Four years ago, I decided to leave the firm that I had founded 40 years earlier and founded Sicart Associates with the three partners who joined me in this adventure. Many friends were skeptical: why would I want to leave the successful money management firm I had created, now with ample assets under management, to start a tiny boutique with no name (except mine, but this was the idea of my co-founders) and younger partners who had yet to establish their reputations?
My reasons were two-fold.
First of all, I was in my 70s and, although in good health and still passionate about investing, it seemed prudent to plan for my wife’s support should “something” happen to me. It would not be a difficult transition, since my carefully chosen partners had the perfect qualifications to operate as a family office.
Patsy Jaganath, with an accounting and auditing background, had taken over the responsibilities of my assistant, Marcella Lang, who had covered my client families for 35 years. In addition, she solved many administrative and fiscal problems for those clients, gaining in the process the demonstrated respect of the relevant legal and tax advisers.
Allen Huang and Bogumil Baranowski, with experiences in venture capital and international economics, had worked with me long enough in their early careers so that we had had time to develop a common approach to financial analysis and a common understanding of investment quality. In this field, we understood each other with few words.
Unfortunately, my wife unexpectedly passed away too early, and the Sicart “family” office – Sicart Associates LLC — now takes care of my children and me, as well as of selected loyal client families who naturally followed us in our new set-up.
My second reason for founding Sicart Associates with just three partners is that my previous creation had become too big. As we met with business success and grew to more than 100 employees and colleagues, the pleasures of camaraderie and informal creativity had slowly been diluted. In matters of investments, crowd judgment is dangerous.
I recalled that my most successful years as an investment manager were those when we were just two or three making the buy and sell decisions, whether it was with my mentor and partner Christian Humann or my close associate Jean-Pierre Conreur, for example. I longed for the informality and close, trusting friendship of these early years. At Sicart Associates, I have again found these pleasures, with no other obligation than to grow our and our clients’ fortunes over time, without pressure or conflict.
In addition, although we are now all Americans, we have maintained a cultural diversity of origin, which allows us to understand the world around us better than more provincial organizations. Indian, Chinese, Polish, French, and American-born. We are now seven: Delphine Chevalier joined us from the start to assist with our Paris-based clients; Diandra Ramsammy has begun to assist Patsy with the considerable back office and administrative tasks we perform for our clients; and Doug Rankin has joined in our adventure as his now-retired father had done at our previous firm, where he had been one of my early partners.
We have no marketing department; we have eliminated as much as is feasible the conflicts of interest associated with various “products” whose fees benefit the manager or the broker more than their clients; and we have re-discovered the real meaning of success – a fulfilling job well done, along with a happy life. We accept that we will grow over time, but slowly and cautiously, always avoiding greed or excessive ambition.
Four years have passed amazingly fast. We have had fun most of the time, and, in the recent COVID crisis, we also proved that a small, closely-knit team can handle adversity very efficiently. We are grateful to the loyal clients who have trusted us from the start and welcome the new ones whom we hope will accompany us for many years to come.
François Sicart | Published September 9th, 2019
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