Maher recently left Lord Abbett to join the investment team at Hilton Capital to launch the Hilton Small and Mid Cap Opportunities Strategy. He’s a quiet, unassuming figure whose demeanor belies his intensity when discussing investment strategies.
“I’m happy to add value to the investment team,” says Maher. “From day one, the conversations here have been extremely high level and sophisticated. And they’ve given me the space and freedom to dive into the research as we develop the new strategy.”
Maher brings depth and focus in equities to the Hilton investment team. A graduate of Georgetown, Maher followed his high school passion to Wall Street, starting at a French quantitative firm called Paribas Asset Management.
“It was a great way to begin a career because I was in a small division where I touched everything from RFPs and models to executing trades,” he shares. “I’m glad to have experienced the quant side, but I eventually gravitated more to fundamentals.”
Maher moved to Lynch & Mayer, working for the head of marketing.
"It was a growth investment firm, and I figured I would transition from marketing to the investment side,” he recalls. “Once again, I lucked out in the mentor department when a highly rated analyst named John Levinson joined the team. Even though I was still on the marketing end and had just started my MBA at night at NYU, I started doing a few projects for John. After a while, they gave me a shot to work more closely with him, and that was really the beginning of my transition."
Maher became the lead technology analyst at Lynch & Mayer shortly before the “dot-com bubble,” which he credits as one of his “greatest learning experiences.”
“I learned a great deal about investment strategies there, and a lot about myself and my own preferences,” he explains. “Understanding business models and differentiators, really being able to dissect a company’s profit, I gained so much in my time there.”
Lynch & Mayer was eventually folded into Delaware Management, but Maher was already making a name as a tech analyst, and was quickly scooped up by Centurion Investment Group, headed by Rob Raiff.
“At Centurion I was in tech, telecom and media,” he says. “After that I moved to Invesco and covered semiconductors and software. By the time Lord Abbett came after me, I was a full-blown sector analyst.”
In 2003 Maher joined the mid cap growth team under Kevin Ferguson at Lord Abbett, where he began to broaden his range from tech and analyze several sectors.
“Being a generalist prepared you for being a portfolio manager,” he says. “You really begin to develop philosophies of your own; taking bits and pieces from each sector, successes, failures, mentors—everything—and codifying them into a worldview that is hopefully fundamentally sound, but flexible enough to continue learning.”
In 2006, Maher was asked to be a dedicated analyst for Lord Abbett’s new mid cap fund. By the following year, he and Justin Maurer were tapped to co-head the strategy.
“It was an arranged marriage that really worked,” he laughs.
Over the next several years, the pair grew the fund to nearly $6 billion under management.
“Hilton clients have often asked whether we would open a pure equity play,” says Craig O’Neill, President and CEO of Hilton Capital. “It’s always tempting to look outside of your core discipline or push the envelope of a strategy, particularly during bull runs like we’ve experienced over the past several years. But launching a pure equity strategy is another discipline entirely. We knew Tom pretty well from Lord Abbett. He had a great track record, was widely respected in the industry, and we admired his philosophy, so when the opportunity to woo him over to Hilton presented itself, the stars finally aligned.”
The goal of the Hilton Small and Mid Cap Strategy is to be “part of your equity strategy,” says Maher. “I’m a ‘GARP’ (Growth at a Reasonable Price) investor seeking superior returns with lower volatility. We had great success at Abbett understanding that not everything fits in a style box. I map from a value perspective but don’t map to certain areas of the market.”
When asked about what attracted him to Hilton, Maher is unequivocal:
“An aversion to risk. High level of due diligence. Adherence to fundamentals. Entrepreneurial enough to maneuver when necessary but big enough to have administrative depth. Hilton checks every box for me.”