Investment Advisers Keep the Focus on Clients

Article excerpt

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Tom Roehl and Fred Sittner of Eugene were stockbrokers 25 years ago when they met during tests to become certified financial planners.

"We would have lunch afterwards and ask each other, `Do you think you passed?'?" Sittner recalled.

The men passed the tests, became friends, and a few years later started Roehl & Sittner Investment Advisors.

Today, the firm occupies a lucrative niche in Eugene-Springfield by helping wealthy people manage their money. The firm also acts as retirement plan consultants to companies and entrepreneurs, mostly on 401(k) plans.

Roehl & Sittner has clients in Eugene-Springfield and along the Interstate 5 corridor, stretching from Redding, Calif., to Seattle.

Their largest corporate client is Country Coach, the Junction City company that makes recreational vehicles.

"We have built this business over the years by providing high levels of customer service," said Sittner, 56. "We could have been bigger, but we wouldn't have been able to provide our clients with the same level of service."

The partners say their success is based on their relationships with clients.

"It's not about our values; it's about our clients' values and what is important to them," said Roehl, 57.

Eleven people work at Roehl & Sittner. Six employees are registered investment advisers, three of whom are certified financial planners.

Roehl and Sittner declined to share their firm's revenues.

But they said they manage or consult on investments and retirement plans worth $750 million.

Instead of sales commissions, the firm charges fees based on the size of investment portfolios that they manage. Most of the firm's individual investor accounts are worth at least $1 million.

The owners say their fee-based structure and independent status helps put the interests of their clients first.

"We don't represent any product per se and that gives us the ability to shop the marketplace" for the best investment for clients, said Jayman Yi, 39, the third owner in Roehl & Sittner.

A University of Oregon graduate, Yi had been an intern in the firm before working as an investment banker in Seoul, South Korea, and later as a broker at Smith Barney in Eugene.

Yi joined Roehl & Sittner in 2001, becoming a partner a year ago.

"He was invited to join us (as an owner) based on his hard work ethic and his relationship with our clients," Roehl said.

The advisers admit that they are conservative about investing, sometimes passing on investments that promise big returns but appear too risky. …