Michael F. Odar, CFA®

President

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2020 and the start of a new decade! As I sit at my desk writing my first article of the new year, the Kalamazoo office of Greenleaf Trust is relatively quiet. The hustle and bustle of wrapping up end of year matters ahead of year end deadlines has been replaced with a more composed orderly atmosphere. Phones do not ring as much, meetings are not scheduled one after another, there is time for more mindful conversations with different teammates, and opportunities exist to quietly get out a pen and pad of paper and think. I specifically enjoy coming into the office during the end of the holiday season as the activity slows down just enough to get organized for what’s next.

As I alluded to last month, diverse critical thoughts and candid discussions at our Advance led to the construction of a cohesive organizational plan for 2020 focused on four key themes: Workplace Culture, Purposeful Growth, Near Term Projects, and Longer Term Initiatives.

Workplace Culture continues to be one of the most important reasons teammates join Greenleaf Trust and want to spend their careers here serving clients. We strive to hire talented diverse people and provide them with a work environment that challenges, supports, equips, and multiplies their efforts through collaboration. The end result is an engaged team that is inspired to do great work for our clients. In 2020, our focus here will continue to be on talent development through close coaching relationships, building a more diverse and inclusive team, and making sure each team member feels a part of the Greenleaf family as we continue to grow.

Growth for the sake of growth is a fool’s game. Our growth strategy involves growing deeper and broader in our capabilities in order to serve existing and prospective clients better. If we do that successfully, we will be able to serve more clients. When it comes to Purposeful Growth in 2020, we are exploring new markets in Michigan to serve. Specifically, we are looking for talented new leadership in either Lansing, Ann Arbor, Midland, Holland, or St. Joseph. Finding the right talent in one of these new markets will determine which new market we enter first. New lines of service that our clients desire are being developed and opportunistic purchases of adjacent businesses that are culturally aligned are being considered.

We are also building on brand awareness through broader social media exposure and more prolific public relations efforts. We have a longer term next generation view here as well that acknowledges that future generations will most likely use our services very differently than current generations.

Finally, as part of our 2020 vision we have many projects that we are currently working on (near sighted) and just as many initiatives to start working on (far sighted). Workflow solutions, new space planning in every market we serve, business continuity planning and an evolution of how we interact with participants that use our retirement plan services are all near term projects. Longer term we continue to study industry trends, artificial intelligence implications, cloud expansion and investment platform extension. Whether near or long term, each project is focused on serving our clients more efficiently and effectively.

I am excited about the prospects that the new year has to offer. Each one of us at Greenleaf Trust looks forward to serving our clients to the best of our abilities and in new and innovative ways in 2020.