J. Streicher Capital LLC’s Garrison Belles talks with Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about his new role as the company’s CEO, his path to Wall Street and his greatest expectation in the markets right now.
Garrison Belles has been active in the financial services, brokerage, mutual fund, capital markets and asset management industries for more than 17 years. As managing director of institutional equity sales and trading for more than a decade, he was charged with identifying, executing, researching, recommending and monitoring asset investment opportunities and he had direct coverage responsibility for some of the most sophisticated accounts in the United States.
After serving J. Streicher Capital LLC as an advisor in the areas of business development and corporate access for more than 18 months, Belles recently accepted the position of CEO and is responsible for the firm’s investment banking side. “I’m excited to work with an established 104-year-old Wall Street firm that has an entrepreneurial environment,” he says. “My vision for the company is to create a positive atmosphere which rewards teamwork and is highly respected in the marketplace. I feel a void still exists with the disappearance of the ‘Four Horsemen’ firms—Alex Brown, Robertson Stephens, Hambrecht & Quist and Montgomery Securities—and I’m optimistic we can fill this void. J. Streicher is one of the last privately owned Wall Street firms, and we have recently added new divisions and employees and look to have a greater presence in the marketplace going forward.”
Opportunist: Can you tell us about your path to Wall Street?
Garrison Belles:After graduating college I was a pilot shuttling small airplanes around the West Coast. I managed to scrape together $1,000, which I wanted to invest, and I went to visit a buddy of mine who was a retail broker at DLJ. That company no longer exists, but while sitting in the lobby I met a couple of bankers and became intrigued that their job entailed meeting CEOs and CFOs of public companies, speaking to portfolio managers of major asset managers and making a decent living. When I asked how I could get a job doing what they did, they suggested that I go to a Top 10 business school. So I immediately took the GMAT and ended up getting my MBA at The Anderson School at UCLA, which launched my career on Wall Street.
Opportunist:Please introduce our readers to J. Streicher Capital, LLC.
Garrison Belles: J. Streicher Capital LLC, or ‘JSC,’ is a U.S. FINRA member investment banking firm concentrating on providing unique and creative financial solutions to public and private companies spanning the small-cap, mid-cap and large-cap markets around the world. We also work with development, venture, growth oriented and micro-cap public and private companies.
The firm is comprised of a diverse group of successful professionals with investment banking, fund management, asset management, international business, brokerage, securities and entrepreneurial backgrounds who utilize their collective experience to provide clients with high quality results. Through our firm and team, our clients have access to a significant pool of capital that includes: debt, equity, alternative and many other financing structures.
Our tagline is ‘A Century of Evolution, Adaptation and Performance,’ and here’s a little history on our parent company: In 1910 our founder, Joseph Streicher, formed the first J. Streicher corporate entity ‘J. Streicher & Co.,’ which still operates today as a Designated Market Maker (DMM) unit on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
J. Streicher Capital LLC strives to build on J. Streicher’s 104-year tradition and core values by providing its global clients with the best products, services and investment banking expertise available anywhere.
Opportunist:To what do you attribute the company’s longevity and success?
Garrison Belles:Building a foundation based upon honesty integrity, trust and maintaining relationships, as well as adapting and growing with the times. From the very beginning, both J. Streicher and the entire Streicher family have been firm believers in the importance of asset diversification, the need for intelligent, disciplined investing that is shared through the value and confidence we provide to our clients and investors. Our Investment Banking unit dutifully carries on these core beliefs.
Opportunist: We understand that in 2011, J. Streicher became the first DMM to roll out proprietary trading systems through DMM Gateway, and in 2013 the firm moved into a new high-tech NYSE trading Post. What can you tell us about those milestones?
Garrison Belles: J. Streicher & Co. is the oldest DMM unit on the NYSE with over 100 years of experience and membership responsibilities. Technology is at the heart of our financial markets as we have taken the lead in rolling out new innovative proprietary financial technology.
Opportunist: Which industry segments are you bullish on?
Garrison Belles: Energy, technology and health care. I am also very bullish on travel and leisure right now. This sector continues to crush the broader averages on a year-over-year basis and stocks have performed exceptionally well. I’m also personally excited about the real estate sector in certain geographic regions.
Opportunist: Where should investors be putting their money right now?
Garrison Belles: In companies with entrepreneurial management teams and those that emphasize team players and reward success. You’ll be hard-pressed not to place fresh money into the markets right now. We haven’t had a 10 percent correction in over three years, and despite a very challenging first quarter the market continues to persevere.
For new dollars, I recommend large-cap, multinational companies. Brand names are working as well. Simply look at the Dow 30. At this point, there seems to be more risk being out of the market than in it.
Opportunist: What motivates and inspires you?
Garrison Belles: To tell undiscovered investment stories and to bring out the best in people despite challenging circumstances.
Opportunist: What is a typical day for you?
Garrison Belles: There really isn’t a typical day, although I will say that my days start very early in the morning and end late.
Opportunist: What is your greatest expectation in the markets right now?
Garrison Belles: I fully expect the current tapering action to become a non-event for Wall Street. It’s almost an irrelevant topic because our focus has now turned to another monetary policy action: a hike in interest rates. And even this seems to be carefully scheduled. We continue to hear 2015 will be the year when a hike occurs, so traders and investors can position portfolios for the remainder of 2014 without running the risk of an FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] headache.
Opportunist: Do you anticipate any surprises from Fed Chairman Janet Yellen in the coming months?
Garrison Belles: Not at all. She has been ‘by the book’ and likely will maintain her tone and message. Tapering will continue, the economy is recovering—albeit slowly—and we will address a hike in the Fed Funds rate sometime in 2015.
Opportunist: What are your views on the U.S. economic outlook as we wrap up the third quarter and head into the fourth?
Garrison Belles: Q4 will be an excellent case study for the United States because it will be the first true metric we receive post-QE. The question many want to know is: Can the economy grow on its own without the help of the Federal Reserve? Our thought is no. We continue to see the debt-to-income ratio widen for the average American, which will eventually become an issue in terms of spending. Therefore, losing discretionary spending in the GDP equation can have dire consequences for an economy that’s expected to grow organically. More importantly, this will spill over to the earnings reports of publicly traded companies. And, the only item of the household balance sheet still showing glimmers of optimism is the investment portfolio—whether in a 401k or simply investing direct. If the household sees a significant drop in portfolio values, the result will be catastrophic.
However, with all of that said, the Fed can always halt the tapering program and delay a hike in the Fed Funds rate until late 2015 or even 2016. And the markets will cheer this news and, likely, allow valuations to stabilize.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in Florida. Follow Leslie on Twitter: @lescstone.
J. Streicher & Co. - http://www.jstreichercapital.com/
J. Streicher Capital, LLC - http://www.jstreicher.com/