Some advisors talk a good game about attracting corporate executive clients. With more than $1 billion in assets, San Francisco's Tim Kochis walks the walk, too.
Hoping to double his firm's assets to $2 billion in the next three years, Tim Kochis may have forgotten more about the corporate executive market than most other investment advisors know. Today, a whopping 80% of San Francisco-based Kochis Fitz's 288 clients are corporate executives, many of them from Fortune 500 companies.
Now Kochis Fitz stands poised to double its assets in the next three to four years. Not bad for a firm founded in 1991. "I like executives because they're decisive and their issues are interesting. They understand risk and deal with it every day in their careers. It doesn't hurt that they have good income and that in many cases, the corporation is paying or subsidizing their planning bill," says the veteran advisor.
Of course, the corporate market can be demanding, too. Advisor credentials are important to corporate decision makers who name advisors to their companies' preferred list of advisors. Kochis and his firm have the type of longevity and staying power that executives like. Kochis, who helms his firm as CEO, was trained as an attorney and brings more than three decades of planning experience to the table, most notably his six-year-stint as Deloitte & Touche's national director of personal financial planning and five years as national planning director at Bank of America.
Although some successful advisors are exclusively absorbed by the day-to-day challenges of running their own business, the 58-year-old Kochis has made significant contributions to his profession at large. He is a co-founder of the University of California at Berkeley's Personal Financial Planning Program, where he has also taught. He is a board member of the newly established Financial Planning Standards Board, which seeks to create worldwide professional practice standards in addition to overseeing the global CFP certification program. The role is a fitting one for the past president of the CFP Board of Standards who helped supervise the creation of the current CFP exam,.
A decorated Vietnam veteran, Kochis took the best-paying job he could find after law school, which turned out to be planning for corporate executives. "I didn't have any longstanding desire to be a planner or work with this market," Kochis admits candidly, "but I discovered I liked it and was pretty good at it. This was my first job and I never quit. Along the way I discovered why it's such an attractive market."
What Kochis Fitz also has discovered is the built-in efficiencies from working with a corporation's top executives that can't be duplicated when you work with individual investors. "The market is really good for developing our business and our people," says Linda J. Fitz, who co-founded the firm with Kochis in the midst of the 1991 recession. "When we do corporate work, we're getting a contract with a company to work with their top 15 to 20 executives, and they have all the same employee benefits," she explains.
These engagements typically have certain economies that Kochis Fitz can leverage. "We get to train our people efficiently by having them work on the same issues, the same restricted stock plan and the same deferred compensation plan for a number of executives," Fitz says. "This gives them the time to master the nuances of the plans and concentrate on the analytical qualities that are so important to good financial planning. They're not having to reinvent the wheel with each executive."
At the same time, Kochis and other principals at the firm realized several years ago that the efficiencies of the corporate market have other benefits, too. "Working with the same group of executives gives us the proficiency and productivity we need to price our engagements more competitively than we would if we were seeing individual investors," says Fitz. "Frankly, that means our prices are lower."
With nearly a billion dollars under management, these efficiencies have also helped the firm get bigger and much more discriminating in terms of the type of clients it sees. Principals at the firm decided several years ago to raise the minimum assets requirement for clients to $3 million. It is actually targeting investors with $10 million. "We are seeing richer folks, and that's a strategic decision by Tim and the rest of us," Fitz says.
To ensure that the strategic goal of doubling assets is met, Kochis and the firm's executive team have also undertaken a fairly aggressive marketing program, at least as far as advisory firms go. They've hired a marketing director who is systematically contacting all Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 firms in the San Francisco Bay area with letters and invitations to find out more about "who we are and what we do for executives," Fitz notes.