Russ: This is PKF Texas – The Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Russ Capper, this week’s guest host, and I’m coming to you from the Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum. I’m here with Scott Clemons, Partner and Chief Investment Strategist of Brown Brothers Harriman. Scott, welcome to The Playbook.
Scott: Good morning, Russ. Thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about your firm.
Scott: Brown Brothers Harriman & Company is a rather old firm. We were founded in 1818 as a private partnership, which, in 1818, every bank on Wall Street was a private partnership. What’s unique about us today is that we’ve never changed that ownership structure. Over the past 200 years, one by one, firms have gone public; they’ve limited their liability in some way. We’ve retained that unlimited liability structure. There are 31 people who own the firm outright – no outside capital, no debt on the balance sheet. And those 31 people, all of whom operate the business, carry joint and several unlimited liability for the activities of the business.
Russ: So, that includes you.
Scott: That includes me. It tends to focus the mind. It makes risk management a core competence. What we really like about it is it really does align the interests of the owner operators with those of our clients. Every firm has that alignment, but for us it’s embedded within the DNA of the ownership structure for the business itself. That’s rather special to us.
Russ: My goodness. So, 1818, so this is like a birthday year.
Scott: We had a big party—we had a series of big parties last year. We had big cakes and celebrated the history of the firm and also the future of the firm. One of our events in New York, we had a guest speaker, George W. Bush, former President Bush. We had him because his grandfather, Prescott Bush, H.W.’s father—Houston connection here, was a partner of the firm back in the 1930s and the early 1940s. So, we celebrate that history, and the challenge, of course, is to be informed and influenced by the history and the legacy without having that legacy dictate what you do. We have to weave into our business a certain amount of entrepreneurship for our third century, which we’ve embarked on in 2019.