Interview | Jeannette Owen Roegge | Chief Fiduciary Officer

Chevy Chase Trust is a Fiduciary. Here’s What Sets Us Apart.

In this short interview, Chief Fiduciary Officer Jeanette Owen Roegge highlights what makes our fiduciary services and mindset stand out.


What does the firm’s status as a fiduciary mean?

I like to think of it in terms of big “F”, little “f.” Little “f” is that as registered investment advisors, we have a fiduciary duty to act in our clients’ best interests regardless of how it may affect our bottom line. On top of that, we also have trust powers, which means we can also serve as a big “F” Fiduciary by working as a trustee or executor.


It’s not uncommon for a family member to serve as a trustee or executor. What’s the advantage for clients of having Chevy Chase Trust serve in this role?

When a client invests with us, the entire company is at their disposal. The fiduciary services team works very closely with the estate planning team, the financial planning team, relationship managers and portfolio managers. We’re really an integrated part of the clients’ team. It allows for much more efficiency, both in timing and carrying out clients’ wishes, and from a tax standpoint.


Don’t other firms also have trust powers? What makes Chevy Chase Trust unique?

Some other institutions do have trust powers. What makes us unique is how integrated into the client’s team we become. Having team members offsite or outsourcing services as is done at many other, larger firms creates a lot of inefficiencies that slow down the decision-making process. We don’t think it serves our clients as well. It’s the cost, the time, the delay of getting everything correct. It can be a real hassle. We proactively reach out to our clients’ outside advisors and take ownership of many different issues that a larger firm might not take on. Our clients really appreciate this. They feel a sense of relief not having to stay on top of all of the different pieces because we are doing it for them. It gives our clients peace of mind.


Can you provide some examples of these extra steps you take?

Certainly. One of the things clients appreciate is the education, explanation and time we take so that clients and their beneficiaries understand all aspects of an estate plan, and I think that’s something you don’t find anywhere else. For example, I had one client who was considering naming us as a trustee on three different trusts. I took the approach of “Let’s see if this works for you.” I was honest about all the pros and cons of a corporate trustee, including fees, and was open to the possibility that it might not be the right move for the client at that time. In the end, we ultimately decided it made sense for us to be trustee for two of the trusts and we could wait on the third one due to a variety of considerations.

In addition, clients have direct access to our decision-makers because they’re all in house, which means we can also make decisions very quickly. Clients can also choose whom they prefer to communicate with at the firm. The advice and attention that we give is very individualized. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, we also work very closely with clients’ outside advisors, such as lawyers, sharing information and collaborating. Within the client’s team of advisors, we do the heavy lifting, like organizing and running joint meetings. I just did this recently for a client, where all of his advisors came together to share performance data, look through their trusts and develop a comprehensive plan for their various investments, trusts and estate planning vehicles. We do all this coordination with outside advisors because we believe it delivers a better result for our clients.


Setting up trusts and handling estate plans can be a complicated, emotional process. How do you navigate intrafamily dynamics and information sharing?

It’s a really fine line. You need to be careful that not only are you sharing the right information but that you’re also keeping the confidences that need to be maintained, particularly when dealing with multigenerational families. Wealth transfer and estate plans involve incredibly sensitive topics.  We spend a lot of time anticipating the impact of planning decisions on family relationships. We call ourselves “Switzerland”, in that we can often defuse emotionally charged situations by serving as an objective advisor. Part of the reason for that is that our clients trust that we’re being transparent and fair.  Beneficiaries have access to the same information and analysis.


You mentioned earlier that your clients really value the individualized attention you provide. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Of course. We spend a lot of time communicating directly with clients, making sure they understand all aspects of their investments and trusts. We really dig down, condensing complex information and talking it through with clients to ensure they understand why we’re making each recommendation or decision. For example, we make sure we have all the information about all our clients’ assets on a quarterly basis, including those that might be outside our firm. Then we distill it into an easy-to-understand, one-page spreadsheet. Another example is how we illustrate the practicalities of what happens when one of the spouses dies.  We don’t speak in generalities but instead in detailed specifics about their assets and how exactly the assets will be passed to the surviving spouse. It’s an invaluable service our clients greatly appreciate. We like to say that our clients have the whole firm at their disposal, and that’s truly the case. You’re not just another client here, and you’re not going to get lost in the shuffle. You’ve got an entire team of experts that intimately know your financial situation and are willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to help ensure that your individualized goals can be met. We believe that this connectivity creates opportunity for clients.


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