A time-honored key to success - identify a niche and focus on fulfilling it - has propelled Coral Gables Trust Company (CGTC) to its current status as the largest independent trust and wealth management firm headquartered in South Florida. The Firm's success is evidenced by its significant increase from $150 million in assets under management to more than $1.5 billion today.
Recognizing a void in the market to provide high-level and transparent wealth management and fiduciary services to those with under $10 million in liquid assets and even more so to those with under $2 million in liquid assets, Chairman and CEO James (Jim) W. Davidson and Director Dean Klevan launched CGTC in 2004 as a locally owned and operated independent trust company servicing local affluent and moderately high net worth families, non-profits, and professionals.
The founders recognized the need, particularly among their own families, colleagues, friends and the charities they supported, for the same exceptional level of service that the highest net worth clients were receiving - but smaller net worth clients had not been receiving - at the larger, national firms.
"Our business model focuses on providing an open architecture framework (no proprietary products), asset-based fee services, and local senior advisors with the expertise to help clients in this tier achieve their financial goals. Our fees are competitive and based primarily on the scope of work," said Davidson. "Since our establishment, we have been committed to each of our valued clients who, in turn, have entrusted us with their assets and put their reliance on our longstanding expertise."
CGTC's niche market and personalized services have propelled the Firm from a local startup to one of the leading providers of wealth management, trust and financial planning services in the State with offices in Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Due to the Firm's unique strategy and dedication to client service, its prestigious Board of Directors, which is made up of revered industry professionals from the finance, legal, and real estate arenas, is second to no other in the State.
A full service trust and wealth management firm, CGTC services clients with assets ranging from $500,000 to more than $50 million, inclusive of affluent individuals and families, small to medium companies, foundations, and pension and endowment funds. Services range from providing robust investment management services to acting primarily as a fiduciary (as a trustee or otherwise) or both.
"We work closely with our clients to learn their objectives and recommend appropriate and customized plans," said Richard DeNapoli, Chief Trust Officer and Managing Director. "We pride ourselves on ensuring our clients have direct access to our trust management team, which includes attorneys, accountants and financial planners with experience administering all types of trusts. Our team's experience allows us to service trusts of various levels of size and complexity with the care and skill our clients deserve."
Above and beyond traditional investment, wealth and trust products and services, CGTC handles unique community-based needs such as guardianship and special needs trusts.
"We can also act as a personal representative and have a strong estate settlement team," said John Harris, Managing Director. "We seek to be a resource for our clients for all of their financial needs. Everything we do - and the third-party vendors we have carefully selected - is completely aligned with our core services; providing personalized wealth management and fiduciary services. In addition, our investment management services have evolved and provide sophisticated services comparable to the largest investment firms, but with senior executives locally, we strive and deliver more attention and immediate response attuned to each client's needs."
With many wealth management firms in South Florida coming from the tax-burdened Northeast, CGTC enjoys a unique advantage. "Because we are local and boutique, we are able to provide conflict-free services and personalized advice," Davidson adds. "We are also highly responsive, transparent, and have far more flexibility in providing solutions for our clients than many of the large financial institutions whose advisors must check with an out of state office for direction on many issues."
South Florida is also home to a plethora of national and international banks, but CGTC leadership sees the Company's focus and mission as different. "There are several points of differentiation between a local independent boutique Firm like Coral Gables Trust and a large financial institution or commercial bank," Harris explains. "With large financial institutions, their primary source of business is something other than trust and wealth management, generally lending and checking with retail and teller operations. They also sell propriety investment products."
"At Coral Gables Trust, we operate with a white glove service level approach to our clients. Many times, we conduct business at our client's offices or homes, in our conference rooms or at our desks," he continued. Think European boutique and highly personalized service."
"We are very pleased with the way the company has developed," said Davidson. "It was organic, and not forced. We don't push products or have other lines of business or departments internally that push the client toward us to deepen wallet share. Our business is through recommendation and referral because of the way we conduct the business and our strong wealth management and fiduciary capabilities. Virtually all of our shareholders and board members are clients who live and work locally."
Today, Coral Gables Trust Company has nearly 500 client relationships, which are primarily based in Florida, but also from all over the United States as well as a growing number of international clients, seeking our domesticated trust expertise.
"We seek to expand strategically within our current footprint and beyond in the right Florida markets," Davidson continues. "Our strategy is to continue what we are doing as we expand where opportunity exists. We also prioritize attracting the best talent to our Firm, professionals who share our values, and provide experience for refining our value-add services, such as financial planning, family planning, and retirement. We also want to build out new niches, such as retirement/401K and advising private foundations, to better serve our clients."
Clients like the steady, careful and deliberate philosophy that guides CGTC. "We build portfolios with a long-term point of view," said Mason Williams, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director. "We don't try to time the market. We are more oriented toward capital preservation, rather than risk taking for outsized gains. We are planning oriented with a conservative tilt to minimize downside risks."
"We have fulfilled the founders' original vision to create an independent local boutique, asset management and trust services firm that is transparent, highly responsive, and flexible in providing solutions for clients," added Harris. "These factors differentiate us and have propelled our growth and market presence in recent years. This growth not only gives us the ability to better serve existing and new clients, retain and add top talent, but also bolster and improve upon our overall marketplace offering."