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Business

Five questions for ... Mark Stoeckle

For more than two decades, Baltimore fund companies Adams Express Co. and Petroleum & Resources Corp. had been under the direction of a single CEO and chairman.

But with the retirement of Doug Ober this year, the two have seen a shake-up at the top.

Longtime director Kathleen McGahran, who is based in Florida, was named chair. And to find a CEO, the companies went to Massachusetts.

Mark E. Stoeckle had been the chief investment officer of the U.S. Equities and Global Sector Funds for BNP Paribas Investment Partners in Boston before he was tapped to take over as CEO in February. Ober, who aided in the search of his successor, said the companies wanted a CEO with a strong investment background who could improve funds' performance.

Adams Express and Petroleum & Resources have been operating as closed-end funds since 1929. They have a fixed number of shares that are bought and sold on exchanges like a stock. The shares can be sold at a premium or a discount, depending on market demand.

The Baltimore Sun recently checked in with Stoeckle, who has been on the job for nearly four months.

What are the challenges of filling the shoes of a longtime CEO at fund companies with lengthy histories?

The first challenge is to establish rapport and respect with a group that has been led by the same CEO for over 20 years. Doug was well liked and respected, and not having him there takes time for people to process. I think the best approach, and the one I'm taking, is to be myself and listen a lot. The second challenge is to make sure whatever changes I make are done carefully and thoughtfully. The companies have a very rich history and have been doing good things for a long time. My objective is to take all the good things that are being done and add some of the things that I've had success with in my career.

How did an English major get into high finance? Something lots of new college grads probably want to know.

First of all, I am very proud to have been an English major. My senior adviser told me that English majors can do anything. I took her at her word. There are very few English majors in finance, and I think that's a shame. My guess is some people shy away from the quantitative or statistical part of finance. The dirty little secret is most of the math we do is not much more difficult than addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I went for an MBA because in the early '80s, it was difficult to get into finance without one. These days, it's different. The ability to think critically, question exhaustively and know Excel will equip you to do well. I am always encouraging liberal arts majors to look at a career in finance.

You've held a wide variety of jobs, selling baby products just out of college for Johnson & Johnson, working as an investment banker for Bear Stearns — long before its collapse — as well as launching a hedge fund and managing portfolios for investment firms. How will these experiences shape how you run the Baltimore fund companies?

I feel incredibly blessed to have had such a broad range of experiences. I think that's what I bring to Adams and Petroleum — a diverse background of experiences rooted in a strong investment philosophy and process. I have had the opportunity to work with some very talented mentors over the years. I've tried to take the best of each of them and develop my own style. Developing a core set of values, treating people fairly and getting the most out of them is much of what I've learned and I believe will serve us well at both companies.

Your predecessor, Doug Ober, participated in the search for his replacement, saying the companies were looking for someone "who could work on improving the performance of the funds." How do you plan to do that?

Our work early on will be focused on portfolio structure and risk. We have good fundamental analysis capability at both companies but need to work on how to put it all in a portfolio that achieves our investment objectives within a certain risk budget. Said differently, finding stocks that will go up is different than assembling a group of stocks in a sector that work together from both a risk and return perspective to achieve our goals. It's certainly a different approach than has been taken historically but one that is imminently doable and should serve to enhance performance and consistency.

As a Pittsburgh native, you're a Steelers fan, and your many years in Boston have made you a Red Sox supporter. What would it take to get you to switch allegiances to the Ravens and Orioles?

OK, this is by far the hardest of the five questions. Steeler black and gold is in my veins, and over 30 years in Boston has made me a total Boston sports fan (except when the Patriots play the Steelers!). The best I can do is tell you I respect both teams and will do my best to start liking purple and orange, although I can't make any promises!

Mark E. Stoeckle

Title: CEO of Adams Express Company and Petroleum & Resources Corporation

Age: 56

Education: Bachelor's in English, Bethany College, West Virginia, 1978; MBA, Babson College, Massachusetts, 1981

Previous job: Chief investment officer of U.S. Equities and Global Sector Funds for BNP Paribas Investment Partners, Boston

Family: Married to Anne Stoeckle for 31 years, two sons, a daughter and a granddaughter.

Birthplace: Pittsburgh

Residence: Harbor East, Baltimore

Hobbies: Golf and cooking

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