicate That Stock Market Leadership is Shifting
- Commentary on the U.S. Economy, Q2: Resist the Urge to React to Hypothetical Rhetoric
- Trade Tensions Spook Investors
- Investor Anxiety Returns to Roil Stock Markets
- Market Risks are Growing
- The Beat Goes On
- Global Stock Markets Continue to Climb in Second Quarter 2017
- Active Funds or Passive Funds?
- Uncertain Political Environment Weighing on Global Stocks