Servant leader: Umberto P. Fedeli finds value in every relationship

So busy — and loving every minute of it
Fedeli has accomplished so much in his life, but he’s still got plenty of work to do. In the fall of 2015, he launched a new private equity-style bank fund called the Strategic Value Bank Partners Fund. He partnered with Marty Adams, a longtime friend and business partner who built Sky Financial Group into a bank with $18 billion in assets and 200 locations until it was sold in 2007 for $3.5 billion.

He’s also working with long-time investment professionals Ben Mackovak, who is also a business partner with Fedeli, and Fred Cummings.

“The whole idea was we built a team and we partnered,” Fedeli says. “I couldn’t hire these people. It would be impossible. They are superstars. These are fighter pilots. But we can partner with them and invest alongside each other and work together. The idea was to build a team that we didn’t historically have, get other people involved and develop a disciplined process.”

Thus far, the results are so promising that Fedeli has begun raising a second fund.

“The first fund is two years old and we just raised another $60 million, so it’s just under $200 million in two years,” Fedeli says. “We just made the first investment for the second fund in a private bank in Colorado.”
Investing is yet another passion for Fedeli, who is always looking for another great opportunity.

“The Great Recession, it was horrible,” Fedeli says. “There were a lot of challenges and a lot of problems. But there were also a lot of opportunities that were out there to buy companies, do business or try other things. Sometimes when there is fear and uncertainty in one area, there could be a whole other opportunity somewhere else.”

He enjoys investing alongside friends who are involved in private equity or have businesses or real estate projects that they are working on.

“When I have an area that I know, I may do it,” he says. “When I don’t know something, I go with people who are experts in that area. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner, says you have to develop a lattice of mental models. Ninety-five percent of Buffett’s net worth did not come until after he was 65 years old. I try to study what works, what doesn’t work and why it works.”

Fedeli puts in the time to find opportunities where he can earn a solid return on his investment.

“I invest in public companies that I feel have incredible quality, good values and growth potential,” Fedeli says. “They have a durable, sustainable competitive advantage.”

Fedeli is also an avid reader, though he prefers to read shorter summaries that encapsulate what’s in books rather than whole books.

“I can read 25 20-page summaries instead of one 500-page book,” he says. “I also read annual reports and research things. Investments are a hobby.”

It all adds up to a very busy life, one that Fedeli wouldn’t trade for anything.

“I love Cleveland, I love the people,” Fedeli says. “There is no business opportunity or financial incentive that could ever get me to move away. There is no business or financial incentive, no prestige or position, nothing. I love this community and I love the people more than anything else. My family and friends are here and our business is here.”

During the holiday season, Fedeli sends out personalized emails to friends and clients that offer warm thoughts for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. The message he delivers is quintessential Umberto Fedeli.

“As I reflect on the many gifts I am thankful for this Thanksgiving, amongst the best of those are the wonderful relationships that I have had the great honor, privilege and pleasure to have had,” he writes. “I would genuinely like to say Thank You!”

Selfless leadership is what Fedeli is all about, Morris says.

“He has an amazing ability to see what is most important in life (and business) then lead accordingly,” she says. “He uses his power to encourage and support, rather than control — and it works.”

How to reach: The Fedeli Group, (216) 328-8080 or www.thefedeligroup.com