Big-city financial services in the Rocky Mountain West
By Mira Brody
On a picturesque day during the warm, Montana summer, Andrew Martzloff took one of his clients and his son out to the Gallatin River to cast some flies. The water shone blue against the clear skies, and their casts were long, their conversations light. There’s a lot Martzloff appreciates out here—the quality of the landscape, the serenity of the surrounding mountain peaks and the independence the region’s wide-open spaces foster. Independence and integrity are characteristics Martzloff has deeply rooted into the financial advisory firm, Bitterroot Capital Advisors, he has built in downtown Bozeman over the past 20 years.
The firm could be headquartered in any major city and still serve clients well—in fact, he started his business in 1997 in San Francisco before making the decision to move full-time to Bozeman after falling in love with the area. For him, the move ensured his family—wife Melissa and children Sarah and Jamie, now grown adults—were able to benefit from the lifestyle Montana has to offer, but it also reflected the values he sought for the firm.
“Being in a location like this helps us stay focused on some of the core principles that we talk about as a firm: being totally focused on our clients and their families and their wellbeing, and I just think it’s easier to do it from a place like Bozeman than a place like New York or other majors cities,” said Martzloff. “It may be a deeper connection with our community that allows us to take a longer view of what our clients want over the course of their lives.”
Martzloff, his partner Carl Gardiner, and their team provide tailored services to those looking to protect and grow their wealth in support of their lifestyles and long-term goals. Working independently from any particular financial institution allows Bitterroot to avoid and manage conflicts of interest and recommend investments to clients purely based on their own merits.
“In some ways, it’s a more challenging business model, but more forthright,” Gardiner says. “And it’s what allows us the independence to serve our clients the right way.”
Bitterroot is selective, advising a dozen client families all over the world. Although Martzloff arrived before Big Sky’s growth boom, in an ironic twist, it has become an enclave of exactly the type of families Bitterroot works alongside. That’s not a coincidence—today’s new arrivals are attracted to the area for the same reasons that attracted Martzloff and his family in the first place.
After visiting a family friend’s Big Sky home each year, then purchasing a condo of their own in Big Sky, which they owned for 12 years, Andrew and Melissa decided to close on a house in 2000 and move to Bozeman full-time.
In addition to the surrounding mountains and rivers, the Martzloffs were attracted to the town’s personable size, as well as its proximity to Montana State University and airport. Sarah and Jamie attended public school from second to eighth grade, with Melissa involved in parent-teacher and other organizations in the community.
Martzloff maintained an office in San Francisco for a number of years until it was clear that instead of the distance estranging his client base, as a part of him feared, it drew them closer. Martzloff was pleasantly surprised to find that his clients were impressed by Bitterroot’s move to the great Rocky Mountain West and eager for a visit.
“It became a differentiator,” Martzloff says. “This is a statement of confidence, that with a world-class practice, one can locate anywhere. What I considered to be a headwind turned into a tailwind.
They haven’t looked back since.
“It’s been a fabulous journey,” Martzloff says. “There essentially has not been a moment where either Melissa or I thought this wasn’t the right thing to do.”
And it’s a perfect fit—those who have moved to the American West for centuries have been driven to do so by the independence and ruggedness it offers, core values that define Bitterroot Capital Advisors and the clients they serve.