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Undiscovered Managers: Swift, Smooth, and Silent

Beck, Mack & Oliver's low-key, team-based approach carries the firm's success.

Kate Stalter, 10/24/2011

For its 80th birthday, asset-management firm Beck, Mack & Oliver is throwing its coming-out party--metaphorically, anyway. BM&O, which has quietly served its institutional and high-net-worth individual clients since 1931, has achieved quick success with its mutual fund, formally launched just two years ago.

But you haven't seen the partners on cable-TV finance channels giving their stock picks or touting their approach. The firm has never marketed itself and doesn't even include photos of the partners on its website. 

Partner Robert Beck, whose grandfather was one of the firm's founders, says the low-profile mentality is ingrained into its culture. "A guy asked me for my business card yesterday," he says, "but I don't even have one. This fund has really been a homegrown effort, but we think we have a story worth telling."

As of July 31, the Beck Mack & Oliver Partners Fund BMPEX, managed by Zachary Wydra, boasted a year-to-date return of 9.71% versus the S&P 500's return of 3.87%, placing it in the top 1% of its Morningstar category. For the trailing year, the fund's return was 30.45%. The fund currently has $27.1 million in total assets. The firm's assets under management total around $4.2 billion.

Though the fund was reorganized into its current publicly traded structure in December 2009, its origins lie in a limited partnership that dates back to 1991.

Morningstar fund analyst Ryan Leggio has begun tracking the Partners fund. He hasn't finished his analysis yet, but he finds it compelling enough to research further and likes what he's seen so far.

The firm and its fund overcame some of Leggio's early doubts. The fund falls into the large-blend section of the Morningstar Style Box. It faces stiff competition in that crowded space, but Leggio says that the fund's performance has been eye-catching. He was also impressed that its character differs significantly from that of a typical index fund.

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