It was December 2012, I had just finished working for nearly 7 years with a reasonably large asset management firm. In that time, my role had seen me work for them in the UK, Australia and Asia.
It was time for a change, I wanted to go smaller and be more focused. More focused on a smaller number of clients, and more focused on the level of personalised service I wanted to provide.
I was made aware that a small firm called Harper Bernays was looking for someone with my skillset. I remember saying to myself at the time ‘who are these guys, I’ve never heard of them…?’ But I do remember at the time, after making some initial enquiries, that their style of operation definitely pricked my interest.
When I met Peter Harper for the first time, what immediately struck me was the man was an absolute gentleman from the get go. Secondly his moral compass was pointing due North; I knew we were off to a good start… I subsequently had several more meetings with Peter and the HB team, and what I enjoyed
so much about the entire process was the more layers we pulled back on the history, the types of clients they managed, the range of services offered, and the future direction of the firm, I knew Harper Bernays was the place for me.
I commenced working for Harper Bernays in April 2013.
While I was talking to Harper Bernays, the head of the executive search firm handling the appointment made me aware of a book Peter had recently written. It was called ‘The Little Green Book – A Gardener’s Guide to Investing ‘ (www.tlgb.com.au). I bought myself a copy soon after. The book arrived and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all – it was only 100 pages long!
I finished the book in quite good time, and it was honestly a great read – straight to the point, explaining the investment rationale in simple terms and with a clear logic throughout which naturally pulled the reader into wanting to know more about true ‘Value Investing’. But it also showed how Harper Bernays has managed to be in business for so long – it’s the firms 25th Anniversary this year. It’s about believing in a strategy and sticking with it.
As a professional courtesy, a copy of TLGB was sent to a number of parties mentioned in the book, including one to Warren Buffett in Omaha, Nebraska. Some weeks passed and then Peter received earlier this year, to his astonishment, a handwritten note from the man himself. It read: ‘’Peter, you’ve written a very good book, probably better than if you had opted for the 500 page version. The advice on page 17 should be read by all investors – Warren.’’
Prior to sending you this note I asked Peter if, in doing my job, I could make personal comments to the market place on him and other staff members from time to time to illustrate how we operate.
Peter said that, with respect to other staff members I should ask them, but with respect to himself that was ok, as long as I was restrained. Oh, and by the way he said, he always assumed I would at least be polite, but that he otherwise didn’t want to see or edit any such comments of a personal nature.
Peter has been very reluctant to use the quote and has only mentioned it to a small number of people who are well known to him or the firm, and I have observed this reluctance personally. But from my perspective I see it as a powerful endorsement of the firm’s investment philosophy and felt it necessary to illustrate the point.
The team at Harper Bernays have never sought the limelight and it’s pretty evident when I call prospective clients today and the general line when I tell them where I’m from is ‘Harper…who? Bernays? Like the sauce…? ’ that this is the case. But what I do like is that everyone in the office is very good at what they do, and they just get on with it – looking after our clients.
Finance has always been an industry on the move – always looking for the next big thing, the next big win. All the while the attention to clients has been left in its wake. What I see with Harper Bernays is that maybe new isn’t always best. Maybe, the way to go is a tried and proven investment style and constancy of approach, combined with good old fashioned customer service…
About Harper Bernays
Harper Bernays is a private Australian equities investment manager and licensed securities dealer with a difference. Our investment and wealth management service is disciplined, personalised and proven.