New BOKF Officer Sees Opportunities for Division Growth

BOK Financial Corp.’s best opportunities for growing its wealth management units come through its regional strength in private financial services and introducing its fund management subsidiary into the national arena, BOKF’s newest executive vice president said.
Tulsa-based BOKF this month announced banking veteran Barron D. Beal will lead its effort to build its wealth management business throughout all BOKF markets in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Beal previously worked for almost two decades with JPMorgan Chase and its predecessors.
“If I were to say what the two best opportunities that I saw coming into the organization were, No. 1 was the chance to leverage our strength in the private financial services space geographically, and No. 2 was to take the financial track record of AXIA to a national distribution,” Beal said.
AXIA Investment Management is the former BOKF fund management subsidiary BOk Investment Advisors, which was rebranded in 2006 to make it more attractive to institutional and individual investors. In September, AXIA opened an office in New Jersey, outside the BOKF footprint.
“We took some of the first steps in January of getting (AXIA) on some of the national mutual fund platforms,” Beal said. “Through 2007, we will be pulling together a game plan really to distribute it – what we have done so effectively, in particular in the income space – on a national basis.”
AXIA manages $5.7 billion in assets and also provides research and investment recommendations for another $3.7 billion of institutional and individual equity and fixed-income assets managed independently by BOKF and its subsidiaries.
In 2005, Lipper Analytical Services ranked AXIA’s AP Intermediate Bond Fund No. 1 among 149 other short-intermediate, investment-grade, fixed income funds. The fund – competing against well-known fund families – beat the peer group average by 165 basis points. The second fund in the category was a distant 35 basis points behind.
For BOKF, which has previously limited its aggressive growth to the region, a move into the national market would appear to be a new target for the financial services giant.
“I would say so,” Beal said. “That’s definitely been a direction the firm has been headed in the past six months and an area of opportunity that I see to be the greatest for the firm as a whole.”
“The chance to share that investment management performance beyond our footprint – it’s a fabulous opportunity for us,” he said.
Beal’s initial focus will remain to develop a strong wealth management presence in BOKF’s existing markets outside of Oklahoma, as well as to integrate businesses in the Wealth Management division to create a world-class financial services platform to serve the affluent through BOKF’s Private Financial Services group, BOKF announced. In addition, he is responsible for overseeing the growth of BOKF’s full services broker-dealer, the American Performance Funds (BOKF’s family of mutual funds), capital markets, institutional investment management, corporate trust and retirement and institutional trust services.
The wealth management division of BOKF has more than $30 billion under management, and accounted for 18 percent, or $156 million, of its revenue in 2006.
Beal sees the potential for strong growth in revenue.
“I would like to see us grow at least at a 15 percent clip, which would allow us to nearly double the revenue over a five-year time frame,” he said. “Certainly within the Private Financial Services space, that is very achievable.”
“We have some great success in what we call our Financial Risk Management group, which is largely comprised of oil and gas trading while hedging,” Beal said. “But what is lesser known is we have expanded into hedging on the equity side. That could be a strong opportunity for us.”
In addition to the performance of its products, Beal credits the success of BOKF to its focus on its clients.
When he was considering a move to BOKF, Beal’s saw “a well capitalized firm that was doing a lot of things very well,” he said, “but the thing that was most attractive to me – I really believe that the firm provides superior service to its client base, has a fabulous product lineup and its model, being one that drives local decision making, really positions you to compete extremely effectively against larger institutions.”
He said that gives BOKF an advantage in its markets.
“From a competitive landscape in markets such as Texas and Arizona, some of the larger institutions are challenged right now with their internal focus,” Beal said. “I think that presents a great opportunity for us when we have what I believe to be a competitive advantage. With an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to make decisions at the local market, I really believe you can come in and be more competitive and provide a higher level of product and service to the client base than what you might expect to get from the larger institutions.”

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