It’s hard to believe but the little company we started in a historic home on the corner of South and Westnedge streets in Kalamazoo will be 24 years old this month. In May of 1998 we received our charter to become one of Michigan’s first trust only banks open to the public and in July of that same year we opened our doors with six teammates. Amazing how time flies.

The founding vision for Greenleaf Trust was to create a fiduciary that put the client first and foremost with no conflicts of interest. We would align our company with our clients’ wants, needs, and desires. We would find really talented people and create a workplace culture that would be engaging and inspiring to them. We would serve generation to generation because our ownership structure prohibited us from being bought or sold. Teamwork, honest and honorable, continuous improvement, and fiduciary excellence would also be foundational core values. The client would be first, the team second, and the shareholders last.

In our “Preliminary Budget Plan” for 1999 we hoped to have $1 billion in assets and just over $700,000 in revenue by the end of the year. The “lag effect” between winning new business and fee collection may have impacted our success though with those goals. At the time, from the date that new client transfer agreements were signed, to when fees were actually billed was six months. Today we have over $15 billion in assets under advisement and our asset transfer goal is under 30 days.

I joined Greenleaf Asset Management in February of 1999 as a Junior Research Analyst. I actually answered a blind ad in the classified section of the Kalamazoo Gazette Sunday edition to become teammate number seven. I still have the ad and its text still holds true – “We are an equal opportunity employer that expects our team to volunteer in our community. This is a career path opportunity, not a job. If you know the difference, understand that this challenge is chess and not checkers and want a chance to work with a great team, please do the following.”

Greenleaf Asset Management was a registered investment advisor (RIA) firm that originated at Kalamazoo Investment Group in 1991. Our office that we shared with three other businesses was in Parkview Hills in Kalamazoo. As our market told us that they wanted and expected their trust bank to manage their wealth, we officially merged Greenleaf Asset Management and Greenleaf Trust in 2002 and became one company with 22 teammates.

Our growth over the last 24 years has been purposeful. In addition to our six Michigan offices in Kalamazoo, Birmingham, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Petoskey, and Midland, we opened the doors to Greenleaf Trust Delaware in 2018. We now have 167 teammates in those offices serving more than 1,200 Family Office, Institutional, Personal Trust, and Retirement Plan Services clients.

Reflecting on the last 24 years, I could not be more proud of what we have accomplished for our clients, our team, and our communities. Happy Birthday Greenleaf Trust!