Return on Investments:
Greenwood Capital’s Asset Evolution

Servicing the financial management needs of our community lies in the foundational bedrock of Greenwood Capital. Our story began with shouldering the responsibility of managing Greenwood Mill’s pension plan – the area’s largest employer at the time. That was a responsibility that created a culture of service to the financial needs of our clients that has evolved repeatedly, but strategically, throughout the following 40 years. Fast forwarding to today, our clients come from all walks of life – from foundations to high-net-worth families and individuals, to municipalities and small business owners – and every combination in between.  And since our founding, we have introduced new products and strategies and practiced an evolutionary philosophy throughout.

However, while the markets, technology, and timing around these changes varied widely, two things remained consistent, year after year. First, our philosophy centers on the client’s needs and experience, and any evolution is driven by this core ideal. And second, each change was pioneered by our investment professionals, who each brought their own expertise and influence to the team

Let’s take a walk back through time and look at some of the most instrumental members of the Greenwood Capital investment team to highlight this personal approach and evolutionary mindset.

1988: John McAlhany

Before joining the firm, John McAlhany was the Dean of the School of Business at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. During his 34-year tenure at Greenwood Capital, he was a jack of many trades, rising to the occasion however was needed as the company rapidly expanded. McAlhany drove many of the asset management activities in the early days, through his economic expertise and asset selection and allocation knowledge. He also served as client advisor and wealth manager, not to mention regularly representing the Greenwood Capital team in external communication with a wide variety of constituents. Through extensive reading and research, he kept abreast of current economic trends and events, McAlhany was the backbone of the investment team during the formative early years and paved the way for others to build upon his efforts. Further, he was a steady influence over the decades of evolution that has led to the current version you see today.

1993: Bill Harper

Next up was Bill Harper, who joined as Chief Investment Officer in the early 90s. It was during that time that Greenwood Capital began to amplify our focus on ensuring best-of-class industry standards in the investment management process. As the firm grew, it became important to delegate, compartmentalize, and effectively communicate the investment activity of a larger asset base to a much more diverse client base. In the late 1990s, South Carolina formed a commission to explore the possibility of investing state assets in equities, whereas before that time all state funds were invested conservatively in fixed-income securities. Harper sat on that commission.

By that point, he had become the President of Greenwood Capital and realized as he listened to the products and strategies that these larger firms pitched to the state commission that “we could do that!”  And so, under Harper’s leadership, the firm began researching what was needed to handle larger pools of assets with more complex needs. For example, this included becoming an Inaugural Member of Global Investment Performance Standards® (GIPS). Then known as the Association for Investment Management and Research Performance Presentations Standards, this is the hallmark for ethical performance reporting. We are proud to have been a rare firm of our size and structure to have held ourselves to these standards since that inaugural beginning.  Bill Harper was key in taking us out of the original comfort zones both geographically and in investment products and processes – thus paving the way for the significant scaling that was to come.

2001: Walter Todd

Our first connection to the current investment team stepped through Greenwood Capital’s doors due to a very dark and unfortunate event in our nation’s history. Walter Todd was in NYC on 9/11, where he worked next door to the World Trade Center. He left the city that day.

A SC native with deep ties to the Greenwood area, the opportunity to work with Greenwood Capital was a much-needed silver lining to rejuvenate him from that tragic event. Todd brought a distinctly Wall Street approach to the investment team. In 2000, when Todd was hired, the team had begun to take the steps needed to manage money on a bigger scale. This fit perfectly into the skillset and drive he possessed. In his first month, Todd already had presentations lined up for multinational pension plans.

The old-school methods of McAlhany and Harper embraced the new-school ways of Todd and thanks to their combined efforts, Greenwood Capital rapidly expanded our base to include more sophisticated client accounts. Through it all, the culture did not change. The investment processes continued to follow the philosophy of “growth at a reasonable price (i.e., GARP)” long before the phrase was in vogue.

When the tech bubble burst and sent markets tumbling in 2001, our strategy performed well. This kindled interest in our approach, and we started to receive accolades from national publications, including the Pensions & Investment’s Top 1000 Money Managers. [1] With this success and growth came new challenges; but Todd rose to the occasion. He worked hand-in-hand with McAlhany and Harper to ensure the consistency of approach, communication, and performance that has provided the hallmark of our longevity. Todd now stands as the clear leader of the firm and President and Chief Investment Officer overseeing all investment strategies. Under his leadership, the firm continues to embrace GARP, just at a higher level and with a more demonstrable impact on the Greenwood Capital teammates, our communities, and most importantly, our clients, along the way.

2006: John Wiseman

It is not unusual in this business for the “small world” to catch up to you. And in one very serendipitous version of this, John Wiseman joined Greenwood Capital in the mid-2000s. Wiseman was one of the individuals in charge of investing the state’s fixed-income portfolios back in the 1990s while Harper was working with the Commission to diversify that sizable portfolio. He joined the firm to expand our fixed-income offerings and has been affectionately known around the office as “the Bond King” ever since. Prior to his work with the state, Wiseman’s early career saw him working in the loan department at a bank when the 1990-1991 recession was in full swing. As the young associate who had to call the commercial borrowers that had overextended themselves, Wiseman saw how initial mistakes compounded into major financial issues for these borrowers. And he vowed to avoid that if at all possible, going forward.

Since day one at Greenwood Capital, clients have known Wiseman for his detailed, thorough, and customized approach in uncovering value for each client portfolio. While fixed income had been a foundational investment offering since the beginning, adding a dedicated fixed-income manager of Wiseman’s ability and experience allowed us to expand our offerings in both taxable and non-taxable arenas in a way that made (and continues to make) Greenwood Capital one of the largest independent fixed income managers in the state.

2009: Dave Halloran

While exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are seemingly ubiquitous today, they were not widely utilized in 2009. Beginning in the early 1990s, ETFs rapidly gained interest during the early stages of the 21st century – and Dave Halloran was an early adopter.

ETFs allow investors to allocate prescriptively, at relatively low cost and with broad exposure to areas of the financial markets. While different than what Greenwood Capital had done up to that point, we recognized the incremental value that could be obtained by adding strategies utilizing these products – however, we needed an expert to manage them. Thus entered Dave Halloran, who brought a wealth of institutional knowledge and whose expertise allowed us to introduce ETF portfolios to our clients. Perhaps most notably, this opened the door for us to offer portfolio strategies for our clients that included international exposure; made much easier within the ETF structure when compared to selecting individual stock holdings. Halloran allowed us to offer true global diversification to our clients for the first time, further cementing our ability to attract and maintain clients of any level of financial sophistication.

2012: John Decker

Before joining the team, John Decker had spent the late 1990s on Wall Street, during a time in which equity markets were moving at breakneck speed, with a booming economy and endless optimism underpinning even the riskiest of business propositions. Of course, like most things, that did not last, but Decker was tracking it all. He met with hundreds of management teams, listened to their visions, and learned how they were going to fund their futures. All of this created a collage of firm specific financials, economic backdrops, an ever-evolving financial market microstructure – and a healthy mixture of both dreams and practicality – that currently live inside Decker’s investment mind.

He has always been driven by discovery; in finding that company that the equity market and mainstream media have not yet found, or perhaps have found but simply overlooked. His passion is in smaller stocks and finding doubles, triples, and home runs … but while prudently maintaining a risk profile with careful consideration of the possible outcomes. He has honed his craft through raging bull markets and crushing bear markets, but through it all remains as convinced as ever that there is value to be found in the names that others overlook. Since arriving at Greenwood Capital in the early 2010s, he has managed our smaller-cap portfolios, adding further diversification – and return potential – to those clients where the risk appetite is appropriate.

2023: Mark Pyles

The newest step in the evolution of the investment team at Greenwood Capital was motivated by another sad and dark time in history, but this time for the entire world and not just the U.S. The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic brought “unprecedented times” and unpredictable, occasionally nonsensical, economic conditions. The investment team prioritized adaptability and responsiveness, focusing on streamlining offerings and communicating updates to our clients and colleagues.

During this, Mark Pyles was experiencing COVID as a professor, where he ultimately spent 18 years teaching students at the College of Charleston. While there, he found that what he enjoyed most about teaching was what came after the work was done – when his students went out and put the skills and knowledge bases that he had worked to educate them into practical application.

Along the way, he served as the founding director of the School of Business Investment Program and learned the industry. He molded his research around application instead of theory and explored how academic knowledge could supplement practical experience.  What Pyles soon realized is that being a professor had been the best first career he could have ever imagined – but he was stuck with the ever-present “what do I do now?”

He found that new challenge in joining Greenwood Capital in 2023. In his early journey with the firm, Pyles has already facilitated Greenwood Capital’s first foray into alternative investment options for our clients.

As such, he is helping to put into place the “third leg” of the investment allocation stool to complement our traditional equity and fixed-income offerings.  He also brings a fresh perspective to all existing portfolio strategies we offer.

The Next Forty Years

In a 40-year journey, there are too many names to mention, and countless numbers of successes on which to build and failures on which to learn. Through it all, Greenwood Capital’s investment philosophy has been rooted in processes that are disciplined, repeatable, and client driven. But there is also intentionality that surrounds future plans. We recognize that ours is a constantly changing business and not only do we acknowledge that, but we are also energized by the possibilities this change brings.

Change has never scared the investment team at Greenwood Capital – whether it was John McAlhany first expanding our client team outside of the Greenwood Mills pension, or Bill Harper daring to believe that we could be managers of choice for sophisticated institutional monies, or Walter Todd, who has seen the firm grow into a $1.5B AUM diversified full-service investment management firm under his never-say-we-cannot leadership.

As we eagerly enter our fifth decade of serving clients, Greenwood Capital has continuously embraced building a team that benefits from the expertise of Wall Street with industry-leading credentials, knowledge, and experience while also remaining true and consistent with our South Carolina roots. Amidst tumultuous markets and changing financial landscapes, that is the one thing that will not change.

The information contained within has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed for accuracy.  The opinions expressed are subject to change from time to time and do not constitute a recommendation to purchase or sell any security nor to engage in any particular investment strategy. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Greenwood Capital Associates, LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor.

1. i) The votes for the ranking were for services provided in 2000-2001. Voting was done in Pensions & Investment Magazine. Greenwood Capital was not compensated for the ranking received, nor paid to be included in the ranking.

Related Posts

Step by Step: Melissa Bane on the Importance of Hope
Step by Step:
Melissa Bane on the Importance of Hope

“When you have nothing, it seems like you can never have anything. From the outside looking in, it can seem so simple, but when you're in that situation, it seems impossible. I've been there and I thought I would always live hand to mouth. Day to day. Week to week....

Hometown Pride: John Cooper on Making Plans and Digging Deep
Hometown Pride:
John Cooper on Making Plans and Digging Deep

When talking to John Cooper, it doesn’t take long to realize he loves his hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina. He has his opinions on the best burger in town (The Dixie Drive-In) and he fondly reminisces on what Main Street looked like in the ‘70s. He knows the...

Second and Final Job: Mark Pyles on Leaving a Legacy
Second and Final Job:
Mark Pyles on Leaving a Legacy

Mark Pyles is comfortable with contradictions. He spent the first part of his career as an academic who focused on teaching real-world skills to students entering the financial industry. He is often thinking about the future, but he is cautious against making rash...