Just a few weeks ago I was making a video with Tim with a half year update on SSGA. As always when filming together we had some good laughs. It is obviously a very sad moment indeed for me now to find myself writing about Tim after his sudden and unexpected death. Tim was a colleague to us all at SSGA and a friend to many and he will be missed.
But in line with what I know he would have wanted I am not going to dwell on all the sadness. Instead, I want to tell you about some positives.
Tim joined SSGA in 1987. At that time, the entire firm could comfortably be accommodated on one floor in one building in Boston. We were managing all of about $19bn (e16bn) and $11bn was for one client. I am glad to say they are still a client today. The next 17 years saw the firm grow in every direction, in size, geographically, through the market segments we serve, and in product diversity. Tim, himself started that international expansion by opening the London office at the beginning of the 1990s. That office is now running $180bn. And at the firmwide level this year saw SSGA break through the $1trn dollar mark to reach $1.2trn.
Today, SSGA manages money from nine investment centres around the world and has a network of supporting sales and client service offices. Tim led this expansion, first as chief operating officer, and then for the last three years as chairman and chief executive. You might imagine that he would have been pretty pleased with himself but Tim was a person who truly believed in the team and not the individual. With Tim it was always “we” and never “I”. That said though it really was a mighty achievement to take SSGA to the number one institutional manager spot where we are today.
There are many personal moments each of us who knew Tim can recall. As a golfer, Tim was a left hander with a most unusual curved drive, perfect for going round trees stuck inconveniently in the middle of the fairway. But one day, when playing with a colleague who always takes his dog with him round the course, Tim hit his drive right on the heel of the club and the ball rocketed off towards the undergrowth one foot above the ground and, you guessed, straight at our colleague’s dog. Sensing danger the dog leapt into the air just in time to catch the full force. Ever since that day that dog’s ears will turn down and he will run far away at the mere sight of a left hander approaching a ball. Most of our memories are thankfully much happier!
How best can SSgA remember Tim? At the reception after the funeral, Michael, one of Tim’s brothers, challenged us to take SSgA on to the next level. So the best memorial we can build to Tim is to keep SSgA up there as the world’s number one institutional manager and to increase the distance between us and our competition. And that’s what we are going to try to do.
Alan Brown is group chief investment officer, State Street Global Advisors