SAN FRANCISCO - When Janet Brown first entered the investment management industry, mutual funds were in their infancy.
Ms. Brown began working for DAL Investment Co. here in 1978 as a portfolio manager and managing editor of the company's newsletter. The firm, founded two years earlier by Burt Berry, published the newsletter, No-Load Fund*X and provided investment services to small groups of lawyers and doctors who pooled their investment and pension money.
Today, DAL manages approximately $300 million for its clients, about two-thirds of which are pension funds and foundations. It also tracks about 1,200 funds, investing in about 300 on behalf of clients.
Earlier this year, Mr. Berry sold most of his interest in the firm to Ms. Brown, its current president.
"My work here has changed so dramatically over the years," she explained. "The new technologies of the 1990s have completely altered the way we track and report no-load funds. What we used to do by hand, literally, I can now call up almost instantaneously on my computer screen."
Ms. Brown said her firm currently favors the financial and energy sectors. "The financial services sector is one that we feel really good about right now, and have liked for the last couple of years, while the energy sector we've liked over the last few months.
"We're in a very unusual period right now. And our strategy is to try hard to be in the right place at the right time."
Ms. Brown said even though it's tempting for investors to become caught up in the euphoria of the bull market, they should keep a wary eye on issues that could have long-term implications for the companies. "Valuation, for example, is very important and in many cases should be a concern for investors in today's market," she said. "It's a concern that we don't hear as much as perhaps we should from many of our investors."
Surveying the current investment fever for mergers and acquisitions, Ms. Brown expressed a degree of remorse at the lack of individuality that often results from such events.
"I just wonder whether these larger organizations can provide the kind of individual opportunity for success for investment managers that the smaller firms do," she said.
"I guess that's one of the things we feel is best about what we do. We have the experience to invest wisely and the flexibility to keep from getting caught up in one management style."