First Inning: A New Coach Reflects

Sam Swift, CFA, CFP®, AIF®

May 15, 2023

Like a lot of kids, I dreamed of a career as a professional baseball player. I loved everything about the game: the crack of the ball against the bat, the triumphant gallop around the bases, the satisfying snap of a fastball. Baseball is precise, mathematical and so full of heart that nine innings almost always serve up the full buffet of human emotion: joy, grief, hope, despair and more.

Sometimes, life has a way of nudging you in a different direction. Turns out my fastball wasn’t fast enough, and I couldn’t hit a curveball either. When it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be playing in the majors, I took a second look at the family business. Bob Swift, my father, was a co-founder of TCI, and his enthusiasm for his work was palpable. I joined the firm in 2006 after graduating college.

I quickly realized that working at TCI gave me everything I loved about baseball and more: the strict and ceaseless accounting while doing a job that is complex, unpredictable, demanding and infinitely rewarding. As a Financial Advisor, I have the opportunity to be creative with solutions that help clients achieve lives rich with experience and possibility.

Now, as the new CEO of TCI, I get to coach this winning team. It’s a role with which I’m very familiar: I’ve been coaching baseball since I was in my 20s. These days, I’m teaching younger players, including my kids, how to throw, run, pitch and catch in Little League. Coaching, of course, isn’t just about winning games, though that’s fun and rewarding. It’s about seeing potential and developing it. It’s making sure your team has the skills and the resources so every player can do their best on game day. That’s a good way of explaining how I see my new role here at TCI.

Learning How to be an Advisor

In many ways, I’ve grown up professionally here. When I joined the firm, TCI was still small. I was the firm’s eighth employee. My first job was answering the phone and fetching office supplies in my rusty red 2001 Toyota Corolla, a car so flimsy that the heavy boxes of printer paper in the trunk nearly lifted the front tires off the road. On hot afternoons, I earned what I call my TCI MBA. I would listen carefully to Senior Advisors while I drove to a local convenient store for icy soft drinks, commonly referred to as a “Thirstbuster Run.”

The next eight years were pretty busy. I acquired my CFA, CFP® and AIF® certifications, and I became the first Chairman of TCI’s Investment Committee. I was simultaneously taking on more responsibility by serving in nearly every role and department at TCI. I was the firm’s first Trader—now we have five. I was a Relationship Associate, which requires extraordinary attention to the most minute of details of managing clients’ portfolios such as getting signatures on the right forms and making sure money is moved to the right account at the right time. Each of these experiences furthered my technical investment knowledge and prepared me to provide solutions to clients and their unique financial needs.

In 2010, I became a Financial Advisor, and began taking on my own clients in 2013. That was a turning point, I felt the full weight of responsibility not only for my clients’ money but also, to a certain degree, for their well-being. I knew I had the technical skills, but the job required far more: an understanding of human nature, an appreciation and empathy for the comedy and tragedy of life, as well as an awareness of life stages.

Coaching Team TCI

Part of my new role is ensuring Team TCI has all the resources and support they need to do their jobs with excellence. This requires a day-to-day commitment, not only on the big issues but also the unglamorous details, too: technology, logistics, training and the intricate workings of the back room. Delivering on these commitments is important to me because, as a coach, it’s my responsibility to nurture an environment where everyone is positioned to succeed so we can achieve our bigger goals.

Today, TCI has grown to 88 employees, including 20 Advisors, who all work as a team to serve 3,000 clients with more than $3.7 billion under management. Even more impressive, in my view, TCI has a strong culture that fosters teamwork and empowers everyone here to deliver consistently stellar service to our clients.

The culture of teamwork is where my baseball metaphor might wear a bit thin when it comes to TCI. After all, baseball is said to be an individual’s game masquerading as a team sport. That may be the case at other financial advisory firms, but that’s decidedly not so at TCI. We put a very high premium on teamwork here.

As an example, while all our Advisors have excellent financial planning and advisory skills, several have developed an expertise in very specialized areas such as expat issues, complex tax situations, family-owned business and estate settlement to name a few. Much like a pinch hitter, these seasoned Advisors often step in to help other Advisors analyze thorny issues and craft solutions for their clients.

The Wealth Advisor Landscape is Changing

As CEO, I am leading TCI forward as the financial landscape undergoes a profound shift. These are challenging times not only for our clients but also for our industry. For decades, investors have enjoyed easy growth and generous returns. Last year, there was a barrage of bad economic news: high inflation, slower growth, sagging equities and poor bond performance against a backdrop of global conflict and heightened financial complexity.

Meanwhile, the financial advisory industry itself is undergoing rapid change. Scores of firms, among them TCI, were founded in the 1990s. Now, an entire generation of Advisors are retiring or getting ready to retire. Many small shops are being acquired and rolled into larger firms. Amidst all this turmoil, no wonder so many investors complain of whiplash.

Here at TCI, we take pride in the fact that we’ve spent decades laying a strong foundation to create a firm that will last steady and strong a century or more. Like others in the industry, we’ve had a wave of retirements including Lori Booth-Houle, Bill Moss, Hank Peck, and Mike Sullivan. Later this year, Bob Swift will join them. Due to these transitions, we’ve made it a priority to recruit and train some of the best talent in the industry.

Poised for TCI’s Future

Our Founders and our Senior Advisors continue to maintain strong ties to the firm even after retirement. From its earliest days, TCI created a corporate structure that would encourage a gradual and purposeful transition of leadership from one generation to the next. Even after retirement, our retired Advisors are still involved with the firm as they attend client events, mentor younger Advisors, help them build strong networks in the business community and offer hard-earned perspective.

Having our Founders and retired Advisors participate in the life of the firm as elder statesmen and stateswomen ensures a continuity of culture and a deep well of experience and wisdom from which our younger and mid-career Advisors can draw. That’s a valuable asset for the second and third generations of Advisors at TCI.

TCI’s commitment to independence is firm. I can say this unequivocally. Some thirty years ago, TCI’s founding partners vowed to build a firm that would serve not only their clients, but also their children and their grandchildren. We intend to keep that promise. Even as consolidation is sweeping across our industry and one firm after another is vanishing after being absorbed by the giants, TCI intends to stay true to its goal: a firm built to last a century, a firm built to serve generations.

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