A Leader’s Legacy
Saying Farewell to Tom Wilkins
By Michael Hopper, CFP® CTFA
Left to right: Whittney Stauffer, Thomas W. Wilkins and Lesa Creveling.
By virtually all accounts, both Trust Company of Oklahoma (TCO) and our clients have prospered over the past 30 years. In 1990, TCO managed approximately $500 million in assets for clients. Today that number has grown to nearly $5 billion, an astonishing 900% increase in assets under our management. What has accounted for this tremendous success?
Certainly, many factors have played a role. Technological innovations allowed us to scale our operations and provide services to our clients which would have been unimaginable three decades ago. Furthermore, multiple bull markets helped increase portfolio values. But of all the possible variables, perhaps none has been more impactful to our growth or more importantly to our client experience than the appointment of Tom Wilkins as chief executive officer.
THIRTY YEARS SERVING TCO CLIENTS
Tom first joined TCO on January 1, 1990 as the chief financial officer and manager of operations. Less than a decade later, he was named CEO, succeeding company co-founder Paul Mindeman in the role. Over the ensuing years, Tom guided the company forward through both good and bad times. When he retired in July of this year, he left behind a company radically transformed by his leadership.
To be perfectly honest, Tom never quite matched the description of a stereotypical CEO. He was neither flashy, nor egotistical. He hated public speaking with a fiery passion, and instead preferred to leave the limelight to others.
His self-deprecating sense of humor would frequently catch others off guard. Regardless of who was asking, Tom often replied to the question “How are you?” with the retort, “Old, fat and grey.”
Above all else, Tom was humble, never taking credit personally for the achievements or successes of the company. In fact, were it not for his recent retirement, this article would have never made it through the editing process because Tom would have objected to the very notion that he might have had a greater impact on the bottom line than any other TCO employee.
For Tom, the ultimate focus was never on revenues or profitability. In his estimation, those results were merely byproducts of a much greater measure of success: having truly satisfied our clients. A colleague once described Tom’s approach as a “sacrosanct devotion” to client service. Although that flowery description might sound like hyperbole, even it fails to adequately capture Tom’s emphasis on delivering a superior experience to our clients and our community. He would often remind us, “Take care of your clients and everything else will take care of itself.”
Nowhere was Tom’s dedication to client service more evident than in his approach to hiring new employees. In fact, if you were to ask him about his greatest accomplishment as CEO, he would likely respond that it was recruiting the next generation of Trust Company of Oklahoma leadership. The expertise and industry experience we have on TCO’s team today are a direct result of Tom’s mindset: to hire the best professionals, give them the tools and resources they need to serve their clients, and then get out of their way.
Without a doubt, it will be difficult to truly replace Tom. Despite his retirement, however, the values he has instilled in all of us—of personal dedication to each of our clients—ensure that his legacy will carry on to the next generation of Trust Company of Oklahoma.
Tom, thank you for your 30 years of service. You will be missed.