Update from Jeff Thomasson, CEO and Managing Director
Dear Oxford Friends,
It has been a long time since I last reached out to each of you to share some of my musings on a variety of topics I think you might be interested in as we approach the end of 2021.
One of the most frequent questions I get during my weekly travels to many of the states in which we serve is, “How is Oxford doing?” The answer is quite simply that we are doing well. Actually, really well! We are having a delightful time serving our clients and our culture at the firm is perhaps the best it has ever been in Oxford’s 40 years. We have worked tirelessly at getting better and better at what we do and how we do it and we have listened to our colleagues’ great ideas on how to better serve our clients. Our Managing Directors have been traveling about every week to the almost 40 states in which we serve and our story seems to be resonating quite well within the advisor community, to the new prospective clients we talk with and to those that have become clients in the last two to three years (including during the COVID pandemic). Folks like working with “owners” of the firm as opposed to the typical “retail” private banks and brokerage firms who are typically just in asset gathering mode to meet their earnings per share or quotas. This is especially so given that we do not participate in sponsor fees, commissions, spreads, kickbacks and such…our Oxford friends get it.
In a couple of weeks we will be hosting our first Christmas and Holiday party in two years, and I could not be more excited to get everyone together to celebrate the blessings the firm has received over the last couple of years. It is always the highlight of the year with lots of smiles and sharing special memories amongst our great Oxford Team. This year we will also be offering our congratulations to Bob Schaefer and Debbi Bennett who will be retiring at the end of December after being at the firm for 27 years. They both have been great leaders of the organization and Oxford would not be what it is today without their contributions!
In regard to COVID, we are pretty much in the office full-time, except for those associates doing the hybrid thing, which we are okay with. It is a new era and we are going with the flow, happy that we have been able to keep our team intact. In addition, many new associates have joined us, creating the most awesome team we could ever ask for. Further, out of about 180 colleagues, all have made the decision to be vaccinated except for a very few that have a medical or religious reason for not doing so. Thankfully, we have been able to provide an extremely safe environment for our folks.
Regarding our firm’s finances, we are having a record year after last year’s record year and it has afforded us the luxury to easily provide for the succession of our shareholders and add new shareholders by using our internal working capital. Our succession of key players has continued with tremendous success due to our Oxford Brand, and the fact that our firm’s voting shares are in a Delaware Dynasty Trust that assures the firm is privately owned by the Partners of the firm indefinitely. Our associates and clients do not have to worry about Oxford being sold to a private equity roll up due to the exasperating prices that are being offered by competitors of ours across the country. You get it.
Also, our client retention rate has been almost 100% the last few years. This is the number one data point used to validate that our Oxford Brand is confirmed in the eyes of the advisors that introduce us to their clients, and to our clients who vote with their fees to us each and every year.
One of the key drivers of our current business model for existing clients and new prospective clients is our Aspirational Solutions. This part of our brand has been a real crowd pleaser and significantly juiced many of our clients returns over their long-only equity accounts and their bond accounts (that are in the low single digit range). With the arrival of five new awesome members on our Oxford Investment Fellows (brought on by Bo Ramsey, our Chief Investment Officer) the team has been searching high and low through almost 1000 different Aspirational Solutions per year. Of course, we are cheering them on!
With regard to “how our clients are doing,” the answer, from our point of view, seems to be “awesome.” Of course, there is usually a little noise in every family’s goings on, however, for the most part they are all doing very well. Given the markets and their businesses and their portfolios and the financial/estate planning they have engaged in, they are routinely meeting and exceeding their financial and estate planning goals. We are truly happy for them!
Perhaps the second most frequent question we get is, “How is the economy doing?” Given everything that is happening, my point of view is that it is DIFFERENT this time, but it is just a new different and not a reason to be concerned, given our clientele. However, for the other 99% of the nation’s population, there is a reason to be concerned. The inflation issue is NOT transitory. It is real. Inflation is going to get worse and it will stay worse. This is not a political comment, it is a math comment. Given the chip shortage, the oil prices, the grocery store prices, the gas pump prices, the supply chain concerns, the trucking logistics and the like, it is going to take 3-5 years for us to work our way out of these issues. These issues cannot be made “normal” again just by flipping a switch. It is going to take time for us to get through this. For our clients, given their financial significance, it will largely go unnoticed and, in many cases, their portfolios will benefit from these matters. However, for the middle/lower class in this country that do not have significant portfolios, we worry about the impact these economic bumps will have on their financial stability over time. Of course, this is just one person’s opinion and everyone has one.
The third most frequent question we receive is, “What is going to happen to interest rates?” One person’s view (mine) is that they are going to go up. Perhaps significantly higher. With the eventual reduction of bond purchases by the Fed, the passage of the recent infrastructure bill and the inherent inflation that was mentioned above, ten-year treasuries have no where to go but up. Given the mathematical notion that everything regresses to the mean, we are in for much higher interest rates over the next couple/few years. If you have not locked in your business and residential credit desires, I suggest you do so sooner than later. Sometime soon, the banks are going to get out of the business of giving money away (which they will be happy to do) and move their interest rate spreads to a more traditional level. Get ready! And, know that you heard it here.
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank each one of you for your friendship and your business, and for helping us continue to serve each of you and our various constituents over the last 40 years! Extra special thanks to those of you who have introduced your friends and clients to Oxford; we cannot even begin to thank you enough! The other day, I was doing the math and determined that over the last 40 years our firm has grown by 20% per year compounded. As you know, when you look at this kind of scale (we have grown to nearly $30 billion in assets under advisement**) it could not have happened without you believing that Oxford is comprised of some really smart, thoughtful and likable colleagues. It is our desire to DO WHAT WE SAY WE DO, and we truly appreciate each of you!
Enjoy the holidays with your family, my friends! In the meantime, if there is anything I can do for you personally, please feel free to reach out to me!
Jeffrey H. Thomasson, MBA, CFP®
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer