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Rating:A 25-Year-Old Shop Judiciously Reaches Beyond Its Distro Home Not Rated 5.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Thursday, February 25, 2016

A 25-Year-Old Shop Judiciously Reaches Beyond Its Distro Home

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

A 25-year-old mutual fund shop's chief is cautiously extending his distribution reach, with one channel in mind.

Stephen Kaszynski
Homestead Funds
Director, President and Chief Executive Officer
Steve Kaszynski, CEO of RE Advisers (RE stands for "rural electric") and Homestead Funds, confirms that the Arlington, Virginia-based shop now has its first ever marketing and distribution team. Watch for that small team to target RIAs, as well as the fund firm's traditional clientele: rural electric cooperatives.

"We do want to grow the business but we want to do that judiciously," Kaszynski tells MFWire. "Mission number one is take care of the business that we already have."

Darryl Keeton joined in September as the shop's first-ever head of distribution. Brian Allen was promoted internally as a client relationship specialist. A third new hire will join shortly to support Allen and Keeton, Kaszynski says, and a fourth will come further down the lines.

"We've got an additional hire on the docket for the middle of this year," Kaszynski says.

"We don't have any ambitions to turn ourselves into a 30-wholesaler team," Keeton tells MFWire. "It's really focused, high-touch, slow-growth."

RE Advisors is a for-profit subsidiary of the non-profit NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association), which was created in the 1930s as part of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The NRECA created low-cost loans for rural cooperatives to build own electrical systems.

"It created the infrastructure in this country that underpinned our industrial development," Kaszynski says.

The NRECA formed RE Advisers 25 years ago to offer money management services to the rural electric cooperatives (more than 900 and counting) that it supports. RE Advisers manages pension money and other assets, and offers eight mutual funds (five internally managed, three subadvised). It has about $3.2 billion in those funds and another $7 billion in separate account AUM.

RE Advisers' business is shifting. Five years ago, Kaszynski estimates, 90 percent of Homestead Fund AUM came through rural electric cooperatives. By a year ago, about 40 percent of its mutual fund AUM came from outside that channel, despite RE Advisors not having a marketing and distribution team.

"We're the best little investment company that nobody's ever heard of," Kaszynski quips. "We don't need scale to grow. We just need to control the growth that we see coming over the transom."

"We're imagining controlled growth," Kaszynski adds. "People are still coming to us which makes it easier to grow the business."

Meanwile, three years ago former Congresswoman Joanne Emerson become CEO of NRECA. A year ago she hired Kaszynski, a 30-year asset management veteran who worked at Credit Suisse, Eaton Vance, and Invesco.

In September Kaszynski hired Keeton, an alumnus of Calvert and Neuberger Berman. Kaszynski tasked Keeton with both "taking care of existing customers" and expanding beyond rural electric cooperatives, while "being selective" about distribution partners. RIAs, Kaszynski says, have a high-touch, high-service culture that meshes well with NRECA's.

"The folks that are currently fiduciaries for their clients are in close alignment to the way we manage money for our clients," Keeton says. 

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