R.I.P. Roulston Research

Tom Roulston, son of the founder of Roulston & Company, has closed Roulston Research, a primary research firm specializing in organizing roundtables and forums.   The firm’s demise ends a long association of the Roulston family name with “boots on the ground” research.  The Roulston legacy continues with other Cleveland-based research firms such as Cleveland Research, Northcoast Research and Longbow Research which owe much to firm founded by Tom Roulston’s father.

Closing Roulston Research

In a recent note to clients, Tom Roulston cited family health issues, but also dismay with the current environment for research:

“The investment research industry has changed. Compliance teams intimidated by government overreach now tame research methodology. Zealous analysts overstep long established questioning standards while hedge funds raise money from sovereign funds of ruthless dictators…It has made the research business an ethical melting pot that has conflicts and motivations at odds with the industry legacy I love.”

Founded in 2006, Roulston Research organized around 75 roundtables and forums each year as well as acting as an expert network connecting clients with industry experts and conducting channel checks.  Tom Roulston plans to continue his idea forums, in which 5-6 portfolio managers or analysts each present one idea, short or long, and discuss catalysts, valuation, management, balance sheet and risks.  He plans to host quarterly events rotating between New York, Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland and San Francisco.  Roulston also plans to continue his affiliated investment management business, Roulston Investment Partners, which provides wrap fee access to selected portfolio managers.

The Roulston Legacy

Roulston Research had a distinguished legacy.  Founded in 1963, Roulston & Company was a boutique investment firm whose specialty was focusing top-flight research on companies in the Midwest.  The research discipline was strong, incorporating intensive primary research on each company followed.  The firm retrenched in 1996, firing a dozen research analysts and closing its trading room.  The former Roulston analysts formed Midwest Research which continued the primary-style research fostered at Roulston & Co.  Midwest received accolades for the quality of its research, including being named “Best of the Boutiques” by Institutional Investor in 1999.

Midwest Research was sold to FTN in 2001, only to be shut down in 2010.  Along the way, Midwest Research alumni founded Longbow Research, Cleveland Research and Wedge Partners.

A New Non-Profit

Tom Roulston is also launching a non-profit designed to foster financial literacy and help college students network to find jobs.  Roulston is “Chief Ambassador” for the new program, named LifeLaunch.  The idea for the non-profit was inspired by Roulston’s experiences with his own children, and his daughter is now working for the non-profit.

Our Take

Roulston Research is closing even as conventional expert networks are setting new highs for revenues.   To some extent, Roulston is a victim of the trend toward consolidation of primary research to larger firms with robust compliance platforms.  But Roulston Research was never a conventional expert network, focusing more on roundtables and forums.

Although the direct link between primary research and the Roulston family name is now passing, the legacy lives on with other Cleveland-based firms that carry on the Roulston “boots on the ground” tradition.

 

Published by

Sanford Bragg

Sandy Bragg is a principal at Integrity Research Associates. He has over thirty years experience as an investment research professional. Prior to joining Integrity in 2006, he was an Executive Managing Director at Standard & Poors, managing S&P’s equity research business and fund information properties. Sandy has an MBA from New York University and BA from Williams College. Email: Sanford.Bragg@integrity-research.com

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