Meet John M. Dowd

Wealth Management Veteran Appointed CEO of Fiduciary Trust

06.24.2016 - John M. Dowd

John M. Dowd joined Fiduciary Trust in April 2016 as chief executive officer. He has nearly 30 years of leadership experience in wealth management and helping families achieve their financial goals. In this Fiduciary Trust Forum, John discusses the opportunities he sees ahead.

Q. What drew you to Fiduciary Trust?

JOHN: I’ve been a longtime admirer of the firm. Working in the industry for almost three decades, I am well aware of Fiduciary Trust’s rich history and strengths, both on the investment and trust leadership side. It has been the home of a number of notable chief investment officers; many of us in the industry over the years have avidly followed the firm’s market and investment insights.

I am very impressed by the long tenure of many of Fiduciary Trust’s professionals—over 18 years on average. That kind of longevity is no accident and I already know enough about the firm to say that this is the result of the culture of collegiality, transparency and collaboration that the leadership team here has fostered over the years.

Also very important to me is the fact that Fiduciary Trust has been so consistent in what it does—serving as a trusted wealth advisor and helping individuals and families grow, preserve and transfer their wealth across generations. Knowing what you’re good at, and sticking to it—rather than chasing every fad—is something I admire in a firm.

Needless to say, the capabilities of Fiduciary’s parent company, Franklin Templeton, made it much easier for me to take on this role. Franklin has a substantial global presence, and belonging to an organization with such a vast international footprint was an important consideration.

Q. You have been in the wealth management industry for almost 30 years and have seen it change dramatically. How have the needs of families changed over the years?

JOHN: With the broad adoption of technology across areas of life and commerce, clients of wealth management firms increasingly expect greater speed, consistency, security and transparency. They also expect tailored and expert counsel from wealth managers who can help them maintain their investment and wealth planning discipline, especially during periods of market turmoil.

I’ve also observed that clients increasingly expect investment options beyond traditional stock and bond portfolios. For example, there’s no question that interest in alternative investments and socially responsible investing has increased significantly. For that reason, clients need wealth managers to help them sort through their choices and balance the appeal of novelty and their financial goals.

I’ve also become aware of the rising need to bring the next generation into a family’s wealth management decisions. Now more than ever, families need to start the conversation about family wealth gradually, as early as possible in their kids’ lives. I like to think of inter-generational wealth transfer as a long-distance run—you’ll only pass the finish line successfully if you set yourself the right pace from an early start.

Q. What has been your key focus?

JOHN: I’ve certainly focused a lot on the changes in our clients’ needs. Just as important, I continue to think about what hasn’t changed in our business and probably never will. Good client service will never go out of fashion, nor will seasoned wealth management counsel, or the importance of the firm’s culture.

Fundamentally, clients continue to ask the same question: How can I build and protect my wealth? Fiduciary Trust focuses exclusively on answering that question, not allowing other pursuits or potential lines of business to distract us. This is a particularly important distinction for the firm, especially in light of an increasing number of other firms adopting a less active, one-size-fits-all approach.

Market corrections over the years have really reinforced this point, highlighting the need to balance each client’s need for growth and capital preservation. To achieve this goal, we want to continue to apply our integrated approach, bringing together specialized professionals to collaborate around the table on a client’s behalf. When we answer a client’s core question—how are you going to work with me and invest for me so I can achieve my goals—we know we have served the client well. In this way, providing excellent client service has always been, and will continue to be,a hallmark for me.

Q. Where do you see the most exciting opportunities at Fiduciary Trust?

JOHN: Fiduciary Trust certainly has a great footprint across the United States in some very fast-growing communities including California, Florida and the mid-Atlantic. I believe these areas can expand to be similar in size to our presence here in New York.

Internationally, I see some very exciting opportunities to grow alongside Franklin Templeton, leveraging their local expertise in many countries. From a global perspective, I see segments of the middle-class moving to the upper-class, particularly in Europe and Asia. I think our capabilities can apply seamlessly to this growing clientele.

Q. What does life as CEO of Fiduciary Trust look like outside of work?

JOHN: Very busy. I have two teenage daughters who are extremely active in sports as well as after-school activities. My wife is a landscape designer, and on weekends I enjoy helping her plant and garden.

Outside of my family, I’m very passionate about the arts in my community. I am currently a trustee of the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, New Jersey and I really enjoy supporting and participating in family art programs designed to serve everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. I love meeting creative people and helping foundations give back to the community I call home.