A year of transition in 2011 will test whether Marco Consulting Group can maintain its perch as the pre-eminent investment consultant to Taft-Hartley union plans once founders Jack M. Marco and Thomas A. Mitchell step back from the front lines of consulting.
Mr. Marco said he and Mr. Mitchell, at 64 and 63, respectively, are looking forward to spending less time on airplanes and more time running — and growing — the business, which advises 350 benefit plans with combined assets of more than $85 billion.
That hardly amounts to retirement, Mr. Marco insisted, adding he'll remain chairman and head of the firm's management committee, while both he and Vice Chairman Mitchell will continue to go to client meetings “from time to time.”
Others, however, will be doing “the heavy lifting,” Mr. Marco said, noting that recent hires — including Susan Crotty, who joined the firm as a senior vice president and senior consultant in September from Tremont Group Holdings, and Russell Campbell, hired in August as CEO from Amcore Bank — have left Marco well positioned for a smooth transition.
The change isn't without risks. Personal bonds, key to any client-consultant relationship, are even more so in the Taft-Hartley segment of the market, industry veterans say.
“The trust factor, the loyalty factor” can be crucial when it comes to a Taft-Hartley board's relationship with an investment consultant, agreed Terrence S. Moloznik, executive director, investments, with the $13 billion National Electrical Benefit Fund, Washington.
Mr. Marco, the fund's primary consultant, has a lot of credibility as a pioneer in Taft-Hartley investment consulting, and might well have “the longest and most loyal accounts” in the industry, said Mr. Moloznik. Even so, “the firm's pretty deep,” and with Mr. Marco not stepping away entirely, the transition shouldn't be a problem, he said.
Other clients struck the same balance — noting they already have strong ties with a number of other professionals at Marco Consulting, but still welcoming the fact that Messrs. Marco and Mitchell aren't leaving the scene entirely.
David F. Stupar, executive director of the $1.3 billion Washington-based Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund, said as a fiduciary services client — where Marco Consulting assumes responsibility for day-to-day oversight and investment decisions — the union has broader relationships with three or four people at the firm.
Still, “I've known Jack since the early "90s,” and suspect “we'll continue to see him as much as ever,” said Mr. Stupar.
“Had they not brought in some good talent,” such as Ms. Crotty, there might have been some concerns when Mr. Mitchell — the lead consultant for both the United Food & Commercial Workers' $5 billion national fund and its $1 billion international fund — steps back, noted Anthony Marc Perrone, international secretary and treasurer of the UFCW fund, Washington.
But given the quality of the team, as long as the Marco consultant and support lineup remains stable, “I don't think they have to be concerned” about losing the fund's account, he said.