Do you remember 1998? Saving Private Ryan premiered, but Titanic dominated the Oscars, Google was founded, the first Apple iMac came out, the Euro became the common currency of Europe, the last episode of Seinfeld aired, Frank Sinatra passed away, and the average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.06.

Oh, and Greenleaf Trust received its charter from the State of Michigan in May and opened its doors on July 6 of that year with five teammates.

At its core our business is and should be relationship focused. As national banks acquired regional banks and regional banks acquired community banks in the mid 90s, Bill Johnston saw the need for a holistic wealth management firm with fiduciary expertise to serve from generation to generation. It needed to be structured to remain independent in perpetuity and do so without any conflicts of interest like proprietary products. We would hire really talented people and create a team-based culture that would engage and inspire them and where they could be themselves. If successful, our clients would benefit.

“What we wanted to do was create an institution that was going to be locally owned and last for generations where grantors of trusts and beneficiaries of those trusts wouldn’t have to worry about who was going to be the next owner of the bank that was providing trust services for them.” That quote from Bill Johnston, our founder, was included in an article published in the Kalamazoo Gazette on August 16, 1998.

Our first office was on the northeast corner of Westnedge and South streets in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It used to be an old dress shop. Our founding teammate alongside Bill was Ron Kilgore who served as our Chief Executive Officer for 24 years before honoring me with the role in early 2022.

Originally, we had a sibling company, Greenleaf Asset Management, which was a wealth management firm started by our founder in 1991, and where I started in 1999 as a Junior Research Analyst. In 2002 with a combined total of 22 teammates, we merged Greenleaf Asset Management and Greenleaf Trust. When we moved into our Kalamazoo corporate headquarters at 211 South Rose Street in January 2008 we had grown to 57 teammates. Today, we have 185 teammates and more than a third of them are new since the beginning of 2020.

Our growth over the last 25 years has always been purposeful and will continue to be moving forward. We started with a handful of clients and less than $100 million in assets under advisement. We now serve almost 1,300 clients and have assets under advisement nearing $18 billion. Our Michigan offices outside Kalamazoo include Birmingham (June 2010), Traverse City (February 2014), Grand Rapids (October 2016), Petoskey/Bay Harbor (June 2018), and Midland (May 2022). We also opened Greenleaf Trust Delaware, a separate bank, in January 2018.

I am extremely proud at what we have built as a team over the years. I also believe we are successful from the sole perspective that our clients are benefitting. Happy 25th anniversary Greenleaf Trust! Cheers to many more.