Raymond Harbert on 25 Years of HMC, the Future and More

Birmingham investment firm Harbert Management Corp. reached a milestone this week.

The company, led by Chairman and CEO Raymond Harbert, was founded 25 years ago on Nov. 4, 1993. It’s been quite the evolution for the company.

Harbert Management Corp. has grown from an initial $50 million fund focused on U.S. real estate to include 23 funds and approximately $6 billion in regulatory assets under management as of Oct. 31. The company now operates nine alternative asset strategies – European real estate, seniors housing, U.S. real estate, European growth capital, growth equity, infrastructure, credit solutions, discovery and value – each with its own independent team of investment professionals.

The milestone gave the BBJ a chance to ask Harbert about the company’s growth, its present and its future.

BBJ: What factors have contributed to the company’s significant growth over these past 25 years?

Harbert: The main barrier to entry in the investment management industry is the need for an established investment track record. HMC’s excellent long-term absolute and
relative performance has been the main driver to our growth. In addition, a reputation of ethical and fair business practices is critical in any industry, but it is of tantamount importance when you have fiduciary responsibility of other’s capital.

BBJ: Can you describe how the company and its strategy has evolved over the years? How does the company assess new opportunities, both geographically and strategically?
Harbert: Our strategy has not changed much since 1993. From day one, our goal was to create an alternative asset investment manager that would invest in a variety of strategies that met our risk/return parameters.

BBJ: One of the most interesting things about Harbert Management Corp. is its global reach. When the company was launched 25 years ago, was that type of footprint always envisioned or did that come into play over time?

Harbert: We expanded globally to achieve diversification into non-dollar denominated strategies. European real estate was our first investment strategy outside the US, and it was initiated in 1998.

BBJ: How has Birmingham changed over the course of these 25 years?
Harbert: When we started, there were very few firms in the alternative asset space in Alabama, and I was not aware of any firms being multiple strategy managers. Today there are hedge funds, venture capital, private equity, commodity and other alternative asset shops based all over the state.

BBJ: What does the future of HMC’s leadership structure look like? Is there a succession plan on the horizon?
Harbert: HMC is approximately midway through implementing a succession plan. I believe we have all of the next generation of leadership at the firm.

BBJ: As you look ahead to the next 25 years, what can we expect to see from HMC?
Harbert: A continuation of asset growth, great investment performance and unquestioned corporate integrity. I also expect that the next generation will continue both personally and corporately to give back to the local, state and national communities.

BBJ: What are some of the core tenets of the company’s investment strategy?
Harbert: 1. Fundamental research drives our entrepreneurial approach to investing in both private and public markets and has done so for over 20 years. 2. Our disciplined approach to managing downside risk is critical to preservation of capital. 3. Our institutional-quality operational infrastructure provides our clients with the appropriate level of transparency across all strategies 4. We maintain true alignment with our clients through the substantial commitment of HMC partner capital; on equal terms and conditions as all our clients.

Angel Coker
Banking and Legal Reporter
Birmingham Business Journal