Doug Sherry has spent his entire career focused on one thing and one thing only—trusts. It’s a passion that has driven him through nearly three decades in the field and informed his unwavering commitment to provide those he serves with personalized attention and a comprehensive model that works. As a leader and a trusted authority in the industry, Doug has transformed an entire $400 million fiduciary business model with 50,000 personal trust accounts, pioneered multiple target operating models to increase operating efficiencies by more than 20%, and rewritten the policy and procedure for a regional banking institute that reduced audit and regulatory exam findings by over 50%.
Today, as president of Arden Trust Company, which specializes in trust and estate services, Doug brings his 29 years of expertise to lead a team of highly skilled professionals in delivering white-glove trustee services to high- and ultra-high-net-worth clients. “Taking care of our clients comes first, second, and third for every single team member, regardless of their role within the organization,” he says. Arden Trust’s low account load—70 per employee as opposed to the industry average of 200—enables their team to provide personalized attention for each client. Their unique business model sees them partner with financial advisors to provide trustee services while delegating investment responsibility to that referring advisor. Arden Trust’s services are available to all advisors from any firm. Currently, Doug and the Arden Trust team are working with over 50 financial advisory firms, including some of the world’s largest, with over 2,000 financial advisors. Their mission: not to compete with the advisors they work with, but rather to partner with the advisor to help serve their clients—and flourish in the process.
We spoke with Doug to learn more about Arden Trust, why they’re so different, and how a serendipitous event changed the course of his career.
You’ve served in leadership positions at several large banking institutions. What drew you to Arden Trust, Doug?
Arden Trust does what our competitors insincerely claim to do: focus on client service and organizational growth, which is something I’ve rarely seen in my career. We put our money where our mouth is and invest in trust personnel and a robust sales team to properly service our clients. This combination of strategies has permitted us to grow to a point of having critical mass, reducing our cost-per-relationship, and providing a direct advantage to our clients through more favorable pricing while still growing. We went from $600 million AUM to $9 billion AUM in the first 10 years and now are at just over $10 billion. I’m building out our sales team so that we can grow organically. We’ll double in size in the next seven years.
What compelled you to focus your entire career on trusts, specifically?
I began law school with the intent of specializing in criminal law. During my second year, I arrived on campus an hour before class to study and noticed a sign announcing a presentation by a recruiter from Boatmens First National Bank and Trust. I decided to sit in for a few minutes. After her 20-minute presentation, I was so fascinated by the trust business that I spent the next two hours asking questions. I missed my class that day. We stayed in touch for the next two years, and she recruited me to work for Boatmens in their personal trust tax department. I have thoroughly enjoyed personal trust ever since and cannot imagine doing anything else.
Arden Trust’s model is unique in the way you partner with financial advisors to benefit both them and their clients. Tell us about this.
The beauty of Arden Trust’s model is that financial advisors will continue managing their client’s money, even though it may be held in trust. This allows them to retain their clients’ entire portfolio instead of splitting it with another firm. Additionally, we’ve never met an advisor we couldn’t work with! We work with advisors at large wirehouses, independent advisors across several broker-dealers, and RIA firms. It doesn’t matter what platform they use. We can delegate investment authority to them while still meeting ours as the trustee. It’s a win/win/win situation.
Arden Trust specializes in trusts and estate services. How is this different from firms that offer this as part of their many financial services, and how does this benefit your clients?
We’re large enough to create efficiencies but not so large that you lose that small-firm, high-touch servicing. Because we delegate all investment management, we’re able to focus our attention on providing trustee services.
What do you enjoy most about your work, Doug?
People! I enjoy working with financial advisors, clients, and my team of trust professionals. This is a people business, and the people are the best part.
President — Arden Trust Company