Investment startup could be just what the doctor ordered

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N.C. Budget Director Lee Roberts left state government last week to join a startup asset management company called SharpVue Capital, whose parent company is Medical Mutual Insurance, the Raleigh-based company that sells medical malpractice insurance to more than 10,000 physicians in 27 states. As its name suggests, Medical Mutual is member owned, meaning the docs are sharing the malpractice risk with each other, rather than paying a specialty insurer for the coverage. And they share the profit.

SharpVue plans to manage part of Medical Mutual’s investment portfolio and accounts of its physician members, along with outsiders, according to CEO Dale Jenkins. The company will use ETF model portfolios and alternatives such as real estate and private equity. Its invested assets totaled $438 million at the end of 2014, according to the most recent annual report.

About 10 institutional investors now manage Medical Mutual’s assets, including representatives of First Citizens Bank, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. The goal is to shift those assets to SharpVue over time, Jenkins said.

“Our whole goal is to help physicians in a variety of ways and many were saying we would like you to do more,” Jenkins said Tuesday. The company already owns about 30 commercial-real estate properties stretching from Atlanta to Richmond, Va.

SharpVue will be led by Roberts, Matt Mongia and Geremy Conner, with a staff of about 10 hired later this year, Jenkins said. It received SEC approval as a registered-investment advisor last year.

If SharpVue can start managing a fraction of the assets of those 10,000 doctors, it’s a pretty interesting idea that could produce a player among the state’s investment management firms. For example, if a fifth of Medical Mutual’s members invested $200,000 each with SharpVue, the company’s assets would top $500 million, in addition to the company’s money (Many docs in 2016 have $200,000 laying around, right?) Certainly existing investment advisers will work to retain their doctor-client’s assets. But Roberts and SharpVue will have an interesting value proposition.

A quick look at Medical Mutual’s  2014 annual report showed some interesting information:

  • The company has 10,020 physicians in 27 states, a 10% gain from the previous year.
  • Gross premiums are about $100 million a year over the past four years, with net investment income in the $12 million to $15 million range.
  • Assets topped $1 billion in 2014.
  • Members equity totaled about $362 million on Dec. 31, 2014.
  • Net income was $30 million in 2014.
  • They paid total claims of $44 million for medical malpractice in 2014, 12% less than a year earlier. Six claims topped $1 million.
  • In 18 malpractice cases that went to trial, 15 resulted in defense verdicts.
  • The company’s board chairman,Thomas McCoy, is a hip and knee surgeon at OrthoCarolina in Charlotte.
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