When Daniel J. Rosenbach calls the 998th meeting to order, he bangs a famous gavel. Not famous to you or me, but to the members of IGWE Trust, LLC. Engraved on a brass plate are the names of every IGWE president since the club was founded in 1927. On this sunny morning, they gather around a banquet table at the Providence Art Club, eat well-plated lunches, and resume their 92-year-old conversation: What sort of stocks should they invest their money in?
“The whole point was to do something with your portfolio that you wouldn’t do on your own,” says Ed Nickerson, who joined IGWE in 1978. “It’s been profitable in a lot of ways.”
Despite the suits and ties, the paper handouts and fidgety smartphones, IGWE is largely a social club, likely the oldest of its kind in the United States. “We always laugh a lot,” says Rosenbach, a restaurateur based in Cape Cod, who has served as president for the past three years. “And we’ve had some really smart people over the years.”
IGWE members are mostly older, and many have retired, but a handful are comparatively young. The club meets the first Friday of every month, giving its diverse members a chance to convene, converse, and tinker with their spare capital. Most members have a homework assignment – to investigate a particular company or sector – and report on their findings. The lunch has the atmosphere of a symposium, with the bonus of potential profits.
Over the course of their November meeting, members discussed the future of the restaurant industry, traded notes on Snapchat, and predicted various types of “market correction.” Each personality is dynamic; there’s Kay Chapin, the club’s first female member and daughter-in-law of IGWE founder Robert C. Chapin. There’s Dr. Jack Hayes, a former orthopedic surgeon. There’s Tony Carcieri, an emotive REITs expert, whom everyone describes as “the life of the party.”
Like the market itself, IGWE has seen ups and downs; it was, after all, founded only a couple of years before the Great Depression. But the atmosphere was optimistic in November: The club’s total stock was valued at $2.23 million and is up 26 percent for the year, slightly ahead of the S&P. The money rides the tides; to cash out, members must resign from the club or die.
As IGWE approaches its thousandth meeting, the club has become reflective. They hope to attract younger members, who can enhance their collective knowledge. On a more sentimental note, they have petitioned the New York Stock Exchange to let an IGWE member ring the opening bell – a tradition that honors standouts in the business world.
Rosenbach has spent some time poring over IGWE’s archive of minutes. Meetings are a little longer now, but the spirit of the club has remained intact, drawing generations of curious confrères.
“Procedurally, I haven’t noticed any change,” says Rosenbach. “It’s generally stayed the same.”
While 1927 was an unlikely time to start an investment club, the name “IGWE” is a providential acronym for investors: “In God We Trust.” To learn more about IGWE, contact Daniel Rosenbach at firstname.lastname@example.org