Banking & Finance and Economic Development

Fast-growing investment firm looks to the future

FormulaFolio Investments lands on Inc. lists, doubles its downtown footprint — and now aims for certified B Corp. status

February 17, 2017
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For Ryan Wenk, watching FormulaFolio Investment’s year-over-year growth has been like witnessing a car traveling at full speed.

The firm’s growth rate has been “extremely fast,” said Wenk, the firm’s operations manager and brother of Jason Wenk, the founder and chief investment strategist.

“We want to keep the pedal to the metal, but we have to consider if it slows down, how will we handle that?” he said.

The firm, founded in 2013 in West Michigan, has grown from three employees to 45 in four years and from one office in Jenison to four offices in West Michigan, including its 15,000-square-foot downtown headquarters at 89 Ionia Ave. NW.

FormulaFolio has investment advisors located all over the U.S., particularly along the Eastern seaboard and in Michigan.

Its corporate assets (stockholders’ equity) in 2016 were $15 million, compared to $7 million in 2015.

As the Business Journal reported last year, the firm landed on Inc. magazine’s 500|5000 list at No. 15, with a three-year growth rate of 9,401 percent — one of the factors that led the Business Journal to name it a Newsmaker of the Year in the financial category in both 2015 and 2016.

Jason Wenk and Ryan Wenk concede the company’s growth rate may not be sustainable. But by concentrating on an “emotion-free,” formula-driven approach to investing and by emphasizing tactical asset management instead of a buy-and-hold approach, Ryan Wenk said the company hopes to keep a competitive edge.

“We’re proactive instead of reactive,” Wenk said. “We’re watching (investor) assets and making adjustments every day and putting the investments into different sectors of the economy.”

Wenk, whose focus is in HR-related matters, said the company always is thinking about “keeping up with the times” in its hiring, benefits and workplace culture decisions.

“We’ve done a great job so far bringing in great people, but as with any business, it’s a matter of keeping up,” he said.

As the first few years have sped by, the company has not only focused on its internal quality of life but has prioritized reaching out to the community, Wenk said.

Via donations to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and ALS research, and a recycling program and its emphasis on employee satisfaction, Wenk said the leadership team eventually realized it was emphasizing things that would qualify it to become a certified benefit corporation, or B Corp.

A B Corp. is a type of for-profit corporate entity that includes positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals.

“In summer 2016, Jason, my brother, was like, ‘Hey, since we provide all these great benefits, we’re involved in the community and care about the environment, we just have to get it all set up,’” Wenk said, referring to B Corp. status.

“We just started looking into it, and it’s a bit of a process. There are a few things we have to do on our end.”

In the meantime, the company plans to keep its ear to the ground regarding market trends to stay in growth mode.

Derek Prusa, FormulaFolio senior market analyst and vice president of financial planning, said he already has mapped out upcoming likelihoods for the investment world in 2017.

“International equities will start performing better, bonds will have the most headwind they’ve had in 30 years and U.S. economic growth is the healthiest it’s been in the last three years,” he said.

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