Donald Moore Jr., CEO of Bearmoor, LLC has over 20 years of experience in the asset management and fiduciary industry. He has served in senior fiduciary positions with various US Treasury agencies, as well as a leading financial services consulting firm. He began his career as a Trust Examiner with Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. He has examined over 50 trust divisions, including the lead position at two of the nation’s largest trust institutions. He has assisted in the development of national policy and guidelines at both the Comptroller’s Office and the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Kelly Coughlin is CEO of BankBosun, a management consulting firm helping bank C-Level Officers navigate risk and discover reward. He is the host of the syndicated audio podcast, BankBosun.com. Kelly brings over 25 years of experience with companies like PWC, Lloyds Bank, and Merrill Lynch. On the podcast Kelly interviews key executives in the banking ecosystem to provide bank C-Suite officers, risk management, technology, and investment ideas and solutions to help them navigate risks and discover rewards. And now your host, Kelly Coughlin.
Kelly: I’ve got Don Moore CEO of Bearmoor LLC. Don, how are you doing?
Don: I’m doing well, thank you Kelly, I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you today.
Kelly: Don, you’re in Boulder?
Don: I’m not quite in the Republic of Boulder, I’m a little bit closer to the Breckenridge area up in the hills of Colorado.
Kelly: You’re happy because the Broncos just won the Super Bowl, I take it.
Don: I’m slightly indifferent to the Broncos winning, although they had their ginormous parade yesterday down in Denver. Everyone’s excited that Peyton got his Super Bowl, but again, I think it was the defense that won it for him. Yeah, we’re happy here in the state. No one’s going off the edge yet.
Kelly: Let’s get right into it. Tell me what Bearmoor does. What’s your value proposition?
Don: Basically, it’s the optimization of risk-adjusted revenue from an organization’s existing fiduciary activities portfolio. It’s basically their personal trusts, their investment management accounts, their retirement accounts, foundation endowments and custody. All those off-balance-sheet activities within the fiduciary world. Again, the optimization of their risk-adjusted revenue from their existing portfolio.
Kelly: First of all, it’s banks that are in the wealth management business. They have trusts, they have wealth management capabilities, correct?
Don: Correct, a lot of organizations that are clients, their definition of wealth management differs, but it does include trusts, insurance, and private banking.
Kelly: You help those kind of banks do what?
Don: Optimize top-line revenue. What we mean by that is, I like to use a quote from Bono, the lead singer for U2, he was up at his concert and doing one of his social announcements where he was clapping his hands and he said, “Do you know, every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies?” And someone screamed out, “Stop clapping your hands.” We don’t focus in on expense because for the past 10 years in the industry, the industry’s been focused on nothing but expenses. The expenses have outpaced revenue growth 6 out of the last 10 years. Their focus on expenses I don’t think, has been all that fantastic. We like to say, “Well you’re already focused on expense reduction, we want to help you grow top-line revenues.” Our value proposition leads to an increase to revenue top-line.
Kelly: Before we get into how you do that, let’s talk about some personal background.
All right, I’ll start out with education. I went to school, got a degree in finance and accounting, after I graduated from that I went to work for the United States Treasury Department as an examiner with the Office of the Comptroller. The currency, the OCC, I found an opportunity to begin examining in the fiduciary world and I became a fiduciary examiner. Through that, I went to Washington, DC. For those of you in the fiduciary world that have an understanding of Regulation 9, when I was in Washington, DC I helped draft and write that regulation that now national banks follow. For most states, it’s been adopted verbatim on that.
I left there, and went over to another Treasury Department, the Office of Trust Supervision, which has now been rolled into the OCC and wrote their fiduciary training program and some of their examination procedures over there in a fellowship capacity of 18 months before leaving and going to the consulting world, and focused on consulting in the fiduciary world, and that brings us to where we are right now.
I am married to my wife Toni, we live out here in Colorado, we have four children. Hobbies; I would say right now we’re doing lots of skiing, got some good snow out here in Colorado, so that’s one of my hobbies. Do a lot of running, outdoor activities is me. That’s who I am, I’m 52 years old and I feel it every day.
Kelly: Don and I have known each other for probably 15 years, and we made a good connection when we found out you grew up in Minnesota, correct? St. Louis Park?
Don: Yeah, sure, you betcha.
Kelly: Let’s talk about the business. How do you help these banks make money? How do you help a wealth management bank make some money? I want to come up with let’s say five take-aways on how our listeners can make money through what company like yours offer.
Don: Let’s start out with, the opportunities for increasing top-line revenue within your fiduciary activities exist. They are out there. I like to use the phrase, “You’re standing on a whale, fishing for minnows,” because there’s already opportunities to increase your top-line revenue within our organization. What we mean by that is we go through and do an analysis account by account basis and identify opportunities in three phases: one, gap analysis which is, “Hey, where are you missing it?” From the standpoint of what you think you’re getting. You may have some system errors, system inaccuracies that can help you identify opportunities, that’s one phase.
Second one is competitive analysis. Where is it that you would like to beat your competition, and where is it that you actually are? We ask you what your business’s strategic plans are, we go out and do mystery shopping and competitive shopping for the organization to make sure that they understand where they are and where their competition is, and where they can go with their current level of pricing.
The third analysis is a regulatory analysis. What’s changed in regulation that allows you to either understand the regulation and generate additional revenue, or do we have some risk there? Again, gap analysis, competitive analysis, regulatory analysis to help you identify those opportunities, because they do exist. I would say that’s the first area.
Kelly: You exposed that just recently, gap analysis. You’re looking at pricing, and how competitive they might be in pricing in addition to more of a qualitative, these are the type of services they would offer?
Don: Along the lines of both, Kelly, with regards to the types of services we want to break it down so we understand the types of services they offer. Then the pricing that they have on each of those services. When we talk about pricing, we all know that there are committees, and then there are boards, and we’re talking about the board-approved pricing for these services.
Kelly: This is for wealth management services. These are the basis points. This is how much we charge for a $5,000,000 fiduciary trust account, correct?
Don: Correct. Absolutely. Those are established by, I would say, the business line which then goes to the committee and the boards approve. These are the pricing and it would include not just basis points, but it would include minimum account fees, it would include fees for ancillary services such as real estate administration, closely held business administration. Maybe there’s a tax prep fee or a tax information letter fee. Maybe there’s a stand-alone fee for extraordinary type services. All the fees charged for the services provided within wealth management on the fee schedule. We then go through and see what accounts are actually on that schedule, and what accounts are not, what accounts have customization, what accounts have discounts. It doesn’t make sense for the level of service being provided.
What’s critical with that, from a Bearmoor perspective, is what I would say would be the second take-away, which would be a risk understanding of your accounts. If you haven’t done a risk assessment on an account by account basis, it would be highly recommended that you do so. This would allow you to identify the level of risk for each account and type of account using system information. This isn’t something that’s subjective, it’s based upon system criteria that you’ve established and put risk weightings on it. Let’s say you have an account that is an irrevocable trust account with two co-trustees, five beneficiaries, some unique assets in there, and maybe it’s over $2,500,000. You would assign various risk criteria to each one of those factors. Maybe that has a higher risk than a revocable trust.
Kelly: You’re not talking about portfolio risk, you’re talking about risk of an unhappy client (other than portfolio volatility).
Don: Correct. What we’re seeing is a fair amount of, I hate to go back to the regulatory side, but a fair amount of regulators are saying, “Hey, we can risk rate loan accounts on the banking side, why can’t we individually risk rate these off-balance-sheet trust accounts from an administration standpoint, from a level of risk?” and then get some understanding about what may be some levels of capital might be for this entire portfolio. It’s not investment portfolio risk management, for lack of a better term it’s complexity rating the account.
Kelly: Give us three things that you like to look at, that might go into the calculus of that.
Don: I would say type of account.
Kelly: The fiduciary, non-fiduciary.
Don: Correct, you would have the fiduciary accounts would be those revvocable and irrevocable trusts, investment management accounts, foundation endowments, IRAs. Then the non-fiduciary lower risk would be a custody account, where you don’t have any investment management responsibilities. Another item would be the type of assets in there, so maybe less risk would be a mutual fund portfolio, that’s made up of a bunch of mutual funds to meet the account’s objective. A higher risk would be, “Hey, it’s a stand-alone investment in a large piece of commercial real estate.” High risk on that. The third thing would be type and/or number of beneficiaries. The larger the beneficiary pool, the more risk you may have because you have different competing objectives. Some of those might be income beneficiaries, others might be remainder beneficiaries, or growth beneficiaries.
Kelly: The high-risk account would be one in which there’s a fiduciary relationship to your holding assets that are perhaps individual securities and not mutual funds and the third?
Don: Number of beneficiaries.
Kelly: Number of beneficiaries. Is that because the more people you have in the equation, the more likely it is you’re going to have somebody complaining about it?
Don: More likely there’s going to be a complaint there, but more likely that there’s going to be conflicts of interest. What I mean by that conflicts of interest is those beneficiaries may all have different needs and you as the fiduciary that’s managing that account, have to take all those into consideration and make sure you treat them equitably and fairly based upon the information you have.
Kelly: Tell us how you help the bank make more money.
Don: From that account by account analysis on the gap analysis and identifying opportunities within their portfolio. Not just from a best practices from what we’ve seen over the past 15 years of doing this, but also what’s taking place within their lines of business and their strategy. Overlaying that on that analysis and saying, “Hey, here is the opportunity, and here’s how that opportunity impacts each account.”
Kelly: This is for your part one you look at the market, you look at competitors, and you say, “Oh, your competition’s charging 200 basis points, you’re only charging 150. You could charge 180,” for example.
Don: Correct. If you still want to be the low-cost provider and the lowest-cost provider is charging that 200, and you’re at 150, you could go all the way up to that 200 and charge 190, 180. Right.
Don: Do that complete analysis. Or your minimum fee is stated to be this, we’ve done in a cost analysis of your portfolio and you’re not even covering your costs with your minimum fee. You’ve got to adjust your minimum fee.
Kelly: Don’t you think most banks know their competitor? Let’s say pricing, and their level of service, because they either get clients poached frequently, or infrequently, and if they find out why, then it’s well, his is cheaper, or better service, whatever it was. Don’t you think they know that?
Don: That’s what we thought. That’s what we were counting on, but when we started doing the mystery shopping, because we asked our clients who are their competitors, who do they want us to mystery shop. Then we also provide them all the other information that we have. That, other than the actual opportunities, was one of the most highly prized pieces of information that we provided to our clients was, “Oh, look at all this competitor information.” My business partner and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, we didn’t realize how valuable this was. We thought you guys knew it, we’re showing it to you to let you know that we know it.” You would think they would know it, but a lot of times that isn’t the case based upon the information that we were able to gather and the reaction that we get from those. I think they have an understanding of it, but once they actually see the documentation and support for that that we’re able to gather, that brings it full circle.
Kelly: I’m intrigued by, and I always have been intrigued by you being a former regulator with all due respect to your former profession, the dark side I suppose, or actually I think when you go into industry, they say you’ve gone to the dark side, I believe. However you look at it, how a former regulator can help on the revenue side is always been amusing to me. I know you do have a pretty good reputation out there, so kudos. You’ve been doing it quite a while, I believe.
Don: Yeah, I appreciate those comments. Perhaps my capitalistic views weren’t always the right forum to be a regulator, so maybe I’ve always had to get back to this side. Maybe I was on the dark side and came back to the light.
Kelly: Any more takeaways?
Don: I would say re-acceptance, and what I mean by re-acceptance is, based upon the information that you have today on your existing accounts, the level of administration, the level of responsibility, the potential problems associated with the risk audit compliance items, the regulatory issues, and the revenue that you’re making on it, would you re-accept the accounts in your portfolio today? If the answer to that is no or maybe, you need to actually go through and do this risk assessment and the revenue opportunity assessment to make sure be able to answer that question yes or these are accounts we no longer need to be a part of.
Kelly: It isn’t just no longer be part of, it may be no I wouldn’t accept it under these terms. These terms being pricing, but would you accept it at 50 basis points? No. Would you accept at 150? Yes. Isn’t that as much of a relevant question as acceptance or non-acceptance, it’s how should we price this thing?
Don: Proper pricing is critical. We have top 10 risk piece that we do and one of the top 10 risks is appropriate pricing, so you’re absolutely right. “Hey, I wouldn’t re-accept it because of the assets.” That’s one thing. I wouldn’t re-accept this because of the price and the assets. Could we price it accordingly where you would accept it? Absolutely. That’s part of the analysis we do.
Kelly: Why don’t you post on our website the top 10 risk pieces in a blog post?
Don: Absolutely, I can do that.
Kelly: That’d be nice to accompany this. That’s it for now, give us your favorite quote.
Don: It’s Milton Friedman the great economist. “The question is, do corporate executives, provided that they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities, other than to make as much money for their shareholders as possible?” My answer to that is, no they do not. Basically, everyone should stay focused on generating revenue for the shareholders for where they have their fiduciary duty.
Kelly: What’s the stupidest thing you’ve said or done in your business career?
Don: This is classic me, and this took a long time to live down. This was years ago. I basically said, I used another quote when I was giving a presentation because someone asked a question with regards to revenue enhancement and I said in front of this entire group, “Life’s tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.” Yep.
Kelly: Good one.
Don: I was much younger.
Kelly: Don, I enjoyed talking to you, thanks so much for your time.
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Kelly is licensed with the Minnesota State Board of Accountancy as a Certified Public Accountant. Kelly provides bank owned life insurance portfolio and nonqualified benefit services to banks across the United States. The views expressed here are solely those of Kelly Coughlin and his guests in their private capacity and do not in any other way represent the views of any other agent, principal, employer, employee, vendor or supplier of Kelly Coughlin.