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Partner & Market Leader
Bob is a Partner and Market Leader in the Cleveland office and the firm’s Ohio Market Leader. He serves on the firm’s National Partner Development Committee and Leadership Team. Bob has more than forty years of experience in investing, finance, accounting, and business management.
Bob joined Cerity Partners in October 2016 when Cerity Partners merged with Spero-Smith Investment Advisers. Previously, Bob was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Spero-Smith. Bob joined in 1993 as President, Chief Investment Officer, and co-owner with Founder, Karen Spero.
Who inspired you to pursue your career in financial management?
I grew up in Cadiz, a small town in Ohio where I had limited exposure to different career paths. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I just imagined I’d go to business school then law school and get married. But in 1986, when I was 11 years out of college, I started working for Karen Spero, a financial planner who did a local television show in Cleveland where she explained finance to viewers. I had heard her give a speech to small business owners and was taken by her ability to explain complicated investment matters in easy terms and with a friendly disposition.
At that time, I was an investment advisor and portfolio manager. One day she pulled me aside and told me that her business was growing beyond her capabilities and that she needed someone to run both the investment side and the financial planning side. We now call that model wealth management.
What do you like doing best in your role?
I view my role as one that listens aggressively to clients. Too often younger colleagues try too hard to impress people, or they get into a bad habit of using an internal lexicon of investment terms. There’s a great quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
One way you can show you care are the words you choose to use. One thing I learned from Karen Spero is to try to imagine you’re talking with your parents — people you love and admire and have great intellect but don’t know anything about finance. It was the greatest advice I ever received.
What does Cerity Partners do exceptionally well?
It starts with the quality of our people and the care and concern they have about doing the right thing. There’s a saying I like to use when confronted with a problem: “I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but I know we’re going to do the right thing.” So first, it comes down to our character.
It then comes down to our expertise. A tagline I use on my email is, “money doesn’t come with instructions.” What we do really well is help people who have the burden of wealth. We are exceptional at that. We understand the complexities of that.
How do you enjoy life outside the office?
Over my career I’ve served as board chairman for 12 different civic organizations in the Ohio area. One was the Oil and Gas Commission, an advisory board appointed by the governor. I’m currently board chairman of Jobs Ohio, a state-authorized nonprofit that advocates for economic development in the state. Gov. Mike DeWine appointed me to that position in April 2019.
All these roles gave me exposure to problem solving and creating an environment to build trust. Public service has always been important to me. I got that from my dad who was a public official in my small town.
I’m not sure if I would change anything about the work I do in and outside the office. I like what I see when I look backwards.
What does the world need now more than anything?
Communities to not accept status quo but work together to resolve conflict and create a greater good.
Robert C. Smith
Partner Bob Smith discusses the importance of civic engagement and offers a series of questions people should ask before seeking board membership.
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