Full-Contact Finance

Paul Viera's take-charge approach to business has him at the top of the money game

portion of its business, EARNEST Partners’ performance record enabled it to compete.

“We conducted a search and considered more than 100 firms, and EARNEST Partners came out on top for fixed-income and equities, so we hired them for both assignments,” says Jon Bauman, executive director of the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois. As of February 2004, EARNEST Partners held $335 million in total assets for the retirement system, and both the fixed-income and equity products had outperformed their benchmarks. “[EARNEST] is now working alongside the largest bond managers in the world, and their performance is competitive and comparable.”

Looking ahead, Viera sees fixed-income as a source of continued growth. “[Our fixed-income product] held up remarkably well when a lot of people had poor fixed-income performance,” he says. “People are starting to recognize the quality and consistency of what we are doing on the fixed-income side, and that’s a tremendous growth opportunity.” Viera also says his firm’s Large Cap Core and Small Cap Core products have opportunities to expand as the financial markets improve and people move back into equities.

MANAGING GROWTH
To manage the growth of his firm, Viera will rely on intense focus and attention to detail, like any head coach worth his salt.

“He’s certainly hands-on,” says partner John Friedman, who has been with Viera from the very beginning of the firm. “But it’s not from a standpoint that he wants to micromanage, it’s from a standpoint that he has a genuine interest in learning everything that is happening. It makes him a better person, adds different dimensions to his work, and he gets a better understanding of the company.”

Since both the fixed-income and the equity side of the business are going well, the biggest threat to EARNEST Partners is the performance of the people who make its equity selections. For Viera, high finance is a full-contact sport. And detailed analysis is key to maintaining his solid game plan.

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