Romano Brothers & Co. Wealth Management » Evanston150 Speech

Presented by: Joe Romano  March 22, 2011

First of all, I want to thank Evanston150 for inviting me and my firm to be part of this great and exciting initiative.  I was asked to take a moment or two to tell you about our firm and the story of how Romano Brothers came to be a part of this community, why we’ve stayed here for nearly 50 years (as next year will in fact be our 50th anniversary), and why we chose to support Evanston150.

In 1962, my father Dick Romano, and his brother Bob had a dream to start an investment firm.  They were inspired by a failed effort to find a firm that was a fit for handling a modest sum of money for my grandparents, who were soon to be retiring.  The retail investment industry was very different in those days and generally catered to only the very wealthy, and my grandparents simply didn’t have enough money to make anyone’s radar screen.  They didn’t know much about the investment business back then, as my father was a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and Bob had just finished law school.  They set up shop in a small one room office on one of the upper floors of the old First Illinois Bank Building on Davis and Sherman (now Optima loft condominiums) and then starved almost literally, for the next five years.  In my family’s case, my father made some earnings through some part time teaching and lab work at Northwestern and my mother as a Chicago Public School teacher.  My father will tell you to this day, the only reason that he and the firm survived was due to sheer naiveté.  He and my uncle simply didn’t know they were floundering.

But as time progressed they demonstrated some staying power and developed a reputation—one that we covet to this day.  In fact, in 50 years we’ve never had a formal written customer complaint or been involved in an arbitration or lawsuit.  Our assets have blossomed as a result, and today, we are a private wealth management firm with 20 professionals which oversees $1 billion in client assets.  While most of our clients might now be considered wealthy or even ultra-wealthy, we haven’t forgotten our mission and still serve many families with more modest means.

Our investment philosophy and our business model hasn’t changed much in that time either.  We are conservative as our clients prefer to be the ones that create the wealth and look to us to preserve it.  As for our business model, we prefer to conduct our own research and use individual stocks and bonds to create custom tailored portfolios for our clients, rather than use mutual funds, annuities, or farm our clients’ money to third party investment managers.  We eat our own cooking and are co-invested in the same ideas which we recommend to clients, as we find that nothing hones one’s investment acumen like having your own money on the line.

Now I mentioned earlier that my father and uncle didn’t know much about investing back then but they did know one thing for certain—they didn’t want to be just another investment firm on the 32nd floor of an office building somewhere on LaSalle Street.  They wanted a community, and they wanted to be visible and to very much be a part of it.  Since my parents lived in Evanston at that time, it made sense to do it here.

That sense of community is engrained in me and each of our employees to this day.  Evanston is a very dear place for me to not only work, but to live and raise my own family.  We owe our success to this community, as it afforded us our start as its residents formed the ranks of our first clients.  To celebrate our 40th anniversary and the community that was the cornerstone of our success, we formed a panel of non-Romano employees, constituted of Mayor Lorraine Morton, a representative from Northwestern, and other prominent citizens to award $40,000 to Evanston based charities.  To us, this was the ultimate thank you.

There are probably many striking similarities between what I’ve told you of my firm and those of the other funding sponsors, so at this time I’d like to take a moment to recognize each of them and get a show of hands from members of those organizations here today:

The City of Evanston

Northwestsern University

First Bank & Trust

NorthShore University HealthSystem

Saint Francis Hospital

Evanston Community Foundation

Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club

Now when I look at this list of fellow funding partners the thought that strikes me is that First Bank & Trust and Romano Brothers are really the new kids on the block.  All of the other organizations have a storied history that dates back to the early 1900s if not the mid-1800s.

Regardless of inception date, each of the other funding sponsors has one thing in common: they have their own story, their own dream.  This is why we support Evanston150.  Today you’ve been patient enough to listen to my firm’s story and the dream it was based upon.  Today, we get to come together as a community, envision the next 150 years, and dream.  Dreaming has done wonders for each of our organizations, so I ask you to reflect and take part, in what dreaming can do for Evanston.  Thank you.