Reinventing wealth management by doing what’s best for the client
Tim Chase is the CEO of WMS Partners. Based in Towson, Maryland, WMS Partners is a multi-family office, wealth management, and investment advisory firm focused on helping individuals and their families meet their long-term financial goals, secure their wealth, and engage in philanthropic giving. The firm has managed over $2 billion in assets and has been named to Barron’s list of the Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors multiple times. Aside from leading WMS, Tim is serves as Chairman of the Penn-Mar Foundation, Inc., and is active on the Board of Directors for Penn-Mar Human Services. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Carroll Hospital Center Foundation, the Maryland Historical Society, the Calvert School Investment Committee, the Schwab Institutional Advisory Board and the Questmark Partners Advisory Board.
WMS Partners has achieved continued and marked growth over the years. What do you think is key to your success?
TIM CHASE: We’re able to attract some amazing talent at WMS simply because we have created a better business model. If you look at the financial services industry, there are a lot of great firms in our industry, but the simple reality is most firms in our industry are driven by conflicts of interest. They’re driven by selling a product. They’re driven by funneling their clients’ money into a particular managed account solution that they have or a particular skill set that their firm has.
We’ve always taken the approach that “let’s not focus the client’s solutions on what we’re best at—let’s focus on finding the best solutions to meet the client’s needs.” There’s a purity of that solution that we bring to the table and there’s a purity of that business model and that simple notion of “let’s just always do the right thing for the client,” whether that results in money that we’re managing or money that we’re going to give someone else to manage. It’s meaningless to us, because all we want to do is make sure that we do the right thing. From a business standpoint, what we know is that if we do the right thing for our clients, our clients are going to stay very happy clients for a very long period of time. It’s not about driving them into products that we have.
The long story short is that by having this simple notion, this very simple business model, it has a lot of appeal to some of the best people in our industry. So, when Bob Killebrew or Pete Sachs or people of that caliber want to join our firm, they’re really doing so because we offer a better way for them to handle our clients.
There’s a big debate going on right now that the Department of Labor has come out with a new fiduciary standard, and there are a lot of people in the financial services industry that are sweating profusely over this upcoming regulation because it is a really difficult notion that people have to get their mind around: this new regulation says that you have to put your clients’ interests first. That has never been an issue for us. That’s why we created our firm: that’s the world that we live in. The brokerage firms, the wire houses, the insurance companies, the groups that exist to sell products don’t like this. They’re used to operating in a suitability setting where their ability to sell products is based on whether that client is suitable for that investment, not whether it’s in their best interest.
From day one, we’ve only operated in an environment as a fiduciary where we only do what’s in the client’s best interest. One of the beauties of our business model—and being here in Baltimore—is that you have access to a tremendous pool of talented investment professionals. We’ve really been able to leverage that for our clients, both on the public market side as well as on the private side. On the private side, we’ve been able to invest with Continental Realty, the Shelter Group, ValStone Partners, Questmark partners, Camden Partners—these are all fantastic groups that have really frankly delivered great results for our clients. On the public markets side, we’ve been able to invest for many years with Corbin & Associates and it’s a long time and very friendly investor of ours. Rock Springs is another fantastic group that we have invested with. D. F. Dent is another longstanding group that we have invested with for a long period of time. Being in Baltimore has its benefits and that’s one of those benefits.
Are most of your clients local?
Right now most of clients are here in the Baltimore area but we really have clients all over the country. What we find is that as we continue to grow the business, that geographical footprint just keeps expanding and expanding. As crazy as it sounds, our very simple business model isn’t very commonly replicated around the country, so we’re looking at other markets. There’s plenty of opportunity for us to build this business and partner with other firms elsewhere in the country.
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