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.
On the WMS website, the firm says that it provides the same level of service a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) would dedicate to a successful corporation. When your clients are mostly families, what does that promise mean?
TIM CHASE: There’s a tendency to think in our business that we’re in the business of managing money, but the reality is we’re in the business of managing financial lives. That goes well beyond the scope of just investments. We view ourselves as the chief financial officer for our families. We’re the CFO. You know, a lot of our clients have been CEOs of companies and they’re used to having a CFO that they rely on to help them make all of their business decisions. So, we take that same approach towards our clients.
On a personal front what that really means—what you really boil it down to—is we help them not just with their investments, but we’re very involved with all their tax planning, their estate planning, all their generational needs. We look at all their insurance. We look at all their philanthropic issues going on. We’re involved with all their cash flow planning.
For example, one of the things that we do—it’s a minor thing but it’s amazing what a difference it makes—is an in-depth review of every single insurance policy that our client has. It’s one of the things that people rarely ever do in our business. We look at their car insurance, we look at their homeowners insurance, we look at their umbrella. If they have a beach property or a mountain property, we’ll look at that. If they’ve got boats, we’ll look at the boat coverage. If they’ve got director’s and officer’s liability coverage, we’ll look at those policies. Typically what happens is they might have coverage for a couple of policies with one company, a couple of policies with another company, and nothing is ever coordinated. Us taking that CFO approach is in many ways one of the minor things we do, but in many ways it’s one of the most important things we do, because in the right set of circumstances having that insurance properly coordinated can really save their bacon.
How did you learn how to manage money?
I grew up in very modest means, and my father worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground his entire career, and so I grew up in your very typical middle class American household. I think that was a great fundamental basis for starting a business. Whenever you start a business and you’re growing your business it’s really important to live within your means. One of the truisms in financial planning is that whether you’ve got $1 million or $100 million, living within your means is something you have to do, and ultimately you’re going to achieve happiness by living a modest lifestyle within your means. The definition of “modest” and “means” is going to vary from person to person. I think what I really got from my parents growing up was that sort of sense of self-worth and you know, keeping it real, in modern terms.
One of the really unique things about our firm, and one of the last things I would have ever imagined when we started the firm, is that one of our biggest client components are financial services executives. We’ve got clients that come from the investment industry, from hedge funds, from private equity, from venture capital, from investment banking, from insurance, from real estate. These are clients that are unbelievably sharp and articulate and capable of managing their affairs, and they’ve come to us because we’re able to really coordinate everything that they do and the complexity of their financial affairs is such that they really need that CFO approach. Part of having clients like that has really created a unique partnership.
When we originally formed the firm back in 1992, we had a really unique name. We were called Wealth Management Services. Within about five years the entire industry was called “fill-in-the-blank Wealth Management”—every brokerage firm, every insurance company, every bank: “fill-in-the-blank Wealth Management.” And so we very quickly realized that we had the wrong name. We weren’t so happy with that trend. And so we were trying to figure out what do we want to call ourselves and we really looked at our clients. We looked at what we did with our clients we realized we’ve got a partnership: not only are our clients our partners with us in terms of helping us in being the basis for our business, but a partner with us in helping us do our job better.
By having clients with such unique specialties they really allow us to be better investors. So, when a particular real estate investment becomes available to us we have clients that have spent their entire career being real estate investors that will co-invest right along with us and that would be part of the due diligence process with us. When a private equity investment comes along, we’ve got clients that are general partners in large private equity firms that can help us do that due diligence and weed through the smoke. That’s a true partnership. The relationships we have with the families go generations deep and it’s a true partnership we build with our families. So, when we renamed the firm WMS Partners, we took the name “partners” quite literally and we take that very seriously.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
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