10/14/2014

The Intern Who Stayed

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Employees define the firm—and throughout our history, Aquila has been privileged to have employees of great commitment and integrity. As part of our ongoing celebration of Aquila’s 30th anniversary, we talk with our longest-serving team member, Sandy Antonucci, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Aquila Investment Management LLC (sponsor of the Aquila Group of Funds).

You started at Aquila in 1982 as an intern. How were you hired?

Funny story. [Founder] Lacy Herrmann’s right-hand person Rose Marotta posted a help wanted ad at Baruch College, where I was in school. I wasn’t interested—it was in midtown Manhattan and I thought I would have to get really dressed up, which I couldn’t afford. So a friend of mine who felt I should pursue it called on my behalf and got me the interview.

Well, Rose told Lacy I had a nice telephone voice—she mistakenly thought my friend was me—and I was basically hired before I got there. Having been born and raised in Brooklyn, I still wonder what Rose and Lacy thought when they actually heard me speak.

Since that time, you’ve seen every aspect of the firm. What do you think drives the people at Aquila?

Aquila has a knack for finding and keeping good, hard-working, honest people. We roll up our sleeves and get the job done. People with that personality fit well in our culture.

What do you enjoy most about working at Aquila?

Hands down, it is the flexibility to do different things. I started as a receptionist and am now a Senior Vice President. For most of my career I was the Aquila Chairman’s chief of staff. Aquila gives its people the unique opportunity to pursue what they’re interested in. If you’re willing to do the work, take the initiative, and go above and beyond, Aquila provides the opportunity.

What accomplishments are you most proud to have been part of at Aquila?

Growing the firm to what it is today. When I first joined Aquila’s predecessor firm, we sponsored just one money market fund. As part of my job interview, I typed the offer letter to open our second fund. We opened several more money market funds in rapid succession. Aquila and the single-state municipal bond funds came shortly thereafter. The firm grew from one fund to half a dozen in five years, all with just Lacy and two employees. Lacy always made me feel that I was working with the company, not for the company, so I’ve always felt that Aquila’s success is my success.

How does Aquila differ from other fund companies? 

We’re small, without a traditional corporate hierarchy—more like a family. Everyone is expected to pitch in. When there is a job to do we get it done, regardless of department or title.

There were several times when I thought, “this company is too small, it’s time to leave”. And every time, senior management and I came up with new challenges I could take on. For someone like me who relishes new challenges and gets bored with the status quo, it’s been great.

It’s not for everyone. What company is?! We attract self-starters, people who put the same level of care into the smallest and the biggest tasks, who never say “not my job.”

As a shareholder yourself, how do you think shareholders benefit most from investing with Aquila?

Aquila cares deeply about individual shareholders whether they’re young investors seeking to grow their investments or retirees who depend on their monthly dividends. Every decision comes down to people: how the individual investor is affected.

Tell us about Lacy Herrmann. How does his legacy live on at the firm?

Lacy was unforgettable—the most optimistic, and happiest person I ever met; someone who genuinely liked and was fascinated by people. He believed in doing business the old fashioned way—with a handshake and your word—and in knowing the people with whom you worked. Lacy’s no longer here, but he set the tone. And I think that will always be how we’ll conduct business at Aquila.