This month, Matter Family Office is celebrating 30 years of helping families thrive. We spoke to Matter’s founder Kathy Lintz, about the firm’s unique approach to managing wealth, what she loves about working with families, and where she sees Matter — and the industry — going in the future.
What inspired you to start a firm to support successful families?
We have to go back in time a little to understand what was going on 30 years ago. The financial planning industry was very new. There were brokerage firms and trust companies that focused exclusively on investing assets. Virtually all firms sold products and charged sales commission. There was no place that did comprehensive, fee-only, financial planning and investment management in the way I thought would really support families and their human capital.
I call myself an “accidental entrepreneur,” because I didn’t go out saying “I have to start a company,” I just couldn’t find any place to do this work the way I thought it should be done. I started with 23 young athletes—all first-generation wealth creators who were in very complex family situations, with parents and siblings and children—and I quickly assessed that if we didn’t address the human capital in an integrated and intentional manner, these young families would not be successful.
How did the business evolve into the Matter Family Office of today?
We started getting more complex clients—multi-generational families, families of larger wealth, and business owners—and we were committed to maintaining our very human approach. As we grew, we hired talented team members, and with each new person, we grew in our capabilities to serve complicated families and provide more strategic, proactive partnership.
Even as we evolved into what’s now Matter, and our client base moved beyond professional athletes, the work has always been about how a family’s financial capital and human capital support and enhance each other. Unlike some firms that start in investment management and move to comprehensive planning, we’ve always been the hub of each family’s world. From day one, we were exceedingly focused on what each family needed holistically.
How is Matter’s approach to serving families different from other financial firms or even other family offices?
I think it’s a luxury that we’re 100% privately held by the people who do the work, with no outside capital. Our ownership is where it begins—it’s our competitive advantage. At Matter, we have always been on the same side of the table as our clients, so they never have to worry that we have an ulterior motive or anything but their best intentions and best outcomes as our objectives. We work with families we feel we can truly help, and we really invest in making our engagements successful. Our associates can take the time that’s needed to do the job really deeply and well, because we don’t have outside pressures from private equity or public markets that would be saying, “No, you can’t spend that kind of time on that family.”
At the core, we’re thought partners with Matter families. We work with clients who are very successful and very bright, and in order to be their trusted partner, we believe in being authentic and honest even when things are difficult. We are committed to a joint, positive outcome—their success is our success, our success is their success—and that builds mutual trust. It’s essential.
What do you enjoy most about Matter’s work with families?
First of all, I really like people. I get energy from spending time with interesting people, and I get to do that every day with the people at Matter, and the families we work with, and the people in our ecosystem. So I’m a really lucky person.
I also love to learn and to watch other people learn and grow. For me, the most fun part of working with families is when you can help individuals evolve, appreciate each other in new ways, and work together to achieve collective insights, joy, and success. And we get to do that at Matter. It’s very energizing, working with two and three generations in almost every family. We are on a journey with them, and we have opportunities to learn from each other along the way.
You’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, economically and financially, over the past three decades. How does Matter help families remain resilient through challenging times like the one we’re experiencing now?
A big lesson that I’ve learned is, it’s never about the money. Money is certainly a resource, but the resilience that families have, the learnings that come out of tough times, are actually much more valuable than any monetary reward. Helping families focus on what’s really important to them during tough times—which could be economic cycles, family challenges, business challenges, medical issues—and honing their ability to adjust and pivot, helps them handle adversity and maintain a positive outlook.
We have embedded that in Matter’s culture with our commitment to continuous learning. It’s a point of view: we are going to be lifetime learners, we are going to be open-minded, we are going to have a positive lens on the struggle and the journey. It’s part of who we are and who we hire at Matter, and part of what attracts families to us. I believe resilience is the decision to keep working and looking forward and learning. We may not be in control of COVID-19—we may not be in control of a lot of things—but we are in control of our point of view and our attitude.
Matter has really evolved and grown as a firm over the past 30 years. As you look forward, what core tenets do you think are most important to maintain over the next 30 years?
First and foremost, it’s remaining human and being kind to yourself, your team, and your clients—and treating everybody in our ecosystem as equally important. Many business models in the financial industry don’t have the ability to do that. In a publicly traded company, the shareholders come first. In my early days, I can honestly say I put the clients first too much—that’s a lesson I learned from my partners in the evolution of our company. We’ll always be client-centric, but it can’t be at the expense of the team, or of a sustainable, strong firm. You have to be intentional about achieving a balance of all stakeholders.
Secondly, I believe the focus on human capital—investing in skills development, communication, and good decision-making—is going to be a much bigger piece of what businesses do, not only in the financial industry but in all industries. It’s nascent, it’s beginning to gain traction, and we need to stay on top of it and continue to innovate and lead. It comes back to our alignment with the success of Matter families and integrating learning into our culture and the way we do business—it’s core to who we are at Matter.