Tuesdays with T4A: Scott Kaspick (12/03/13)

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Scott Kaspick
Co-founder | Kaspick & Company
Scott was the co-founder and Chairman of Kaspick & Company, the nation’s leading provider of planned gift investment, administration and program support services to charities nationwide. Kaspick & Company has offices in Redwood Shores, California and Boston, Massachusetts and manages over $6 billion of assets for clients, primarily for planned gifts, but also for small endowments and individuals. Scott’s role included advising clients on investment management and other related issues and leading the strategic planning effort for the firm. On October 1, 2006 the firm became a separate operating division of TIAA-CREF. Prior to founding Kaspick & Company, Scott was Associate Treasurer at Stanford University and a member of the University’s endowment management team from 1983-1989. He has a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Sacramento and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Scott lives in Menlo Park, California with his wife Susan Termohlen.

Where did you grow up, and what do you remember most about it?
My boyhood home was Tyrone, PA, a small paper mill town near Penn State. However, when I was ten, we moved to various Army locations including Georgia for a year, the Loire Valley in France for  four years and then Pt. Reyes Station in California for high school. Each place was quite different. Common denominators were school, sports and making new friends.
What was your first job?
I had a couple part-time jobs in high school including writing a student column for the Pt. Reyes Light before it won the Pulitzer Prize. During college I worked full time for the state of CA, manually filing arrest dispositions for the State Department of Justice, then as a fingerprint analyst, and finally working for the CA State Assembly printing constituent newsletters. My first job out of college was as a budget analyst for the state.
What is your first political memory?
Living in France in the early 1960’s we did not have TV, but my earliest political awareness was of the Kennedy/Nixon debates, the Bay of Pigs, the space race and particularly the Cuban missile crisis. We returned from France in 1963 and I clearly remember the images from the Kennedy assassination.
What is your favorite book?
I have lots of favorite books, but my most influential book was Paul Samuelson’s Economics text. I was a political science major but found economics so fascinating (partly because it answered so many questions I had about the world) that I added a second major in economics.
Kaspick & Company, which you founded in 1989 and sold to TIAA-CREF in 2006, specializes in the management and administration of planned gifts! How did you decide to enter such a niche financial services market? How were you able to be so successful?
In business school, a paper I wrote about portfolio management for individuals led to my being hired as a staff member for the Stanford endowment. One of the challenges I was given was to determine how to make the shift to the modern portfolio theory that we were taking for the endowment, for Stanford’s planned gifts as well. I quickly realized that for most non-profits and for most banks (which had most of the market share for investing and administering planned gifts), these assets were managed quite inefficiently because they were complex and most of their focus was on the larger endowments. It was fortuitous that desktop computers, Schwab’s mutual fund marketplace and Advent’s portfolio management software, all came together as I was looking at this issue in the mid ’80s.

After I built a process and a record, Stanford’s board approved letting me do a low-tech spin off and create a company to manage these assets for Stanford and take on other institutions. Success came through improved design, hard work, lucky hires, a fierce focus on client needs, and the fact that Susan (my wife and fellow T4A.org Board member) was a tax lawyer who was willing and able to create our trust administration capability from scratch. Today the company is the largest manager of these assets for non-profit trustees in the country.

You were in the Army ROTC during your time at Berkeley and served as a reserve Army Marine Engineer. How did Army Basic Training and your time on the tug boat prepare you for the business world?
Actually I got little time on the water as I was quickly moved to focusing on the training requirements for the company. Army training isn’t something you enjoy when going through it, but it provided confidence, working in teams and leadership skills.
Who are your role models and why?
My life has been significantly affected by many people along the way: scoutmaster, minister, teacher, professor, advisor. My mental role model is a blend of what all of these people gave me.
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
My responsibility is to pay attention, try to sort out the facts from the propaganda, talk to people and support the ideas I believe in.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
We have lost most of our true statesmen and stateswomen in both political parties as ideology and partisanship have come to rule the day. Elected officials require constant fundraising which is fulfilled by entrenched monied interests, gerrymandering results in candidates less open to compromise, the constant drum beat of biased non-traditional press allows people to only hear one side of issues. Most of the issues we face have common-sense solutions but the political environment keeps us from getting there. I believe that people are getting pretty fed up with their government and will eventually demand a fix either through voices or votes. It doesn’t seem likely for solutions to come from the parties themselves.
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
I believe this is true for the reasons I noted just above. Young adults are most at risk for the results if our issues are not addressed. They are energetic and practical. They see issues as problems to solve, not political issues.
What is your favorite journey?
My personal journey.
If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?
A philosopher king.
What is your proudest moment?
Seeing my sons, each in their own way, take charge of their lives.
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