(SAVANNAH, Ga.) Chatham Capital Group (CCG), a fiduciary investment advisory and wealth management firm with offices in Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head, S.C., is celebrating its 25th year in business in 2021. After three decades of managing investment portfolios for institutional clients, Ted Muller, Guy Palmer and Bruce Fielitz founded Chatham Capital in 1996. It is led today by its four principals: Rick Muller, Philip
Palmer, and Bill Fielitz, the three founder’s sons, as well as Jason Allen. The company oversees more than $500 million in assets for individuals, families and related charitable entities.
The genesis of Chatham Capital was unusual. “Guy, Bruce and I were involved with an investment management firm in Atlanta. After we sold that company and fulfilled employment contracts, we moved to Savannah with the intention of retiring. We had to look after our own money, friends and family asked us to do the same, and that led to the formation of CCG,” Ted Muller said.
“We soon realized that ‘retirement’ was not all that it’s purported to be. Reading the newspaper doesn’t take long, and there’s only so much golf I wanted to play. The capital markets and investments have always fascinated us, and we enjoyed working together, so we were excited to begin the next phase of our lives,” Bruce Fielitz said.
Citing their professionalism, independent structure, culture of continuous improvement, client service, consistency, along with almost no principal or personnel turnover in a quarter-century, Rick Muller says the most important asset of all is “our people.”
“The commitment to educating ourselves with ongoing professional learning and certifications, as well as educating our clients about how changing conditions affect them, and high client retention, says a lot about how much our clients trust us,” Bill Fielitz explained. “The second generation of ownership also speaks to the dedication we all have to our clients and the reputation of Chatham Capital.”
Larger national firms have also taken notice. Chatham Capital has been approached numerous times with offers to buy the firm, but with no clear benefit to the client base, such propositions have not been entertained. The company’s independence, fee-only structure, and size set it apart from competitors. The tight group of experienced professionals making executive decisions is optimal and allows for a stronger focus on client-specific matters impossible at larger firms.
“Research shows that smaller groups of approximately five or six people are best for decision making. Any fewer doesn’t provide adequate perspective, but more makes the process unwieldy,” Philip Palmer explains. “Our specialty is taking complicated financial situations and distilling the information into a framework that can be evaluated and analyzed, to properly develop a strategy for moving forward. We really excel with clients who have a lot of moving parts,” he added.
Skillfully navigating constant change has been a hallmark of the last 25 years. Since the beginning, Chatham Capital has used increasingly sophisticated technology and software to their client’s benefit. Keeping up with the proliferation and accessibility of investment choices is another way they have exceeded expectations. Chatham Capital also specializes in finding under-the-radar opportunities and exploiting valuation deficiencies in small-cap companies that work with their long-term philosophy.
Clients share Chatham Capital’s philosophy of collaboration and long-term orientation, which creates loyalty and trust. This is a common thread the leadership team also sees in their employees. The founders set the bar and the current executive team strives to retain those principles and build on them. This requires following a deliberate process and planning to ensure like-minded professionals are brought in to advise clients. The result has been a stable and enduring team of investment advisors who only succeed when their clients do.
A similar approach is seen in how the firm begins a relationship with new clients. Learning what each individual needs, what led them to Chatham Capital, explaining the company philosophy, and creating a path forward where success is a shared endeavor leads to the many long-term client relationships the firm enjoys.
“Some options were very new or didn’t exist at all when we first opened our doors. Alternative investment options like hedge funds, private equity, exchange-traded funds and the like that were either quite limited or did not exist then are commonplace today. Now that it is so much easier to access limitless information, the challenge is to distill all that data and put it into a cohesive, usable platform that informs decisions. The ability to make it work and remain adaptable to change has been immensely beneficial to our clients,” Allen said.
Having survived and thrived after two 50% down markets and the more recent global pandemic, Chatham Capital understands that to maintain the success they’ve enjoyed for another 25 years will require sticking to the ideals that have worked so far.
“We view flexibility and a commitment to deliberate thought as the most important elements in continuing to provide a valuable service for current and future clients,” Allen explained.