Todd N. Dumas – Segal Marco Advisors
One of the largest U.S.-based investment advisory firms with combined assets under management exceeding $500 billion, Segal Marco Advisors is setting the stage for the next phase of its evolution.
It’s a task for which Todd N. Dumas seems uniquely positioned, his legal and financial acumen augmented by multiculturalism. He was born in Japan to very interesting parents—more on them later—and lived in Europe before arriving in the United States.
Segal Marco having targeted Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia as lands of opportunity, Dumas—whose legal first name is Tadashi—stresses to colleagues that Asia-Pacific’s norms often differ from those of the Western world. Copying and pasting domestic processes into international ones and expecting identical results could get everything off on the wrong foot.
“Our international expansion strategy must include an adapted business model that does two things simultaneously,” he tells Vanguard in May from Segal Marco’s headquarters in New York City. “Align with a foreign market’s projected value, and align with that new foreign market’s actual culture and practices.”
For example, Dumas goes on to say, there’s a more defined hierarchy in a Japanese company, and it’s considered inappropriate to commence a conversation with someone above your rank. While his credentials are impressive—being chief counsel, chief compliance officer and head of strategic initiatives of an international firm—he’s still not Segal Marco’s overall boss. Thus, he won’t initiate discussions with the CEO in the Land of the Rising Sun.
There’s also more of a group mentality in Japan with employees deferring to their superiors for approval before making major decisions. Dress-down Fridays certainly aren’t the norm, with formal attire for men and women expected every day. And it’s considered rude to address anybody by their first name while on the job.
Adhering to those customs could go a long way in expanding Segal Marco’s East Asian operations. The firm has two platforms: first, that of an outsourced chief investment officer who manages assets, and the other an advisor for different funds and investment strategies. Its clientele generally falls within private and public pension plans, corporations, universities and foundations.
Of course, the more Segal Marco grows, the more rules and regulations for Dumas to track. He describes the firm’s compliance program as global specific, and for him it includes traveling, learning and creating the infrastructure.
“I need to be the subject matter expert and then bring in people whom I can rely upon through those teams,” he says. “There are operational constraints.”
But there are also incentives, maybe especially so in Japan, which is intent on growing Tokyo’s status as an international financial center in a post-COVID-19 world. For foreign fund managers, enticements abound.
There’s the new Financial Market Entry Office that provides one-stop English consultation and assistance to foreign asset managers registering with the Financial Services Agency of Japan—and supervision of those firms using the English language. Foreign fund managers may also find attractive new licensing exemptions as encouragements to opening offices. Highly skilled professionals are in demand.
Segal Marco’s other foreign targets have their own attractions and, for Dumas, sorting out the details is all part of what he has seen as his ideal job since 2019. Law alone wouldn’t do it for him, and the same holds for finance. But he finds something very stimulating about merging those subjects.
Passion in his pursuit
Dumas recalls advice from one of his mentors at New York University School of Law: Don’t get hung up over a particular practice or job title, just know what gets you up in the morning.
“Everyone in my family is entrepreneurial and I wanted to be too,” he says. “I wanted to combine my [University of Pennsylvania] degree in economics with law and a global perspective.”
He recalls another pearl of wisdom about how when one concentrates on getting from A to C, B will take of itself. For Dumas, that “B” was business and finance. While the concept of private equity had yet to cross his mind, it soon did, and it’s helped chart his path.
As a young lawyer, he still had to cut his teeth with Davis Polk and Wardwell, focusing on business and financial matters which, in 2010, prepped him for a year in London as vice president of Citi Alternative Investments. Dumas returned to the states for executive positions with BNY Mellon Asset Management and Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., ascending to senior vice president at the latter firm.
He might still be there if he hadn’t been offered the top legal position at Segal Marco. Compliance and strategic initiatives since added to his responsibilities, he welcomes the heavier workload.
“My job has grown threefold since I stepped into this firm, but it was a great decision to come here,” the 49-year-old Dumas says. “Every idea I’ve projected to the executive team has been received with openness and strong support.”
He’s also proud that the firm’s investments often serve a laudable cause such as developing infrastructure and creating a middle class where one was lacking.
His father was Claude Purdy Dumas, an internationally renowned theater director of Haitian and Japanese heritage, who worked extensively with the late playwright, and Dumas’ godfather, August Wilson—referred to as “the theater’s poet of Black America.” When the senior Dumas and his graphic artist wife traveled worldwide on the theater circuit, their son was often in tow. At a young age, he became wise to the world, and his horizons continue to grow as he strategizes on behalf of Segal Marco.
“Going global is a strategic maneuver opening the next chapter for many organizations seizing the moment to expand their global footprint,” Dumas says. “However, when setting the stage for a successful international expansion, I am keenly mindful that overseas growth is a marathon, not a sprint.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2021 Edition here.
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