By Elizabeth Landry
Just over an hour outside of Syracuse, in a nondescript office park nestled in a Rochester suburb, The Schoff Group of UBS Wealth management is celebrating.
It’s mid-January, and Forbes has just released their annual list of Best-In-State Wealth Management Teams to which they were named. Required disclosure, the Forbes rating is compiled by SHOOK Research and awarded annually in January, based on information from a 12 month period ending March of the prior year. Eligibility is based on quantitative factors and is not necessarily related to the quality of the investment advice.
After nearly three years of remote work, the team is finally back together in the office and ready for some celebratory cake.
For over thirty years, The Schoff Group has carved out a distinguished reputation in wealth management by serving high-net worth families, corporate stock plans and not-for-profit organizations. Founded by Managing Director and namesake Bill Schoff, and led with Senior Vice President Katie Titus, the team is comprised of 13 multi-generational members, and has nearly $3 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2022. Schoff describes their philosophy as not product-oriented, but solution–oriented, and attributes their success to an ability to recognize and fill gaps in the marketplace.
One such recognition was realized in the Fall of 2021 when the group formally added Institutional Consultants Michael Valenti and Samantha Maley. The team had been working with institutional clients of all kinds for years but would often have to outsource business to other specialist teams at the firm. Years of working with corporate stock option plans showed Schoff the value in providing a fully integrated service offering and when the opportunity to add an institutional-specialist team arose, it felt like fate.
“For years, our team had provided high-level wealth management for high and ultra-high net worth families, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives, and we focused on executive stock plans at public companies. The addition of these two top professionals offered us the opportunity to reach a broad array of clients in the institutional marketplace without having to outsource… the synergies there are fantastic. Frankly, I don’t know of another team in the country that offers everything that we offer in a one-stop shop,” says Schoff.
Valenti and Maley were enthusiastic about joining the team. “Our goal is to have true relationships in this business, not just with clients but within our team. It’s not enough to simply work together… the magic happens when everyone feels like they’re rowing in the same direction. It was immediately apparent that The Schoff Group had built their team on the same principles” Valenti said.
“Mike” and “Sam” had spent the majority of their careers working for a Rochester-based money manager where they developed their relationship-centric approach to client interactions. They focused primarily in the Central New York region serving high net worth individuals, endowments and foundations, hospitals, religious organizations, construction trades unions, contractor business owners and everything in between.
Maley looks back at this time with great fondness. “Mike put who knows how many thousands of miles on his car, visiting clients daily…up and down the NYS Thruway…Syracuse, Utica, Binghamton, repeat…pick any town and he can tell you the top three Italian restaurants there! He always insisted on having in-person interactions when he could, and no destination was too far or request too mundane to be there for a client.”
The depth of relationships forged during this time, and the recognition that those clients had a diverse set of needs soon led the Valenti/Maley team to seek out industry partners that could provide the sophisticated solutions required. They were already acting in a consultative capacity for many of their relationships but could only offer a limited set of investments and services.
“Having the ability to problem-solve and design portfolios that were not bound to one investment manager was really attractive to us,” said Valenti.
The move to UBS and Schoff’s team made perfect sense.
Business Better than Usual
As one of the largest wealth management firms in the world, UBS has all of the resources one expects from that descriptor; teams of research analysts conducting manager due diligence, cutting edge financial planning software and cybersecurity protocols, a staggering array of investment choices.
The combination of world-renowned resources and a boutique firm delivery model set the firm, and this team, apart.
“Our ‘product’ is our team and our service. Our job is to listen to a client’s individual needs and connect them to, not sell them, a solution,” Maley says. “Katie calls it ‘business better than usual’.”
The team represents the best of what the financial services industry has to offer, comparable to teams in cities like Boston, New York, Chicago but focused on the regional community.
“The local aspect of it is very important because our business is based on relationships. We think that in order to have a truly trust-based relationship, you have to feel comfortable and confident that the person knows and understands your situation and is there physically to provide support. So many of our competitors are Zooming in for meetings once a quarter at most, they’re not on the ground in the territories they serve. None of the contractors or trade unions we work with could do their jobs virtually, and neither can we,” Valenti explained.
One particular area of focus is in educating clients on all of their financial services related options. Years of experience have revealed a desire amongst clients of all types for education. Whether it is helping employees understand their compensation and stock benefits, a small business owner to optimize their retirement plan structure, families wealth plan for generations, or a new plan trustee to understand their fiduciary duties, the team prioritizes learning and growing alongside their clients.
Titus likens the team’s particular set of investment and financial knowledge to the specialty knowledge and training required in the construction trades. “You get the best welders, electricians, plumbers, etc.… and everyone comes together to produce the best product. What we’ve done is bring together those same specialists in our various lanes and we can provide a truly comprehensive solution,” she said.
Future-ready: A Multigenerational Team for Multigenerational Clients
The recent additions have not only expanded The Schoff Group’s suite of service offerings but strengthened an already flourishing multigenerational dynamic. Senior teammates have an industry average of more than 30 years and bring that experience to bear mentoring colleagues.
“We want clients to feel that they have a relationship with the whole group, not just an individual, Schoff says. “None of our awards or recognition can be credited to one person alone, so developing a deep bench of talent is a huge priority.”
In some cases, succession plans have been in the works since the team’s inception. Second generation member Bryan Schoff has taken a prominent leadership role and is at the forefront of innovation for client portfolios.
“We know circumstances are constantly changing- in the markets and for clients individually. We’ve been able to utilize technology not to depersonalize our service, but to make the intensity of it more scalable,” he says.
Titus emphasized the importance of succession planning in sustaining a business’s success. “Construction businesses are oftentimes family owned and they pass from one generation to the next. Skills are honed over time and passed down, while incorporating new ideas and technology. Our business is the same. The generational diversity brings breadth and depth to our organization. We have longer-tenured folks like Bill, Steve, Barb, myself who can mentor newer peers, and in turn the newer members bring a fresh perspective and identify with clients in a different way.”
That generational connection is key for the group to prepare for one of the largest wealth transfers in history, as baby boomers move out of the workforce and into their later years. Bryan says they are cognizant of what this portends for clients’ changing needs. “We’re constantly educating ourselves for the next stage, estate planning, cash flow modeling… and using our tech. tools to enhance oversight, efficiency, and most importantly, communication.”
Beyond their daily collaboration, the group meets weekly to discuss topical items and strategize, staying ahead of the curve. As she looks toward the future, Titus muses on the possible challenges ahead. Market volatility, ever-changing tax codes, inflation uncertainty… tough conversations broached with clients daily.
“I think the idea of developing a partnership with clients really sprung from a desire to make them feel like we were in it together. To help put them at ease in uncertain conditions… to always answer the phone, be proactive, and really understand every individual circumstance. We have witnessed a yearning in the marketplace for a high-touch model. That should be the industry standard, and we lead by example,” Titus says.
Bolstered by adding Valenti and Maley, The Schoff Group is poised for growth. The group will continue to bring its talents to clients across the country, while contributing to their local community.
“Apart from just growing our business, a big goal of ours is to become an even greater member of the community,” said Maley. “We want someone to read our names or see our faces and know they are in excellent hands. There’s no reason the talent of our team should be a well-kept secret! We would love to count everyone reading as clients in the near future, and we’re ready to start logging miles again.”
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The Schoff Group are Financial Advisors with UBS Financial Services Inc. a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC in 400 Linden Oaks, Rochester NY 14625. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of UBS Financial Services Inc. Neither UBS Financial Services Inc. nor its employees (including its Financial Advisors) provide tax or legal advice. You should consult with your legal counsel and/or your accountant or tax professional regarding the legal or tax implications of a particular suggestion, strategy or investment, including any estate planning strategies, before you invest or implement. As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, UBS Financial Services Inc. offers investment advisory services in its capacity as an SEC-registered investment adviser and brokerage services in its capacity as an SEC-registered broker-dealer. Investment advisory services and brokerage services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate arrangements. It is important that you understand the ways in which we conduct business, and that you carefully read the agreements and disclosures that we provide to you about the products or services we offer. For more information, please review client relationship summary provided at ubs.com/relationshipsummary, or ask your UBS Financial Advisor for a copy.