Manning & Napier wins multiple national awards

Manning & Napier Inc. has been recognized as the Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards Winner U.S. 2021, Best Mixed-Assets Small Fund Family Group Over Three Years.

“It’s a pleasure to receive this award on behalf of our team for all we accomplished for our clients,” said Ebrahim Busheri, director of investments. “In a period with significant uncertainty and volatility, our investment team moved quickly and decisively. For multi-asset class investors, the breadth of our capabilities and quality of research helped us make excellent decisions in both asset allocation and security selection.”

For more than three decades and in more than 17 countries, the Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards have honored funds and fund management firms that have excelled in providing consistently strong risk-adjusted performance relative to their peers.

“This year’s Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards recognized the steadfast resolve of award-winning managers and firms who successfully navigated one of the sharpest market downturns and recoveries on record enabling investors to maintain a level of economic confidence amidst a backdrop of uncertainty,” Lipper, Refinitiv Head of Research Robert Jenkins. “In a year that endured the impacts of an unprecedented global humanitarian crisis, in which markets reflected investors’ emotions of shock and optimism, there was a degree of solace in having one’s financial fortunes overseen by the stewardship of professional money managers. We congratulate the 2021 Refinitiv Lipper Fund Award winners and wish Manning & Napier continued success.”

Granted annually, the Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards highlight funds and fund companies that have excelled in delivering consistently strong risk-adjusted performance relative to their peers, officials said.

Separately, Barron’s has recognized Manning & Napier as the best actively managed fund family in its Fund Families of 2020 ranking. The ranking evaluates the one-year relative performance of fund firms that offer a diversified lineup of actively managed mutual funds and ETFs. The results are based on the firms’ skills in active management.

“We are gratified to deliver excellent investment results for our clients during 2020, a most challenging year. For over 50 years, we have invested with a rigorous, consistent philosophy and disciplined well-honed research processes,” said Manning & Napier Chairman and CEO Marc Mayer. “Our goal is to provide the outcomes clients need over time, even though market environments vary greatly. The recognition from Barron’s is a testament to our people, values, culture, and the strength of our time-tested research disciplines.”

To be included in the ranking, firms must offer at least three active mutual funds or actively managed ETFs in the U.S. stock category; one in world equity; and one mixed-asset, such as a balanced or allocation fund. Firms also need to offer at least two taxable bond funds and one national tax-exempt bond fund. All funds must have a track record of at least one year. Passive index funds were excluded.

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State comptroller’s audit follow-up finds issues with Pittsford budget process

The village of Pittsford has demonstrated limited progress implementing corrective actions with regard to its budget, a follow-up audit from the state comptroller’s office shows.

In a previous report issued in July 2017, auditors identified problems with the board’s oversight over the village’s financial operations. When auditors revisited the village in August 2020 to review progress, they found limited corrective actions had occurred. Of the seven audit recommendations, one recommendation was fully implemented, four recommendations were partially implemented and two recommendations were not implemented.

The village’s annual budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year was roughly $1.3 million and was funded primarily through real property taxes, sales tax, state aid and user charges.

In a letter to Pittsford Mayor Robert Corby and the village’s board of trustees this month, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office noted that the budgeting recommendation — that the board adopt budgets that realistically reflect the village’s operating needs based on historical or other known trends — was only partially implemented. DiNapoli noted that the board’s ability to adopt realistic budgets continues to be limited due to ongoing litigation.

“Despite efforts to approximate litigation expenditures using historical data and estimates provided by legal firms, legal expenditures exceeded the budget by approximately $266,000 (38 percent) from fiscal year 2018 through 2020,” according to the audit follow-up.

The board has since improved that facet of the budget, and DiNapoli noted that for fiscal 2020-2021, “with the exception of legal fees, the board generally budgeted reasonably and managed operations within budget.”

But the board, according to the audit review, “continued to adopt sewer fund budgets with overestimated expenditures.” From 2017-2018 through 2019-2020, expenditures were overestimated by $176,200, or 29 percent.

The original audit also recommended that the board monitor the level of fund balance and ensure that budgets are structurally balanced. Corrective action has been partially implemented in that regard, the comptroller’s letter states.

In the general fund, the board instituted a monthly review of fund balance, but despite that practice, the village was unable to maintain a level of 15 percent of the current year’s appropriations, and, in fact, the fund balance was less than 7 percent during 2018-2019. That had recovered to 12 percent for 2019-2020. The fund balance policy states that if the balance falls below the optimal level, the board will develop and adopt a fiscal plan to restore the balance within a five-year period. That wasn’t done, according to the letter from DiNapoli’s office.

The original audit found several problems within the village’s sewer fund.

“The board continued to adopt unbalanced budgets, resulting in net operating surpluses of approximately $213,000 from 2017-2018 through 2019-2020 and a net increase in unrestricted sewer fund balance of approximately $53,000,” according to the audit review. “However, unrestricted fund balance for the sewer fund ranged from 279 to 312 percent of appropriations. This level of unrestricted fund balance does not align with the village’s adopted policy nor is supported by long-term financial and capital plans.”

It was recommended in 2017 that the board adjust sewer rent rates to correspond with the actual annual cost of sewer services provided. That has not been implanted and the village continues to overcharge customers for sewer rent, according to the letter.

“Village officials have not adjusted sewer rent rates to correspond with the actual annual cost of sewer services provided. Sewer rent charges continued to significantly exceed annual sewer expenditures, resulting in operating surpluses,” the follow-up letter stated. “The board has not established appropriate reserves for future expenditures and to provide transparency to taxpayers regarding the use of surplus funds. As stated within the village’s corrective action plan, the village hired a dedicated sewer department employee following the prior audit. However, the employee left the position shortly after being hired and was not replaced.”

In addition, it was recommended in 2017 that the board discontinue making sewer fund transfers to its general fund and recover the money previously transferred. That has been partially implemented, with the village’s last transfer from the sewer fund to the general fund in 2018 for roughly $18,000. But village officials have not transferred back funds identified in the original audit or from the 2018 transfer.

It also was recommended the board develop a long-term financial plan to identify revenue, expenditure and fund balance trends for its sewer fund. That also has not been implemented, according to the comptroller’s letter. The board stated that it was in the process of developing a long-term financial plan for the sewer fund, but that it has been delayed due to various factors including personnel turnover and other priorities such as litigation.

The board has updated its procurement policy to provide clear guidance for procuring professional services as indicated in the original audit. It has partially implemented a recommendation that it enter into written agreements or approved detailed board resolutions for all individuals and firms who provide services.

The audit follow-up found that the village of Pittsford made improvements in maintaining written contracts with sufficient detail. The review included payments totaling $1.2 million made to 11 professional service providers between 2017 and 2020.

“We obtained and analyzed the written service agreements for sufficient detail. The village had sufficiently detailed written agreements on file for six of the professional service providers (55 percent), who received payments totaling $249,562,” according to the follow-up.

“During our review, we discussed the basis for our recommendations and the operational considerations relating to these issues,” the follow-up letter states. “We encourage village officials to continue their efforts to fully implement our recommended improvements.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Finance and accounting are becoming more female-friendly

The women are coming.

While men–particularly white men–continue to dominate financial and accounting companies in the Rochester area, women are on their way, and in some cases they’ve already arrived.  In college classrooms where a woman would have felt out of place 30 years ago, increasingly women make up  close to half the class, if not more than half.

Some of the gains employers and professors describe are more anecdotal than rock-solid evidence of gender parity, but the shift is undeniable.

Take, for example, the Rochester chapter of the New York State Society for Certified Public Accountants. In the chapter’s first 55 years, a man was elected president every single year. In the last 30 years, though, there have been 10 women who have held the position. And in the last decade, women have served back-to-back with other women or alternated with men.

Cheryl Yawman
Cheryl Yawman

Cheryl Yawman, a CPA who has worked as a headhunter in the accounting and finance world for 28 years, was president of the Rochester chapter twice. Early on in her career, she said, if she called together senior partners of local CPA firms to find out their recruiting needs, she was usually the only woman in the room. That has definitely changed, she said.

John Mourer, president-elect of the chapter, who expects to move up in June and then be followed by a woman, said accounting firms used to be mostly male but at the last firm he headed before his current one, he was the only male employee.

And the most recent student awards event for the Rochester chapter drew an audience that was primarily female, Mourer said. Board members were encouraged to sit with students, and at the table where he sat he was the only man. The awards were evenly split between male and female students.

Meanwhile, “the composition of accounting classes has changed dramatically in the 25 years that I’ve been teaching,” said Harry Howe, accounting professor at SUNY Geneseo. “When I first started, I think you saw classes that were 65-70 percent men. It’s a much more even gender balance these days. A number of years, it was decidedly 60 percent female.”

But Howe’s former student, Lynn Mucenski-Keck, now chair of finance and accounting at St. John Fisher College, says she’s actually seen a slight downturn in female students at Fisher in the last few years. She speculated that the reason may be that women continue to be drawn to education and nursing in disproportionate numbers, and those areas—both big majors at Fisher—need more entry-level employees right now.

“Usually when education drops, we see accounting and finance go up. Education is going up a little,” Mucenski-Keck said. “Nursing is busting out at the seams. In general, when the economy goes into recession, we see more people flock to business education.”

People in the finance and accounting fields say several shifts have happened that have encouraged  women to go into those fields.

One is that there are more female role models, giving younger women the idea that the finance world is even a possibility. From female-owned investment companies (the nationally recognized Lori Van Dusen’s LVW Advisors) to deans of business schools (Denise Rotondo, who was at Geneseo and now is at Canisius College in Buffalo, and Mary Ellen Zuckerman, who served at Geneseo once and returned after Rotondo’s departure,) women now are sitting in leadership seats that once were exclusively reserved for men.

“Definitely seeing effective women leaders and realizing some of the things they accomplished and bring to the table have got to be very inspirational for young, women students,” Howe said.

Mollene Benison
Mollene Benison

It’s still not all that common to find female partners, noted Mollene Benison, one of three female partners at the accounting firm of Dejoy, Knauf & Blood, but she says she hasn’t experienced discrimination as a woman in her time in the field.

“Both men and women face challenges for different reasons,” Benison said. “My challenges might be different. I had to overcome them just the same.”

More women are entering and advancing in the field, Benison said, because companies are changing their approach to work-life balance, recognizing women still bear a greater share of child-rearing responsibilities.

“Maybe now women are being more vocal about what they want and the flexibility they need, and companies are responding to that,” she said. But others suggested that companies might also be responding to changes for men, too: Male employees typically no longer have a little woman at home any more to pick up the slack when they work 80 hours a week during the busy season. Their wives are working their own jobs.

“That world as a whole has recognized that they would die out if they didn’t embrace some sort of a balance of life,” Yawman said. When she first started working as a CPA, employers basically said, “Either you work 80 hours a week from January to April or you don’t work here,” she said.

Now some tell employees to expect to work 40 hours during the busy season and less other times, she said.

“Now all the firms have inclusion programs, and women’s leadership programs, and diversity programs. You can’t just say ‘Here’s the deal or don’t bother coming here,’ “ Yawman said.

Not that some companies don’t still try to avoid dealing with diversity. Yawman said she’s had clients ask her to find new employees who aren’t in their childbearing years, but she has had to remind them that is against the law.

Companies generally are changing their culture, Howe said.

“You had a business that is very demanding, high stakes people, working very long hours. Along with that you have a certain tendency to rowdiness, kind of boy humor,” Howe said. “I think there’s a broad awareness that many of those behaviors are things we need to change as a society.”

Employers tend to be more accommodating to employees needing to pick up children and make dinner before logging on from home to continue working, Benison said.

Howe said accounting has become much more welcoming to women this way and finance is moving in that direction, too.

Yawman said options that never existed before are now available.

“In the old days, we didn’t really have the option to meld family and work life. You got to a certain point and you picked one fork in the road or the other,” she said, which meant women who wanted children either had to quit working in the field, or give up on having a family.

“Now you can choose to go down the family-only path, or leave your spouse at home, or the middle,” she said. Workers can step back onto the “fast track,” when they’re ready, she said.

Yawman faced a fork 19 years ago when her second child was born and she was able to make arrangements to share a job with another mother.

Mucenski-Keck said many public accounting firms have recognized the need for this flexibility, citing some that offer paid maternity leave, which is not standard, or a sabbatical after achieving a certain rank.

However, she warned that some offers of flexibility are window dressing for companies that can still present roadblocks for women.

“They offer them the ability to work from home, but that ultimately hinders them, because they work from home,” Mucenski-Keck said. The worker who is out of the office isn’t scoring as many political points at the office as those who have greater facetime with the boss, and therefore may miss out on a promotion.

Yawman agreed that a woman’s career can stall for a while when stepping onto the “mommy track,” but she said that’s better than having no choices, as was common in the past.

However, missing promotions may have a deep impact.

Citigroup Inc. recently shared that it found a 29 percent difference in pay between female employees and male employees, chalking up much of discrepancy to female employees holding lower status in the company. As a result, the company has vowed to start promoting more women, setting a goal of placing women in 40 percent of its vice president and managing director positions.

But even when women are in upper-level positions in finance, they’re still paid less, according to a pay-equity study Finance Executives International recently published. Male chief financial officers earn 1.6 percent more than female CFOs, FEI’s data showed, which is the largest gap among eight sectors the study included.

But for many women, fear that they will not be able to participate fully in family life while working a demanding job still causes them to hesitate when choosing the financial world as a career.

Mucenski-Keck said, “Right, wrong or indifferent, I still field a lot of questions from (female) students about how can you balance work and family. That’s a concern of theirs in college.” She’s never fielded a question like that from a male student. Until she does, there’s more work to do.

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