Charles D. Ellis, known to many as Charley, is ending his day-to-day involvement with the company he founded and that grew into the most influential consulting firm serving institutional investment organizations - Greenwich Associates.
Except for involvement with the Japanese arm of Greenwich Associates, he will have no day-to-day involvement with the firm after June. But Charley doesn't say he's retiring. He's planning to be very busy on projects outside Greenwich Associates.
Some of these involve writing. Charley wrote one of the most important financial books of the past three decades, Investment Policy: How to Win the Loser's Game. He also edited two volumes of Classics: An Investor's Anthology, compendiums of the most significant articles in the literature of investing. Now he is writing a book on The Capital Group, one of the world's top investment organizations. After that he plans a book on Goldman Sachs & Co.
"I think if the story of how these organizations developed could be told in a way that was understandable to gifted young people coming along, they could learn a great deal."
After almost 30 years of studying the industry, and consulting for its major firms, there is one issue that bothers him and for which he has no answer: Why are there not more women in the institutional investment management industry, and especially heading major firms?
In investment management, talent is key, he says. But in addition, the ability to get along with people, and to nurture people, "which women are particularly good at," is important. And there are no physical demands that might disadvantage women.
"If you look around, there are some really wonderful women who are successful in investing, but it's nowhere near what you would expect," Charley said. "The industry has yet to be successful in attracting a broad base of women. It's intriguing."
Charley built his firm after getting an MBA from Harvard University, working for Rockefeller Brothers Investment Management managing the personal assets of the Rockefeller family and the endowments it had set up, and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc. in institutional sales.
After a stint with the Louis Harris polling and research firm, then a DLJ subsidiary, Charley established Greenwich Research Associates in 1972 with one other employee. His aim was to create a research and consulting firm to help financial services firms understand the institutional investment marketplace, the needs of the customers, and the position of each firm in it.
Greenwich soon began surveying up to 1,500 pension executives in the United States about their responsibilities, activities, needs, interests, and attitudes on behalf of money management organizations. The firm gradually expanded the survey to other financial responsibilities and services. It became a barometer forecasting the needs and intentions of financial executives in corporations, state and local governments and charitable foundations. It also became a measure of the executives' perception of the performance of the major financial service companies.
And Greenwich Associates consultants worked with the financial services firms to understand and correct any weaknesses the surveys identified.
Greenwich Associates will continue in good hands after Charley's departure, those of senior managing director John H. "Woody" Canaday, a 16-year veteran of the firm.