This article initially appeared in Suburban Life Magazine in January 2015.
Andrew (Andy) Nehrbas has been in the financial services industry for nearly 40 years. He has worked for companies such as Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and Legg Mason, where he was a 22-time member of Legg Mason’s President’s Council.
Five years ago, Nehrbas and his team, The Nehrbas Group, recognized the need for a change, looking for a smaller company that would foster the personal relationships the group develops with each of their clients. The Philadelphia-based company Janney Montgomery Scott LLC was the change the group was looking for. Janney traces its roots to 1832 and is today the largest full-service financial services firm headquartered in Philadelphia.
Under Nehrbas’ leadership, The Nehrbas Group seeks to create meaningful relationships with its clients to help them accumulate, preserve and distribute their wealth in the most tax-advantageous manner possible. The group serves clients primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia) but also have clients who live abroad in Germany and England.
Nehrbas credits his grandfather, who worked until he was 86 years old, for teaching him the business. “He was so totally focused on communication and follow-through,” Nehrbas recalls of his grandfather. “He’d say, ‘You don’t give just any answer. If it takes a little longer to get the right answer, you work until you get it.’”
That philosophy still resonates throughout The Nehrbas Group’s strong commitment to its clients. It is bolstered by a unique team-based approach that helps Nehrbas and his colleagues “keep the client at the center” of everything they do.
Key to their mission is an unwavering and relentless commitment to developing relationships.
“One of us tends to be the lead [on an account], but we will have a couple of us present at a meeting, taking notes,” Nehrbas says. “Everyone on the team knows what is going on with that client. When a client calls, any one of us can respond to questions. It’s not like, ‘What’s your account number? Let me look it up.’”
What makes it work, says Nehrbas, is how well the team—whose members have known one another or worked together for more than 30 years—supports one another. The Nehrbas Group is made up of six members: Andy Nehrbas, executive vice president of wealth management; David Penn, senior vice president of wealth management; Meg Tegler Hardesty, account executive; Steve Lane, account executive; Clare Cox, registered private client assistant; and Scott Nehrbas, private client assistant. As Andy Nehrbas says, “The theme that revolves around all six of us is that we do our work until it exceeds our clients’ expectations.”
Each team member plays a unique and important role in overall wealth management and customer service. Having worked together for more than 30 years, Nehrbas and Tegler Hardesty have developed a thorough process that includes evaluating clients’ needs, customized investment plan design and review, with exceptional customer service.
When Lane joined the team in 2006, his background and knowledge of investments helped to broaden the asset allocation solutions for clients. “We are constantly building on our team’s foundation to keep up with the ever-changing needs of our clients,” Nehrbas says. “Clare recently joined our team and brings both fundamental knowledge of investments and an innovative style of customer service.”
Scott Nehrbas, who joined the team more than one year ago, is learning the investment business from the ground up, just like his father.
In the end, it is the client who benefits. “You trust one of us, you can trust all of us,” Andy Nehrbas says.
Such a client-centric philosophy means that the solutions offered by Nehrbas and his team are those that are best for clients, not those that are the most financially rewarding for his team’s bottom line or the firm. Janney does not hold advisors accountable to sell any type of proprietary product. The firm’s open architecture platform allows advisors to offer fully objective advice.
It is this philosophy that initially caught the attention of David Penn, who was formerly head of Janney’s Wealth Management division. Penn is now The Nehrbas Group’s newest member, having joined in September 2014. He brings with him more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. Penn also holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.
Penn’s experience also includes working for Legg Mason from 1994 until 2005. In this role, Penn vetted financial services companies (banks, thrifts and diversified financial companies) as an equity analyst for eight years, subsequently transitioning his career to the wealth-solutions side of the business and helping financial advisors help their clients. It is also where he first met Nehrbas.
“While on the corporate side, The Nehrbas Group was one of the advisor teams (of the 750 advisors at Janney) that caught my eye for their consistent and thorough approach to client service,” Penn says. “Andy and his team had an excellent practice with a strong reputation on the investment side and an unparalleled name in the community. Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen them do nothing other than grow and prosper.”
Nehrbas recalls that, at Legg Mason, “Penn was more on the executive floor and I was in the trenches.” Last July, in an effort to extend his career and transition his life’s work, Penn decided to join “the trenches” and called Nehrbas. Nehrbas was happy to expand his team to include someone he knew and trusted. He also valued Penn’s deep industry knowledge.
“There are almost 8,000 mutual funds today,” says Penn, who at one point had more than 60 people reporting to him. “There are a lot of options out there. My group was responsible for due diligence of these products. We’d answer questions like, ‘What do you think of this fund, this manager or this strategy?’”
Penn is the perfect addition to a team that offers a comprehensive financial planning approach that includes tax, investment management, retirement and estate planning, along with assessing the risk management needs of clients.
“[Our comprehensive approach] is required to address a wide variety of needs for our clients. Some examples include saving for college education, paying mortgages and preparing for retirement,” explains Nehrbas. “While one person helps clients’ children get financial aid for college, another is experienced with insurance and annuities. Because we are able to pull from the experience and knowledge of our whole team, we are able to field the ever-changing needs of our clients.”
If client assets and client loyalty are measures of success, the process has worked. The Nehrbas Group, which currently serves close to 150 households and manages $500 million in assets, has consistently helped its clients achieve their financial goals, even during challenging financial times.
“We need to diagnose each client’s unique financial situation before we can prescribe a solution,” says Penn. “We need to know if a client has a child with special needs, how many kids they want to put through college, if they want to leave a legacy gift to their church or synagogue, when they want to retire. We need to know all of that.”
However, an initial financial plan is only the beginning. “Life happens,” as Nehrbas says, and financial plans need to be revisited and reevaluated. The team updates clients’ plans at least once a year. This continual periodic review of the portfolio ensures that the team stays ahead of the curve to meet the needs of their clients.
Nehrbas says it’s become a healthy experience for everyone and something that clients now seek. “Before we were having trouble getting people to give us information, now they ask to see the plan and want to be involved in updating it,” he says. “They are so pleased to have this foundation behind them and then to see their progress.”
As for Penn, he is thrilled to be with The Nehrbas Group, a team that earned his admiration and trust. He is also looking forward to working with Nehrbas in the coming years to help clients achieve their investment goals.
“It’s all about our clients,” Nehrbas says. “At the end of the day, I want them to know that we care about their money at least as much as they do, that we understand all aspects of their financial situation and that we place their interests ahead of our own. Once they understand all of this, we can hopefully take the worry off their shoulders so they can sleep well at night.”