LNWM & WAM: A Platform for Creating Shared Value in 2023 and Beyond
“Employees are our only asset…
Coming out of the pandemic, coming out of two mergers and the markets are really tumultuous right now, we decided to invest in our people.”
— LNWM CEO Kristen Bauer in Puget Sound Business Journal Q&A (Dec. 9, 2022)
In a recent interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, CEO Kristen Bauer kept returning the focus to employees, because as she said “employees are our only asset.” Nice tactical move, you might think, given a tight labor market and the fact that workers at post-merger companies are ripe for the picking. But the focus on employees is much more than words; it is what we actually practice as well as preach, especially since Kristen took over as CEO in spring 2020. And it is core to the mission of LNWM and our sister company Wetherby Asset Management (WAM) as we continue to merge in 2023 to create value for all our stakeholders: our clients, employees, owners, and local communities.
So what are the things that will allow us to create value for employees? Interestingly, they are the same things that allow us to create value for our clients as we help them preserve and grow their assets (financial and non-financial), often over many generations.
- Long-term Perspective. Our founders and majority owners, the Laird and Norton families, are big believers in the power of “patient capital” as opposed to short-termism and the tyrannic rule of quarterly profits. Same goes with WAM, whose founder and current managing director Deb Wetherby has always taken the long view. Without the pressure to maximize firm profits on a short-term basis, we have a much better chance of avoiding conflicting directives and workplace churn.
- Patience. We merged with WAM January 2022 and have since been methodically coming together for the benefit of our clients — and our employees. As Kristen said in her interview: “We took the difficult path, instead of integrating one firm into another. We’ve been going at what I call ‘the speed of trust.’ How can we build one-on-one relationships with each other?” So over the past year, we have had many opportunities to get to know each other at work and outside of work. And this has created the trust necessary for us to apply our combined skillset in 2023 to move forward as a stronger, more capable organization with a national presence (Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles).
- Humility. Wealth management is a practice, even for the most expert among us, who are wise enough to readily admit they don’t know everything. That humbleness at the top remains post-merger and allows for less experienced people to learn and grow as well as for us to work more effectively together. The “Community Agreements” which hang on our office corridors start with this: “Be generous and assume positive intentions.” This is followed by nine more rules of engagement that are critical for positive interactions not just at work but for any relationship.
- Diversity in Collaboration. Our clients come to us for unique solutions that can optimize and align their complex finances with their aspirations. To arrive at novel, customized strategies takes thinking on many different levels. A variety of in-house expertise must be applied, including input from people of different ages, backgrounds and experience that make it possible for us and our clients to see things from different perspectives.
- Co-mingled Ownership. We are majority owned by the Laird Norton families, who are also clients, and recently also by employees. Aligned in this combo are the interests of employees and owners to do fantastic work for clients.
The end result is that we are entering 2023 with a platform to create positive impact, be it by helping clients preserve, grow and use their wealth to make a difference in the world, to engaging and rewarding employees so they can grow professionally and personally, to giving back to our communities where we operate. That is what creating shared value looks like and we will keep making it happen in 2023.