Providing sophisticated, customized investment and asset management solutions as an External Investment Department
Joshua Gross is the president of Mill Creek Capital Advisors, an independent investment advisory firm with offices in Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, and Naples, Florida. Since its founding in 2006, Mill Creek has developed investment policies for and managed the assets of a diverse portfolio of clients, including families, companies, endowments, and others. Josh has earned industry recognitions such as inclusion in Barron’s Magazine Top 1200 Financial Advisor ranking and the magazine’s list of America’s Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors.
Josh Gross spoke to Lori Reiner, Partner-in-Charge of EisnerAmper in Philadelphia, for this interview.
LORI REINER: I know you are involved all over the community in meaningful roles that really help organizations move forward. Talk about your dedication to the community, and talk about just expectations in general of other people at Mill Creek.
JOSHUA GROSS: I do think it’s very important for all of our employees to have outside interests, both in their community—being part of the social fabric. Family always comes first, so we don’t have any hard requirements because we don’t really know everything about everyone's family. They may have a special needs child; we really don’t know. And we don’t believe that people have to be at Mill Creek 20 hours a day in order to be successful. They would just burn out too quickly.
We do encourage people to try and serve on a board or two. One of the encouragements I often give to people who are getting to the point where they’re being considered for good boards in their community, is to join one board that is your passion and join another board that you think is the right board to belong to. What you’ll end up finding is the one that you have passion for you’ll do the best, and you’ll like it, and you’ll never regret it. The board that you joined that perhaps you thought was good for business? so did everybody else. You’ll find that you may not have joined it for exactly the right reasons, and you start watching the time, watching the time—am I getting back to work?
Be altruistic and the rest will take care of itself. That’s been my own path: is to do things that you absolutely believe in, and you will never regret the time that you’ve spent. I serve as president of my old boarding school, the Hillside School in Marlborough Mass, and I’m also on the board and investment committee of Jewish Federation and Einstein Healthcare. I was in a really bad car accident in 1991, and to be able to help Einstein and help doctors, and be able to help steward the foundation and the endowment there is the least I can do to give back to the group that put me back together again. Jewish Federation is part of our community—part of our fabric. And then lastly the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the most important civic organizations in Philadelphia, is a board. I serve on the investment committee with Westtown School, a boarding school that I went to in West Chester, PA. I’ve also learned that you can stretch yourself a little bit thin, and that’s one of the lessons that I have given myself: over the next couple years I will probably narrow down to about three things and do it well; because you have family, you have work, and you have philanthropy—do each of them well.
Q. Visions for the future—what’s the next three to five years look like?
We’re hitting a good stride, and this is going back to the family analogy: When your child’s 10, you can start looking ahead and seeing—geez—who they might be at 13 or 15? That’s kind of where we are, where we actually are beginning to entertain: Should we acquire a firm? Should we continue to grow organically and just hire new people that are in their different communities? You end up having some bigger decisions on our plate.
And there’s another discussion which is private equity and hedge funds have really democratized in the last decade. People have access to all sorts of things that they didn’t a decade ago. How are we going to deliver that? Is it always just managers? We have clients that have invested in direct investments either in properties that they have an opportunity or a co-invest—a one-off that isn’t available to all of our other clients—or, frankly, one of the best single deals that we were involved with: We don’t hold ourselves out as venture capital or private equity, but our job is to do our best effort for our clients, and one of the best opportunities that we worked with a client to get them into was a bobblehead company based in California—it turned out to be a 24x return in three years. You have a lot of goodwill with clients if you can help to add value and right-size the investment, structure it in the right estate bucket, et cetera.
If we don’t innovate, somebody else will, and our job is to go and figure out: Should we have a bucket of small, direct investments? What are the skill sets necessary? If I just think we can do this from 8–10 pm, our clients won’t benefit. We’re really going have to staff up properly and have the right skills, and that’s what we’ve been building our investment team for; sort of overbuilding the factory to anticipate where the puck might be passed—not where it is.
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