Aquila, the Latin term meaning eagle, was selected by the founder of Aquila Group of Funds, Lacy Herrmann, as the name and brand of the mutual fund company that he launched over 30 years ago. Mr. Herrmann’s mission then was to provide investors, in states under-served by the small number of single-state municipal bond funds available at the time, with funds that would generate income exempt from both state and federal income tax.
On July 30, 2015 another corporate founder announced an ambitious new project, also dubbed Aquila. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, announced that Aquila, the company’s high-altitude, solar-powered aircraft, would take its first test flight later in 2015. The Facebook Aquila aircraft will use laser communication technology to provide high-speed internet connectivity to people not served by landlines and cellular networks. According to Facebook Vice President, Jay Parikh, their mission is “to connect everybody in the world”.
The Aquila Group of Funds has been providing investment strategies to our valued fund shareholders and their financial advisors since 1985. Learn more about the Guiding Principles of Aquila Group of Funds, and about the investment services we provide, on this site.
In this installment of our 30th anniversary interviews, Chad Childs, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Aquila Investment Management LLC (sponsor of the Aquila Group of Funds), talks about opportunity, vision, and why it’s better to be local.
How did you begin at Aquila?
It was the fall of 1987. I’d gotten my MBA and was job hunting. My family knew the Herrmanns, so I contacted Lacy just to network, hoping he would pass my resume to some of his Wall Street contacts. Instead, Lacy asked me to come to New York to see him. We scheduled our meeting for Monday, October 19, 1987. Yes, Black Monday. Suffice to say, I didn’t meet with Lacy that day or the next, as all heck broke loose. We met later that week. Aquila was growing–it had launched the Colorado and Kentucky municipal bonds funds the previous May and Lacy needed help running a couple of money market funds. He said let’s give it a year and evaluate. I’ve been here ever since. Read more “A Hands-On COO”
Mutual fund boards are the champions of shareholders. But boards and their trustees are still not well understood by investors or their financial advisors. We spoke with three longstanding trustees of the Aquila Group of Funds—John C. Lucking, Thomas A. Christopher, and James A. Gardner—during the September, 2014 quarterly board meetings to learn more about what they do.
Tom Christopher and James Gardner
What do mutual fund board trustees do—and why should we care?
TC: We oversee the management and operations of each Aquila fund on behalf of shareholders. We’re the shareholders’ watchdogs. Aquila Group of Funds subcontracts a variety of services—from fund accounting to transfer agency services and, in some cases, to investment sub-advisers (including portfolio managers). As trustees, our job is to review and oversee the performance of those service providers, to verify that agreements with them represent an arm’s-length deal, that they are fair, and competitive. Read more “Trustees: The Shareholders’ Watchdogs”
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. Read more “The Intern Who Stayed”
For our 30th anniversary series, Aquila Tax-Free Fund of Colorado and Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Oregon portfolio manager Chris Johns talks about persistence, the value of knowing your investors, and why he still finds the municipal bond market so fascinating.
You’ve been involved with Aquila Tax-Free Fund of Colorado since its inception, correct?
Yes. In 1985 the United Bank of Denver—the initial sub-adviser for the Fund—was approached by Aquila founder Lacy Herrmann about starting a state-specific municipal bond fund for Colorado. As the bank’s bond expert, I was assigned to the project. The proposal got as far as senior management of the bank, who declined.
One year later Lacy approached us again. A few things had changed on the bank’s side to make the idea more attractive and this time management approved it. Through Aquila’s persistence, the fund got off the ground. Read more “I’ve Loved This Work from the Start”
Continuing our 30th anniversary series, Aquila Regional Sales Manager Sherri Foster recalls the beginnings of Aquila, reveals what fund salespeople do, and explains why working in Hawaii isn’t what you think.
Your career with Aquila started with a chance meeting. What happened?
It was the summer of 1984 and I was a realtor in Lahaina, Maui. Lacy Herrmann (Aquila founder) and his wife Betsey wandered into my office. They were on a cruise and were walking through town. I showed them a condo, we talked, and they returned to their ship.
That winter I followed up with a phone call. Lacy ended up buying the condo. He now owned real estate on Maui and had a relationship with Hawaiian Trust Company (acquired in 1985 by current Fund Advisor, Bank of Hawaii). And he noticed that Hawaii didn’t have a state-specific municipal bond fund. Read more “Island Hopping”
Portfolio managers make the daily decisions that add up to the investment performance that investors see year after year. For our 30th anniversary series, we spoke to our longest-serving portfolio manager, Todd Curtis, who has managed the Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Arizona since its inception in 1986.
How did you begin working with Aquila?
Aquila had identified Valley National Bank, headquartered in Phoenix, as the sub-advisor for their Arizona fund. At the time, I was managing municipal bond investments at Valley National Bank, so I was the logical choice to manage the fund for Aquila. I still remember the first bond I bought: a 10-year Chandler Water Revenue bond paying 7% at par, $50,000 face value. I’d love to buy it at that price today. Read more “Long History of Local Investing”
Looking Out for Shareholders
Aquila’s locally-based trustees play a crucial role in advocating on behalf of fund shareholders. As Anne J. Mills looks back on her tenure as a trustee on seven Aquila fund boards, we talked to her about what trustees do and what she’s seen in almost 30 years as a trustee.
How did you become involved with the Aquila Group of Funds?
Lacy Herrmann [Aquila’s founder] and I met in the mid-1980s, when we were both running for president of our college’s alumni board. He beat me, although I did win a few years later. Read more “We Interview Anne Mills, Retiring Trustee”
Our History, People and Distinctive Strategy
Diana P. Herrmann, President & CEO, Aquila Investment Management LLC
Lacy Herrmann, Aquila’s founder, was one of the earlier pioneers in money market funds beginning in the mid-1970s. By the early 1980s, a handful of state-specific municipal bond mutual funds were being offered in states with large populations and higher tax rates, such as California, New York and Massachusetts. Mr. Herrmann was intrigued with the concept of launching similar funds in other states.
Since the inception of Aquila Management Corporation 30 years ago, Aquila Group of Funds has grown into a nine-fund family with seven state specific municipal bond funds, a high-yield corporate bond fund, and an equity fund. Through the years, however, Aquila has maintained its shareholder- and advisor-centric approach, as CEO, Diana Herrmann explains. Read more “Celebrating Our 30th Anniversary”