Fisher Investments names Damian Ornani CEO as Ken Fisher relinquishes role

Mr. Fisher will stay on as executive chairman and co-CIO of the investment adviser

Mar 22, 2016 @ 10:07 am

By Christine Idzelis

Fisher Investments, one of the largest registered investment advisers in the U.S., has named long-time employee Damian Ornani to replace billionaire Ken Fisher as CEO.

Mr. Ornani, 41, will take over as CEO on July 1. Mr. Fisher, 65, will stay on as executive chairman and co-chief investment officer of the wealth management firm he founded in 1979.

In his new role, Mr. Ornani will continue the Camas, Wash.-based firm's international expansion and U.S. push into the 401(k) retirement plan market for small businesses. Despite the firm's size, he sees nothing but opportunity in the fragmented RIA industry.

“We have no market share,” said Mr. Ornani, who joined the firm in 1997 and already oversees about 70% of the firm's workforce as an executive manager. “We're just a grain of sand in the sandbox.”

Fisher Investments manages about $65 billion of assets, including $32 billion for high-net-worth individuals in the U.S. and $5 billion internationally. The firm, which has offices in Europe, Asia and Australia, also manages $28 billion of global institutional money. About 15% of its 2,100 employees are outside the U.S.

“When I got here 20 years ago, we had about 30 or 40 employees and $1.5 billion of assets,” said Mr. Ornani. “We have been very focused on organic growth” and will continue to be.

While the firm works with individuals with at least $500,000 to invest, its clients typically have $1 million to $5 million of assets. The wealthy have long been the focus of opportunity for Mr. Fisher, who said that early in his career, “I just decided I just wanted to help rich people because no one else was doing it.”

The firm now has more than 35,000 high-net-worth clients, with Mr. Ornani estimating its U.S. market share for those with at least $500,000 to invest is about 1/10th of 1%.

In handing over the CEO reins, Mr. Fisher has no plans to slow down and will stay focused on the investing side of the business, as well as communicating with clients and helping to set the firm's long-term strategy.

“I'm going to be working my normal, 60 hours a week,” he said. "I'm not going anywhere.”

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