By: Kelley Caponigro
Assistant to the Chairman & CEO
R.W. Rogé & Company, Inc., a wealth management firm with locations in New York and Massachusetts, is celebrating 30 years in business. Its founder, Ronald W. Rogé revisits the company’s start, its growth over the last 30 years, and his continuous efforts to embrace new technology and the changing industry, all while ensuring that clients – from Millennials to Boomers – are always satisfied with their services.
R.W. Rogé & Company Roots
In the late 1970’s Ron Rogé was working as a planning engineer for New York Telephone and began researching where he should invest his IRA contribution of $2,000. He received a letter from a broker at Bache & Co. offering a free financial plan.
“Their plan was good and interesting, but basic,” Rogé recalls. “I began buying books on personal financial planning written by advisors in hopes of improving upon the plan I received.”
He quickly became the “go-to” person for financial advice within the telephone company, offering personalized plans for co-workers. One co-worker in particular came into some money when his wife – an editor for a book publisher – landed two clients who became bestselling authors.
“I wrote a financial plan for my co-worker and during the delivery of the plan, his wife was staring at me. I asked if something was wrong, and she said, ‘No. This plan is incredibly good and I was wondering why you’re not doing this as a business?’ It had never occurred to me until that moment that this was a possibility,” he said.
“Before I knew it, I had two full-time jobs and one of them had to go. I was nervous about giving up a job with a good salary, benefits and pension to try and start a business that was really a hobby,” Rogé recalls. To remedy this, he purchased seminar tapes on taking risks and dealing with decisions that involved taking risks. He also read a Barron’s article about an advisor and how he ran his advisory business and serviced his clients. “When I finished the article I was convinced I could do the same thing,” he said.
In the 1980’s there was no such thing as “Google.” To start a company, you had to hire a specialized attorney to research if the company name you wanted was already in use. “This was a luxury I could not afford, so I just used my own name for the company,” Rogé said. On July 28, 1986 R.W. Rogé & Company, Inc. was incorporated in New York State.
“We still have our very first client,” Rogé smiled. The company started in his home office in order to keep expenses as low as possible. As more clients came on board, files and office equipment began to overwhelm the home and Rogé knew it was time to rent office space.
“There was a beautiful classic bank building in Centereach, NY that had reasonably priced office space. We had a three-year lease and every year, we grew enough that we needed more space. We ended up tripling the space during those first three years,” he said.
Eventually the company hired a real estate broker and found their current location in Bohemia, NY. The Beverly, MA office opened when Rogé’s son and daughter-in-law decided to move to Massachusetts.
“I’m always asked why I started my own business rather than joining an already established one. At the time, the established advisory companies were sales organizations that charged their clients commissions. I wanted to be a “Fee-Only” fiduciary in order to avoid the conflicts of interest that are prevalent in the commission-based arrangement. It was also an opportunity to fulfill my personal goal of being a business owner,” Rogé revealed.
The Rogé Family
R.W. Rogé is a family run business, with Ron’s wife Rosanne as Managing Director, his son Steven as Director of Research and Portfolio Manager, and his daughter-in-law Sue as Registered Para-Planner.
“Working with family has its advantages and disadvantages – but mostly advantages. We consider all of our employees to be part of the family. Our team is very loyal, trustworthy, and self-motivated, with a tremendous desire to service our clients. Managing people is not my unique ability, so hiring the right people that love what they do is the true secret to having a self-managing company,” Rogé said.
Their employees have leadership skills, the desire to provide extraordinary service to clients, and hope to see the company grow and prosper. The team is very experienced and highly educated. They are all college graduates with many advanced degrees, as well as professional licenses like Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Registered Financial Gerontologist (RFG), Certified Senior Advisor (CSA®), Chartered Mutual Fund Consultant (CHFC), and more.
Rogé also considers his clients to be part of the family, and services people from all walks of life. “We have business owners, executives, professionals, Wall Street traders, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers – to name a few. They range from young entrepreneurs to retirees in need of more “aging successfully” services because we are all living longer,” he said.
The firm is already a Fiduciary, so the new Department of Labor rule won’t affect their business as it will for other advisors. “We’ll be affected to some extent with record keeping and analysis, but since we’re already a fee-only fiduciary and always have been, it won’t be as onerous as it will be for brokers who are sales people, masquerading as advisors,” said Rogé.
In addition, he maintains that “Robo Advisor” is a silly name for an intelligent rebalancing technology that has been integrated with a risk tolerance questionnaire. It simply assigns the client to a risk adjusted model portfolio that has been designed by a third party. Charles Schwab recently created their own version of this, and R.W. Rogé has been testing it for almost one year now. “We’re very impressed and we can see the majority of our assets being managed on this platform eventually. Although this technology will benefit the client and the advisor by lowering investment expenses and therefore improving returns, this is only part of our business. Having the experience, expertise and personal knowledge about our client’s goals and lifestyles is what adds value to our client’s experience. The technology will allow us more time to spend working with clients and providing solutions to their problems,” he said.
“We’re celebrating 30 years in a time where technology advances and industry regulations are booming, and we’re staying ahead of the game. We are paperless, we’re on social media, we are beginning to use automatic rebalancing software to streamline processes – but we’re also human,” added Ron’s son, Steven.
The company understands how technology can help the business grow, but still recognizes the importance of shaking a client’s hand, and calling to congratulate them on their purchase of a new home, or when their newest grandchild is born.
“We know our client’s life stories, their hardships, their successes, the names of their children, grandchildren, and even their pet’s names,” laughed Managing Director, Rosanne Rogé, who has been with the firm for more than 21 years. “I think most people hear ‘financial advisor’ and think it’s just a sales business with numbers and charts, but it really requires an authentic relationship, and that’s certainly our unique ability. Our clients have truly turned into lifelong friends and family.”
Although Rogé had hopes that the business would grow, he said that his initial goals have been exceeded more than 10 times. “I am very optimistic about the future of the wealth management business. I know our industry will change as technology improves and we plan to take advantage of that. But the human condition will not change. People will still need help in planning, achieving and living the life they want. This business is very personal; it will always require human relationships, and we have 30 successful years of experience doing just that. I look forward to the next 30 years of providing that expertise with ever-improving, value-added experiences for our clients,” Rogé concluded.