What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, according to Shakespeare.
Yet, deciding on a name for a money management firm is not easy, especially if the founders want to go beyond the obvious use of their own names. Even the use of the founders' names is not easy. Who gets top billing, and what if one or two of the founders leave? Some tie the name to the firm's address: State Street Research and Management, etc.
Some names draw on mythology, history or literature to provide a symbol for the firm's purpose.
Agincourt Capital Management LLC, Richmond, Va., for example, was named after the climactic battle in the Hundred Years' War between England and France. This is the battle in which "we band of brothers, we happy few" - in the words Shakespeare gives to King Henry V in the play of the same name - defeated the larger French army. As Patrick O'Hara, partner at Agincourt Capital explained, the small invading English army, armed with better weapons (the English longbow) and with a better battle plan, overcame the less disciplined and less ably led French army fighting on its home soil.
The Agincourt Capital partners, who split off from Sovran Capital Management, see themselves as a small, united group of core fixed-income investors seeking to win the investment battles with better tools and a better battle plan. "There is symbolism in the name," Mr. O'Hara said. The 18-month-old firm has $2.1 billion under management, all of it for tax-exempt clients.
Perhaps the best-known name with a historical connection is Vanguard Group Inc., Valley Forge, Pa. Vanguard is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship at the pivotal Battle of the Nile, where the Royal Navy inflicted a devastating defeat on Napoleon's French fleet. Vanguard's founder, Jack Bogle, selected the name after a 1974 battle with Wellington Management Co. for control of the 11 funds Wellington managed.
Although he won the battle for control, Mr. Bogle was able to keep the Wellington name only for the Wellington Fund, so he needed a new name for the company he had established to administer the family of funds. After the split with Wellington, he kept his office, but the company removed all the prints that had decorated its walls.
With the help of an art dealer he bought a dozen Napoleonic-war prints, including six that depicted Lord Nelson's naval battles. Upon reading about the Battle of the Nile, and having just won a tough battle himself, Mr. Bogle decided to name the company after the admiral's flagship. It didn't hurt that "the vanguard" also is the leading group in an army or a movement.
The name of Martingale Asset Management, Boston, sprang from the fertile minds of Bill Jacques and Arnie Wood, who founded the firm in 1987. Mr. Jacques came up with the word because his grandfather used betting systems at the track based on martingale stategies, in which the bettor doubles up the next bet after a losing bet. But Mr. Jacques also pointed out Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of chaos theory, wrote about martingale processes in stock price behavior.
According to Mr. Wood, martingale has several meanings. The meaning they prefer has a risk-control implication: It is a strap on a horse's bridle that prevents the horse from suddenly lifting its head, rearing, and throwing the rider off. Besides the meaning, Mr. Wood said, "our wives liked the sound of it." Martingale Asset Management has $1.1 billion under management in equity and market-neutral strategies.