At Lakeland-based Allen & Company, thorough investment analysis for the clients of this 83-year-old financial firm is a key daily responsibility. The advisers spend many hours each week reviewing and scrutinizing a broad range of investment funds and plans, with the goal of presenting the best possible wealth-management options for the individuals, families and groups they serve.
In the realm of community service, Allen & Company has its own investment choices — hundreds, if not thousands, of possible ways to fulfill one of its four core values: “Make a profound and positive difference in the lives of our employees, clients, and communities that we serve.”
Early in 2014, after doing their own careful analysis about the possible benefits to their company and community, the executives of Allen & Company made a decision to invest in a membership with the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC). The financial commitment came a couple of years after the council, Polk County’s primary economic development agency, announced that it would transition from a public-private organization — established by the county government in 1985 — to a private one.
“It’s been our firm’s commitment to invest back into the community, and the CFDC is a wonderful example of areas we feel like we can invest in and get a beneficial return on that investment,” says Keith Albritton, Allen & Company’s chief executive officer and president.
Albritton says Allen & Company wanted to help financially with the CFDC’s move to a mostly privately funded economic development agency.
“We’re confident in the (CFDC’s) plan and what they’re doing to help grow the economic base in our area,” he says. “We wanted to invest in the organization because of its position in impacting the community.”
Albritton says he met current CFDC President David Petr when Petr was leading the Winter Haven Economic Development Council, before his move to the CFDC in early July 2013.
“I was impressed by him and his experience,” he says. “He’s the right guy in the job right now.”
Albritton says that in the 19 years he’s been with Allen & Company, he’s observed all of the different economic development agencies in the area, and he’s convinced that the CFDC will be more effective as a private operation.
“To me, it’s a critical move, answering to the business community and stakeholders and investors,” he says. “The higher-functioning economic development councils really are the private ones. We, the investors, have a stake and a say in what is happening. My experience has been that the private economic development agencies provide the best chance of making the biggest long-term difference in GDP growth in an area.”
Allen & Company is Florida’s oldest investment firm. It was started in 1932 when J. Everett Allen opened a windowless investment office in downtown Lakeland. Ralph Allen, the company’s current chairman, joined his father’s firm in 1963, and five years later the company opened a Winter Haven office. In 1987, Allen & Company’s flagship office in Lakeland moved from its downtown location to its current home on South Florida Avenue in the city’s Dixieland district. In 2012, the year the firm started an employee stock-option plan (ESOP), Allen & Company opened a third office in the Viera community near Melbourne on Florida’s east coast.
When Ralph Allen joined his father in business in 1963, Allen & Company had four investment advisers. Today, the company has nearly 70 advisers spread among the three Central Florida offices. They assist people with a wide range of personal wealth-management services and solutions, including investment and portfolio management; retirement, tax, and estate planning; insurance; gifting; succession planning; and stock options.
“We have a good base of finance in our community,” Albritton says. “We’ve survived these 83 years with a passion for taking care of our clients. We have a commitment to service, a commitment to taking care of our clients and helping them meet their goals and objections, and we’re committed to the ongoing education of our employees.”
Boosting economic growth in its own way, Allen & Company is adding about 1,600 square feet to its office footprint in Lakeland.
“We’ve continued to revitalize the Dixieland area since 1987,” Albritton says.
The addition will provide space for six more offices and support personnel and, primarily, additional meeting rooms for conferences, board meetings, client gatherings, and community functions.
“Hopefully, we’ll be showing it off to the CFDC for a board meeting this fall. That’s something we’re shooting for,” Albritton says.
Albritton counts the office building expansion and membership with the CFDC among the many ways Allen & Company has taken success in the investment business and applied the dividends to its own investments in Central Florida.
“We are thankful to be involved in this community,” Albritton says. “It’s sure has given a lot to us.”