Tim Kochis, giant of the US independent advice industry and ex-CEO of Aspiriant, has set himself a daunting task since retiring from the helm of his firm: to advance a legacy for independent financial planning services in the emerging world.
“I recently stepped out of the CEO [role] to make way for younger guys and I’ve moved into a role of trying to carry the banner of independent wealth management services to the developing world, and particularly to Asia,” Kochis tells Family Wealth Report.
And that’s a challenge because the market in Asia is nowhere near as mature as the one in the US, and even in the US many firms still grapple with communicating independence and value effectively. Asia, meanwhile, is “a lot like the US 30 to 40 years ago, when I began,” says Kochis. “I’d like to show small firms how they can emulate successful firms in the US.”
But emerging markets can’t necessarily bypass the years it took the US wealth management industry to reach its current stage, where independence appears to be really taking hold. “There’s a certain amount of evolutionary process that has to be gone through – but there are templates, there are models,” says Kochis.
There is a theory for this in development studies: “leapfrogging”. For example, there was no need for African countries to develop a fixed line telephone network – the continent moved straight and quickly to mobile communications. The lack of legacy systems can make the adoption of new models easier.
“It’s always going to be a chicken and egg thing – is it market demand or supply?” says Kochis. “It’s more or less simultaneously.” At the moment, independent wealth management “may not be a robust model” in Asia, he says, but he thinks “indigenous firms in Asia are going to follow the model.”
“I just want to help them along as a one-man consulting firm,” he adds.
As only someone who is comfortable with their success can be, Kochis makes no pretense that Kochis Global is a big operation. However, nor is he falsely modest, jokingly saying: “Many people in China consider me the godfather of financial planning…I can command some attention to the opportunity.”