In the depths of the Great Depression securities analysts William Duff and George Phelps identified the pressing needs of institutional investors for high quality, objective research and analysis of the security offerings of utility companies.
The utility holding companies of the era were consolidating ownership of the country’s electrical generation and gas transmission facilities into a small number of large companies. While these structures helped the companies achieve the benefits of economies of scale, they also enabled some undesirable behaviors as far as investors were concerned, notably stock manipulation, accounting irregularities and unreliable earnings reporting. Failures were not uncommon. In this environment and despite one of the most challenging investment climates of modern times, Bill Duff and George Phelps saw their fledgling firm thrive as portfolio managers for insurance and trust companies sought insights and analysis to steer portfolios toward sources of reliable returns and away from outsized risks.
As the firm’s reputation grew, demand for its analytical services extended beyond in-depth analysis of utilities companies to commissions for special feasibility studies and consulting engagements. Over the years, the firm’s reach was further extended to analysis of industrial companies and the creation of formal credit ratings for corporate bonds. In 1979, Duff & Phelps Investment Management Co. was formed to provide advisory services in the form of portfolio management to institutions. The Duff & Phelps Credit Rating subsidiary was spun off in 1994 and subsequently acquired by Fitch. Since 2009, Duff & Phelps Investment Management Co. has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Virtus Investment Partners (“Virtus”), a Hartford, CT based company, which also owns four other independently managed asset management companies. Virtus was formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of The Phoenix Companies until its spin-off on December 31, 2008. Virtus is now a public company and its stock is traded on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol VRTS.
Today, as an SEC registered investment advisor, Duff & Phelps Investment Management Co. continues in the spirit of William Duff’s and George Phelps’ original vision to help direct investors’ capital to superior opportunities through sharp focus in the application of disciplined research and analysis.