Bruce Fenton Helps Investors with their Financial Goals.
Bruce Fenton, president of firm Atlantic Financial Inc.
By ANDREW LaVALLEE
The Patriot Ledger
NORWELL - When Bruce Fenton launched Atlantic Financial Inc. in December 1994,
the Internet was so small you could visit every link on Yahoo in an afternoon.
He knows because he did it. And as one of the first financial advisors to market
his services on the Web, the 33-year-old Duxbury resident has gained clients
that otherwise would not have heard of his Norwell-based firm.
Since then, Atlantic Financial has weathered the rise and fall of dot-coms, and
used partnerships and outsourcing to maintain his company's focus on advising, a
structure Fenton thinks will become the norm.
Atlantic Financial has 12 employees and serves about 500 individual clients and
another 500 through company retirement plans, and conducted more than $5 billion
in transactions over the last five years. Fenton moved the company to Washington
Street in Norwell from Westboro last November.
What financial issues are clients concerned about lately?
The markets have become more complex. They've gone through various cycles of the
mania of the dot-com era to investors avoiding the stock market, and now we see
a mania with other sectors, like real estate.
We're not accountants and we don't compete with accountants, but we've made
integrating tax advice into our practice a much bigger focus, because we've
realized that with 70 million baby boomers reaching retirement age, there's
going to be a big decrease in tax revenue and a big increase in the burden on
How do you work with contractors and other companies to provide services?
[edited due to outdated clearing and custody
information which was current at the time of the original article
publication in 2005]
We do outsource to India and Pakistan for some of our non-confidential
technology work, such as Web development. We also outsource to people in
America. ... For example, (we might turn to) a writer to work on a project who
may be a retired librarian or college professor in Iowa, where the wages are
lower than in Massachusetts. They are very happy to work for us, and we're
Our attorney is in Texas. He has more than 25 years of experience, and he used
to be head of estate planning for a 300-person law firm.
We're always looking for new things that we can outsource, so that we can have
the people here focus on higher quality projects.
How did you weather the dot-com crash?
I never called our firm a dot-com, but since so much of our business and profile
comes from the Web, we were sort of an Internet company as well.
Luckily, through planning and being a pretty conservative firm, we were able to
make it through that bubble bursting, and (we) continue to grow.
The reason for that is that we always viewed the Internet as just another tool,
just like a building is a tool, just like a telephone is a tool. ... We didn't
take a lot of aggressive gambles. We didn't accept venture capital money. We
didn't become a billion-dollar publicly traded company overnight, but we also
stayed in business and stayed profitable, so it's a tradeoff.
How do you convince people to save more?
More than half of the people out there make decisions more based on feeling and
emotion. With those people, we really encourage them to be objective.
Small business owners, people who are in analytical fields, these kinds of
people are the easiest to educate, because we can show them very easily that one
return is better than another.
But it's surprising how many people, even very high net-worth people, will say,
Well, I really like this stock.'' And if you ask why, they say, It just feels
good. I feel like I know that company. I drive by them every day'' or My
grandfather worked there, so I don't ever want to sell that stock.''
And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with income level. There are people
who have very significant portfolios who need a lot of guidance in making
If the old saying is that the customer is always right, why are so many people
struggling in retirement? In our industry, just like in medicine, the customer
is not always right. ... We're not there to be popular or to be their buddy or
give them toasters - we're there to help them make their financial goals.
07 September 2005
(Copyright (c) 2005, The Patriot Ledger)