Fred Martin, CFA
Founder & Lead Portfolio Manager
Founder & Lead Portfolio Manager
BA in Economics
Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business
Series 6 and 63
Fred Martin founded Disciplined Growth Investors in 1997. As President and Chief Investment Officer, he oversees the operation of the firm and serves as an analyst, portfolio manager and head of the investment team.
Fred’s investment management career spans four decades. By the time he founded DGI, he had already attracted a loyal client base of investors as a portfolio manager with Mitchell Hutchins Asset Management. Within its first year, DGI had attracted about $700 million of assets under management, a sum that has since swelled to about $3 billion. Fred credits that success to a meticulous investment management process and a commitment to client service.
“The things that have always been most consistent with Fred,” explains DGI senior analyst Nicholas Hansen, “is his allegiance to the clients and his commitment to actually making money for them. That’s the distinction he always makes when talking with clients—did I make you money? He has a very clear commitment to what his job is about—and that’s making money for his clients.”
As a portfolio manager, Fred has built his investment process based on the strategies of the late Benjamin Graham, a prolific investment author and portfolio manager who was known as “The Father of Securities Analysis.” Fred has had the rare opportunity to not only prove out Graham’s strategy throughout his four decades as a money manager, but has also expanded on that strategy in a highly-acclaimed book, Benjamin Graham and the Power of Growth Stocks, which was published in 2011 by the same house—McGraw-Hill—that published Graham’s best-selling classics.
“He’s a brilliant investor,” says DGI portfolio manager Rob Nicoski. “He has so many things going on in his mind. He’s not a linear thinker. He can jump around from A to X and back to D and still reach a logical conclusion.”
“Fred goes over strategy in his mind 24/7,” says DGI CFO Rick Martin. “He’s willing to go against the grain. One of the things you see in this industry is people who just want to follow trends. Fred is a contrarian. He’s willing to take risks—as long as those risks are backed up by meticulous scrutiny.”
“In the final analysis,” explains Fred, “it’s the ability to see the potential in the stock while assessing the risk. There’s a certain tension between the uncertainty and the discipline. It’s always there. We like the uncertainty because we think we can process it better than other investors.”
Before taking on his first investment management job with Northwestern National Bank in 1973, Fred earned the U. S. Navy Achievement Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal for his service in the Vietnam theatre of operations. He was deployed three times during his four years of service. Promoted early to the rank of Lieutenant, Fred ultimately served as the Operations Officer of a destroyer with oversight of 65 personnel.
At DGi, Fred has overseen the growth of the firm from seven founding members to a diverse group of 17 investment, administrative, and data technology professionals. With all the pieces finally in place, Fred’s job is steadily morphing from ‘manager’ to ‘leader’ and ‘mentor’. “My role is evolving,” he says. “I’m a fierce guardian of the culture, but I do less and less of the day-to-day jobs. That gives me a chance to get my head out of the foxhole to see what’s coming.”
Fred has approached his leadership role with the same passion and scrutiny he puts into analyzing a promising stock. “Becoming a good leader is something you have to commit to. You have to work at it, understand it and develop it. I’ve read all the books, gone to leadership conferences and worked with consultants to develop my ability as a leader. One thing I’ve learned, a leader can often be a limiting factor. I try to make sure that doesn’t happen here, that I don’t get in the way of the employees, that the rules and procedures here are rational and that the employees buy into them, because if they don’t, they’re probably bad rules.”
“Fred doesn’t try to micromanage,” says Sheri Lietzke, Director of Client Relationships and one of the original seven DGI members. “He’s more of a visionary. He lets people do their jobs. He is very concerned about his employees. He wants this to be the last place they work.”
“Fred gives us the tools and resources we need to perform our jobs,” says Cindy Lee, DGI Operations Team Leader, “and then trusts us to do them effectively and efficiently.” She refers to a quote from Theodore Roosevelt as an apt portrayal of Fred’s management style: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Dancing on Wings
When he’s not analyzing stocks, Fred likes to take flight as co-pilot of the company jet, a Beechcraft Premier One. “One of my proudest accomplishments,” says Fred, “has been earning the Flight Safety Professional Pilot Proficiency Card, which is the highest rating available.” He flies nearly 90,000 miles a year as co-pilot along with DGI Chief Pilot Jim Dobesh. “I’ve given Jim a lot of grey hair,” quips Fred.
When grounded, Fred still keeps things moving. He loves to ski in Vail. He plays golf and insists on walking. He also likes to play doubles tennis and works out on the elliptical nearly every day. He goes dancing with his wife every chance they get. “We love to dance. It’s not unusual for us to dance every song of a long set.”
Fred is also an active sportsman and fly fisherman, and a devout Christian and benefactor. He has three sons, an architect, a U.S. State Department executive, and an environmental consultant.
Through all of his success, Fred has remained humble and unassuming. “He’s an Ivy League guy with a truck driver’s personality,” says DGI Director of Marketing Robert Buss. “He has a very broad vocabulary, yet there’s no other Dartmouth guy who uses the term ‘stuff’ as often as he does.”
“Fred is the guy you want to work with,” adds Rick Martin. “He’s the perfect mentor—successful, brilliant, a fighter, and he’s willing to share all of that with you.”