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The Bay Isle Bunch

This is the story of how one Canadian, 30 Californians and two women from Honolulu formed one, big, financial family

When 44-year-old investment-counseling firm Greig Associates Inc. closed its doors in downtown Honolulu last October, it left behind about a dozen employees, more than 700 accounts and $25 million in assets. “We gathered clients who were looking for a place for their accounts,” recalls Sheri Chang Yamaguchi, former vice president of Greig Associates and a certified financial planner who had been with the company for 13 years. “People were looking for investment advisors, and there are not a lot of investment advisors in Honolulu.”

Keeping At Bay: Sheri Chang Yamaguchi (left) and Rose Jean Katada manage clients of Greig Associates Inc., which closed for business last year after 44 years. The two are former Greig employees.

Enter Bay Isle Financial Corp., a San Francisco-based asset-management firm. In the summer of 2002, the company agreed to open a local branch and take over Greig Associates’ clients. It then hired Chang Yamaguchi and another former employee, Rose Jean Katada, who had served as corporate secretary for Greig Associates for 42 years.

Today, the Honolulu office of Bay Isle Financial manages about 160 private accounts totaling more than $30 million in assets. “We put together an asset allocation comprised of large-cap, small-cap international, real estate investment trusts and bonds,” Yamaguchi says.

The San Francisco and Honolulu offices communicate several times a day, with the help of frequent conference calls and an integrated computer program. Clients are satisfied, says Chang Yamaguchi. “Clients are in for the long haul,” she says. “We build their portfolios using asset allocation. [They] get a customized investment strategy. … We stand out because we tend to look at clients’ total financial pictures. We have independent analysts, so our recommendations are unbiased. We don’t make money if we make an investment [recommendation].”

The Honolulu branch’s business is only a fraction of that of its parent company, which employs 28 in the San Francisco office. Bay Isle Financial manages approximately $1.1 billion in assets for institutions and individuals. The company’s assets have been growing at an average annual rate of 40 percent. Bay Isle is the sub-advisor for four nationally distributed mutual funds: the Berger Information Technology Fund; Berger Large Cap Value Fund; Berger Small Cap Value Fund II; and the Undiscovered Managers REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) Fund.

The Honolulu expansion is a breakthrough for the company, which was founded in a home office by two executives: William Schaff and Dr. Gary Pollock. Schaff co-manages the Berger Large Cap Value Fund and the Undiscovered Managers REIT Fund, as well as the Berger Information Technology Mutual Fund. Pollock is a former Chevron Corp. executive and native of Canada. He manages high-net-worth individuals, with accounts averaging $1 million.

“I’ve found over the years that we grow the firm, not to make more money, but to create a dynamic and stimulating environment,” Pollock says. Bay Isle was incorporated in 1986 and was open for business in 1987. “And if we create that type of environment, we get to attract and keep good staff. And if we have good staff, our clients get good service and performance,” says Pollock, who visits Hawaii about once a month.

So far, the transition for this newly formed financial family has been smooth – even for the two former employees, Chang Yamaguchi and Katada. “Before, I was her boss, now she is my boss,” Katada jokes. “It’s a good thing I was nice to her.”

* The late James F. Greig Sr. established Greig Associates Inc. in 1958. His son, James Greig Jr., served as president for two years, before retiring last year.

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