Aspiriant Eyes Asia Market; Kochis Elected to Financial Planning Standards Board

Charles Paikert Contributing Editor New York City November 13, 2011

Aspiriant Eyes Asia Market; Kochis Elected to Financial Planning Standards Board

With offices in San Francisco, it was only natural for Apiriant "to look across the Pacific,” says Tim Kochis, principal and president of international ventures at the US wealth management firm.

With offices in San Francisco, “It’s only natural for us to look across the Pacific,” said Tim Kochis, principal and president of international ventures for Aspiriant, the US wealth management firm.

Kochis sees the growing wealth of the middle-class in China and India as an untapped market for independents like Aspiriant. “We feel we have as good a shot as anyone – and better than most,” Kochis said. “No one else is doing it. The big firms are there, of course, but no independents. They’re not even thinking about it.”

To be sure, Aspiriant’s Asian quest is still in an exploratory phase. Kochis, a co-founder of the firm who handed over the chief executive role to his Los Angeles-based partner Rob Francais last year, has both a keen interest in Asia and the time to travel there. He’s already made over two dozen trips to the Far East – his first being a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969, where he received a Purple Heart for wounds received in action while on patrol to ambush Viet Cong.

Since taking a five-month sabbatical beginning in late 2009, Kochis has traveled frequently to Asia, hired a Chinese student intern to help him with translation and worked with financial service professionals from China visiting the US. He was also chair of the International Advisory Panel for the Financial Planning Standards Board, China.

As a result of his efforts to help develop financial planning in Asia, yesterday Kochis was elected to a four-year term on the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB) board of directors. The board is the owner of the coveted CFP – Certified Financial Planner – designation. Kochis previously served on the board from 2003 to 2005, serving as chairperson in 2005.

Aspiriant seeking Asian partner

Aspiriant’s expertise and resources, Kochis argued, position the firm well to help service an emerging market of wealth creators in Asia. However, it’s unlikely that Aspiriant will open an office on the continent anytime soon, he added. More likely, Kochis explained, Aspiriant would look for “some kind of collaborative partnership with a firm or individual who is compatible with us.”

He points to Aspiriant’s achievements in the rich but fragmented US wealth market as cause for hope in Asia. “We only have a tiny share of the market here,” he said, “but we’re a success.”

Founded in 2008 as the result of a merger between Kochis Fitz in San Francisco and Quintile Wealth Management in Los Angeles, Aspiriant is, in fact, considered one of the best run wealth management firms in the country. It acquired Deloitte Investment Advisors last October, giving the firm new offices in Boston, New York, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, as well as nearly 800 clients and $7.5 billion in assets under management.

What’s more, said Francais, Aspiriant is determined to remain independent and has structured its ownership on an exchange of stock between the firm and its partners, with value designed to grow through performance, but without a public offering as an end game. The Deloitte acquisition is now in “mid-stream,” Francais said, and preliminary negotiations have begun to find the firm’s next “partner,” a process he expects to be completed in 12 to 18 months.

Kochis, now in his mid-60s, has also been one of the industry’s most recognized success stories. A fierce advocate for financial planning, he pioneered holistic practice methods at the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche and at Bank of America before founding Kochis Fitz in 1991. For his efforts, he was awarded the first Charles Schwab Impact Award for outstanding leadership in the independent advisory profession in 2006. And at the Financial Planning Association’s national conference in Denver last fall, Kochis was given the P Kemp Fain Jr award for “outstanding contributions” to the profession.

Kochis’ last act may be his best. “The opportunity in Asia is really big,” he said. “We don’t need to capture all of it. We want to put ourselves in position to benefit from the wave of opportunity coming at us.”

After all, he asked rhetorically: “How much share of the market in China and India do you need to be a big deal?”

The answer: “Not much!”


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