Tacoma investment firm Monea says one thing matters: Excellence

Erik Ogard’s decision to start his business in Tacoma was, as he puts it, an “utter rejection of the thesis” Russell Investments used when it pulled up stakes for Seattle.

Russell relocated in 2010 for many reasons, but one it cited grated more than most: After being born and growing for 73 years in Tacoma, the financial services firm’s leadership said it would have access to more “talent” in Seattle.

“The financial markets are global. They’re global exchanges competing for capital globally. So the physical location of any asset management firm is kind of irrelevant,” said Ogard, a 16-year employee of Russell who left in 2012.

All that matters, he said, is excellence.

When Ogard started his fund Monea Investments this fall, he had no trouble finding talent in Pierce County. Managing partner John Schmick, portfolio manager Patrick Adrian and compliance manager Tracy Peot also have roots here, as well as with Russell.

Schmick worked at Russell for decades in various capacities. Adrian is a University of Puget Sound graduate and was an intern with the company before going to work for the Threshold Group, a Gig Harbor-based wealth management firm founded by George Russell Jr. And Peot, who lives in Puyallup, worked for decades in compliance for Russell.

From Monea’s offices on Broadway in downtown Tacoma, the four can see Russell’s former headquarters building while they work to make Monea known to wealth managers across the country. One adviser in Los Angeles is “beta testing” the fund before deciding whether to offer it to clients.

Monea has been trading for just a few months. It has 15 “friends and family” investors and is managing $7 million. Monea seeks returns for its clients no matter what the stock market does, so it makes bets once a day on overall direction and volatility.

What makes Monea different from other investment funds? It uses a proprietary computer forecasting model put together by Karel Zikan and Henry Sowizral, both of whom have doctorates in fields of advanced mathematics and computer science. Their model is known as Monea Group, which is where Monea Investments derives its name.

“Think about Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Bottling. Coca-Cola has the secret recipe and Coca-Cola Bottling distributes it to the entire world,” Ogard said. “Monea Group has proprietary secret models on the market, and we are bringing them to investors.”

The team’s goals for Monea are managing $100 million in three years and $250 million in five years. Ogard plans to keep Monea a boutique firm, though managing $250 million could lead to hiring about a dozen more people, he said.

“If we’re successful, a lot of Russell people would find it quite intriguing to work at a place like this,” he said.