• 1949
  • 1950
  • 1960
  • 1970
  • 1980
  • 1990
  • Today


An Enduring Perspective

Founded by Louis Bieler in 1949, Cooke & Bieler has evolved from a local investment firm into an institutional asset manager with an international client base. Our firm’s long history gives us a perspective often lacking in the investment management industry.


Laying Our Cultural Groundwork

In 1951, Bieler set the enduring tone of Cooke & Bieler’s culture when he recruited Jay Cooke to join the firm. Cooke was the grandson of the famous Civil War financier of the same name and had deep roots among the wealthy Philadelphians that comprised the firm’s core clientele in its early days. Bieler positioned Cooke’s name first on the letterhead and established Cooke as the face of the firm. Thus began a long tradition of placing the interests of the firm and its clients ahead of public recognition.


An Evolving Client Base

Through the 1960s, Cooke & Bieler continued to evolve, adding a focus on institutional accounts to its traditional business with wealthy families. It also continued to expand its research capabilities, adding new equity analysts to the team and establishing the intense research focus that has continued ever since. This group is credited as being among the first in the industry to emphasize management meetings as a core component of the equity research process. By the time Bieler retired in 1969, the firm had achieved a long record of investment success and accumulated an impressive list of clients, with assets under management having grown to $350 million. Bieler also left behind an even rarer achievement: a team of seasoned professionals able to carry on the work he started. He had created an institution.


A Valuable Lesson Learned

The early 1970s saw the arrival of new analysts and the implementation of Cooke & Bieler’s MBA internship program. However, this new generation soon faced its own set of challenges. With equity markets down more than 40% during the brutal bear market of 1973 - 1974, the investment team returned to the lessons learned by Bieler forty years earlier, formally incorporating another hallmark of Cooke & Bieler investing: a focus on minimizing risk and an emphasis on balance sheet strength. These changes proved effective, helping Cooke & Bieler navigate the next 25 years, which included two notable market collapses.


Testing the Approach

The collapse of the oil bubble in the early 1980s was a significant test of Cooke & Bieler’s fully-formed “high quality, low risk” investment approach. As the oil bubble inflated, many clients became unhappy with Cooke & Bieler’s underweight position in Energy holdings, offering the firm its first taste of benchmark risk. When the bubble burst, Cooke & Bieler’s portfolio benefited from its positioning. The incident further solidified the firm’s commitment to bottom-up research and company-specific fundamentals, even if it resulted in significant differences from the benchmark.


Difficult Decisions

As the end of the century approached, and the technology bubble inflated, the institutional lessons of the preceding decades remained firmly intact. Though most of the team members had not experienced previous periods of extreme market turmoil at Cooke & Bieler, the firm’s disciplined philosophy nevertheless prepared them for the difficult decisions such periods require. The investment team stood by its fundamental research, informed by the lessons learned during the oil bubble, and avoided overvalued internet stocks. Their resolve paid off. In 2000 and 2001, years in which the S&P 500 Index declined by roughly 20% cumulatively, the benefits of a disciplined and differentiated approach once again became clear to equity investors. As the internet-fueled bubble deflated and the attacks of September 11 pushed the economy into recession, Cooke & Bieler had generated 25 consecutive years of positive equity returns helping assets under management to more than double over the next five years.


A Tried & True Organization

Today, Cooke & Bieler has grown to over thirty employees, including investment, client service, marketing, compliance, and trading personnel, and is committed to an independent investment process. The firm now manages endowment, foundation, pension, and individual portfolios for both domestic and international clients. Through ownership transitions, industry developments, bubbles, and busts, Louis Bieler’s original, founding principles have remained intact, guiding the investment process and shaping Cooke & Bieler’s organizational development.