By NANCY K. OWENS
TRUSTING SOULS: Executives at the Trust Company of Oklahoma include Senior Vice President William E. Meyer and Corporate Administrative Officer Stacie Kuykendall.
JERRY CORNELIUS for GTR Newspapers
The Trust Company of Oklahoma was founded in 1980 by Tulsa resident Paul H. Mindeman, a well-known and respected trust manager and Randy Everest, his counterpart in Oklahoma City. The independent company was state-chartered on October 27, 1980 and opened it doors for business in January 1981.
The Trust Company’s original Tulsa office was located in the old City Hall Building downtown, relocating in 1986 to the Summit Plaza at 5727 S. Lewis Ave.
Mindeman’s and Everest’s goal when founding the company was to provide trust services to community banks that couldn’t afford to develop their own trust departments.
They worked with several area banks with a philosophy to maintain a “no conflict of interest “ relationship, assisting them in finding clients and providing trust management services to them.
After several years, the Oklahoma City office split off and eventually became a separate entity.
TCO maintains strong relationships with several community banks, managing their assets and providing trust services. TCO continues to cultivate client relationships with banks and has added more banks to its client roster in the recent years.
The company now has offices in the Waterford in Oklahoma City, in Muskogee and in Tulsa at 21st Street and Utica Avenue in addition to the above-mentioned Lewis Avenue location. Thomas W. Wilkins serces as the chairman, president, and CEO.
TCO is a full-service company providing investment services, estate planning and retirement planning. The company also has a real estate department and an oil and gas department of considerable size. According to Wayne Swearingen, consultant to TCO, “TCO manages 10,000 active royalty accounts as well as outside-operated working interests coming from the oil industry. A lot of people I’ve talked to have said they didn’t know that anyone around here did this.”
He adds, “This is cost effective for a lot of smaller companies. It takes skill to manage royalty agreements, changing of division orders and preparing data for tax returns.” He points out, “We have many clients in the oil industry and have a good understanding of the business in order to help them grow their assets.”
In addition to asset management for banks and business enterprises, TCO offers trust services to individuals. These services include wills, trusts, guardianships and managing investments. Additionally, TCO deals with foundations and charitable organizations as an investment advisor and custodian.
William E. Meyer, senior vice president, discusses TCO’s active support of charities and foundations: “We provide a 20 percent discount on our fee schedule. Quite a few senior executives serve on the boards of non-profit organizations, and non-profit organizations are featured in the company newsletter in recognition of their good works in the community.”
Regarding TCO’s fee structure, Meyer comments, “We are a fee based investment provider and our fees are competitive. We disclose to our clients the fees that we charge and strive to be economical for their benefit.
The recommended size for new relationships is a minimum of $250,000 in manageable financial assets. “But we are not fixed on this figure,” emphasizes Meyer. “$250,000 is a good figure to begin with in order to create a strong and positive economic impact, but we do have accounts with less than this. Our primary goal is to help people reach their financial goals.” He continues, “We are accessible and are always pleased and willing to talk to people. There is no charge for an initial meeting.”
Of course, everyone is different and has different needs. No client is the same. Responding to this Meyer says,” We don’t ‘cookie cut’ our clients. We tailor our services specifically to their needs. We also don’t just throw their money in to mutual funds.” He points out, “We use them in specific situations to meet certain objectives but they are not the dominant investment tool for us.”
According to Meyer, the problem with mutual funds is that tax consequences can’t be controlled. “You don’t know your capital gains and losses until the end of the year. It’s difficult to keep track of gains and losses because of their transaction volume,” he says.
Swearingen says, “TCO’s fees are frequently less than fees charged by mutual funds. Our maximum is one percent and the fees head south from there. Many funds start at a one percent base and increase. Some charge upwards of 4.5 percent.”
TCO provides investment management to employee benefit plans of businesses as well as to individuals. The fees are plan specific and competitive.
Given that TCO’s fees are based on a percentage of assets under management, Meyer says, “We’re highly motivated to do the best we possibly can for our clients within the market constraints.”
In order to successfully manage their clients finances, TCO has ensured that it maintains a stable working force. “It’s difficult to manage money when you have employees changing monthly,” Meyer points out. To ensure all client needs are met, the TCO employees are highly qualified and the staff includes attorneys, oil and gas experts, CPA’s, MBA’s and CFA’s.
Under the guidance of TCO’s staff, the company’s assets have grown to $2 billion over the past 25 years. Meyer reflects on this. “This is a good growth pattern. It takes a good eight years to do the groundwork to build a successful trust operation. A lot of our business is derived from being named as a successor.” He explains,” These are contingent appointments, meaning an event must arise prior to our involvement.”
When asked about the need for diversifying one’s portfolio as a hedge to investment liability, Meyer replies, “Diversification is a safeguard for future interest. The problem is that people become emotionally involved with a single investment and let it take too much control of their portfolio. We measure the risk tolerances of everyone involved. We’ve developed internal questionnaires to help determine a client’s investment mindset.”
Addressing the question regarding diversification techniques he responds, “We utilize the tools of modern portfolio theory, as well as our experienced judgment to achieve the appropriate level of diversification.”
Discussing the competition in the industry Meyer says, “The industry is, per se, aggressively marketing to the public. Our niche is dealing with individuals and smaller start-up companies. He addresses the issue of specific competitors, “Every money management firm is a competitor: mutual funds, brokerage firms, investment advisors and so on. We work with our individual clients and companies to tailor our services to meet their individual needs.”
We are all in the business of investment advice. The issue is how you deliver the product, how you manage the client’s resources and needs.” He goes on to say, “We want long-term relationships with our clients. Nothing makes me happier than dealing with 2nd and 3rd generations. We want to become a resource and part of the family’s plan to achieve their goals.”
In order to acquire clients, TCO uses a “soft sell” marketing approach with its willingness “to talk to people – we’re not aloof” as Meyer puts it. He adds that most of TCO’s new clients come in by way of referral from existing clients, attorneys and CPAs.
TCO’s client roster is steadily expanding. In order to continue to meet client needs, the company is moving to a new location in Tulsa. Meyer explains the move: “We’re moving to the 19th floor of Warren Place 2 in the summer of this year. The additional space will enable us to meet the demands of our current and projected growth. We had one of our best years last year in spite of the fact that the markets didn’t do so well. We’ll be able to better serve our clientele from our new location.”
Swearingen adds, “I’d like to sum things up. When it comes right down it, TCO likes to say that trust is a verb as well as a noun.”