Right Thing = Good Business w/ Trammell Cooper, Genesis Wealth Management

RecognizeGood: How important is it to be able to maintain ethics, build trust and keep building a better business?

Trammell Cooper: One of our key mottos at Genesis Wealth Management is we do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. That core philosophy drives who we are in our personal and professional life, and as a firm.  It’s one of the key reasons why our clients choose to do business with us, and why when we take on a client, we plan to take them on for life.  When we talk about trust, and ethics, especially in the financial world, especially as we are dealing with something as emotional as somebody’s wealth and financial security, having a solid foundation built on trusted relationships, integrity, and always doing things in an ethical fashion is the key to staying in business.

Sometimes it’s not always about the money. It’s about going above and beyond for various reasons that may have nothing to do with an investment account. But it’s those little things that add up which create relationships that last for life.

RecognizeGood: So it’s not just about managing the wealth, it’s about the bigger picture. What about as an ROI? How do you justify kind of spending resources that aren’t purely about your profits?

Trammell: Well, I think that’s a great question. We’ll ask our clients what’s important to them, what organizations they support, and how that may align with our Genesis philosophy. We may choose to support those organizations, too – even if it’s just giving our time or our treasure. One of the benefits of being independent, like Genesis Wealth Management, is we can choose to be more selective and limit our number of clients, which allows us to better support them and our community. Not only do we support organizations that our clients enjoy and want to support, but we’re able to do things that we personally believe in. I’ve been able to go out and do a lot of things in the community that I would not have been able to do at a large firm. As an example, I’ve supported the Austin History Center Association quite a bit. And in the last couple of years, my colleague Youree was able to participate and organize our team to participate in a big event helping to clean up Austin. That was a lot of fun. We do try to do things consistently with our time and money, but if we’re talking finances or return on investment, we just feel good about giving. We also believe it’s important to generate goodwill, which is an intangible. Without goodwill, you can become a number – and we don’t want to be thought of as a number, or as just another business. We want to truly have an impact on the community that we live in and serve, because the community gives so much to us. We just think it’s the right thing to do to give back to the community.

RecognizeGood: I understand that your firm was actually, essentially, founded based on your ideals and your values.

Trammell: One of the reasons that I personally love Genesis Wealth Management is that all of our Wealth Managers have a shared background and history as far as where we spent the majority of our careers, which creates a culture of collaboration amongst our team members. Another reason is we highly encourage each other to give back to our communities on our own or as a firm. Every Wealth Manager at Genesis served the majority of their career at USAA – serving high net worth members, public figures, endowments, foundations and other institutions. We believe USAA is was a wonderful organization, and have nothing but great things to say about it. We believe in their values and moral system, which we’ve carried over to Genesis. When USAA made a business decision to sell their wealth management division to another large firm, we decided the best way we could serve the community we live in would be in a different direction. Also, it was a dream of ours to be independent, and to have something that we own, and would allow us more control over how we develop our relationships.

RecognizeGood: When you’re dealing with high net worth individuals, you’re dealing in legacy planning a lot of times, right? Not necessarily just what someone wants to leave their name on, but what sort of impact and reputation they want to leave? How does that translate to being looked at as an organization with integrity?

Trammell: That is one of the most important factors in the relationships that we’re looking to build in the space we operate in. I think it could probably best be reflected through a quick story about an impact we’ve had. And because I really want to brag on one of our partners in this office, named Rusty Whittaker. On Valentine’s Day, just a few short years ago, one of his clients passed away unexpectedly. One of his clients last wishes was to give his body to Texas State University for science. Since it was nighttime, Texas State was closed. The hospital told his client’s wife that she had three hours to move his body to a certain place. She didn’t know what to do, or who to call. So she turned to Rusty, because Rusty had promised him during his lifetime that if they chose to do business with Genesis Wealth Management we take our clients on for life, and that we will do everything in our power, not to just manage their wealth, but to take care of their wishes, their financial needs, their security. And he made a personal promise that he would take care of his wife. So when she called him late and said, “I don’t know what to do,” he got out of bed, made phone calls, found a morgue that was willing to take her deceased husband for a few hours until the next day when Texas State opened. He found transportation, made funeral arrangements, and did all of that because he made a commitment to the family that he was going to do what it took. And that’s why clients choose us. And that’s just one of many stories or examples I could give. But that’s one that I think really kind of pulls at my heartstrings. And as a primary example of why we believe at Genesis that we do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do, and we’re stronger together than we are apart.

RecognizeGood: Are there any safeguards or ground rules in place that you have as an organization as to how you operate, or to make sure that you aren’t caught in sticky ethical situations?

Trammell: The process we follow is called Wealth Planning for Life. The beginning of that process is an interview. They’re interviewing us, we’re interviewing them. And that’s not necessarily about how much money does this person have – frankly, if we care about somebody, we’re going to take them on as a client. We want to know their background, and they want to know about our background. It’s an interview that goes both ways during that discovery process. We do turn clients down, even if they have a lot of wealth, if they don’t match our value system – integrity, honesty and loyalty. It’s very important to us that our clients match our beliefs and that we match their beliefs. Because if they don’t, we may not be the best place to serve them, and we don’t want to enter into a relationship that could end anything but amicably. And so far, we’ve had a 100% success rate with people that we’ve taken on – they’ve had a great experience with us. We don’t have any negative feedback. I think that’s because of that robust interview process in the beginning.

We are a little unique in this industry – we’re not just trying to accumulate assets for the sake of accumulating assets. We’re really trying to make a difference.

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RecognizeGood: THE Foundation (commonly known as simply RecognizeGood) is a local nonprofit that provides a means for individuals, businesses and other nonprofits to illuminate selfless volunteers, charitable acts and community service throughout the greater Austin area. There are several active RecognizeGood programs that work toward this mission from different angles, but the common theme is simple – the illumination of GOOD in our community.