Tom Quinn, CFA, CPA
Chairman of the Board & Chief Financial Officer
Born in a small North Carolina town where he developed a strong work ethic early on by working in his father’s furniture store, Tom discovered an aptitude for systems engineering when he scored well on an early-day technology aptitude exam. A quick study for early-day computing systems, Tom earned a Masters in Systems Engineering through the GI Bill after completing his service in Vietnam. Using this springboard, Tom launched his professional career at Arthur Andersen in systems design and consulting, which paved the way for his future leadership as Chief Investment Officer of RJR Nabisco’s investment advisory subsidiary.
Combining his entrepreneurial upbringing, technical proficiency and investment expertise, Tom co-founded CornerCap in 1989 following the leveraged buy out of RJR Nabisco. Throughout his career, Tom has prioritized community service and remained close to his North Carolina roots. Tom holds multiple finance- and investment-related leadership roles within the Midtown Atlanta Rotary Club Foundation, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Episcopal Church Investment Group and the Alliance for Christian Media/Day1. Additionally, he is a Trustee and chairman of the investment committee of Barton College, where 40% of students today are the first in their family to seek a college degree – an initiative Tom is proud to support.
Education and Accreditation
- BS, Business (major), Math (minor) – Barton College
- MS, Industrial and Systems Engineering – Ohio University
- MBA – University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder
- Member, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Member, CFA Society Atlanta
- Member, CFA Institute
When you founded CornerCap, how did you set out to make it different from other wealth advisor firms?
Few things feel better than building a business from the basement up. But in doing so, business owners quickly realize that the pressure to become profitable can make concessions tempting. In founding CornerCap, Gene and I committed from day one that we would never allow profits to take priority over client service. While we could have grown more quickly and profited more rapidly by following a sales commission-based model, or charging product load fees as brokers do, we did not believe that those paths were in the best interest of our clients. Instead, we chose to grow one client at a time, bending over backwards to take the best care of each new client that we possibly could. For the “Client First” culture to be more than words, it must start at the start … of the business and of each client relationship. This Client First culture still permeates our firm today.
What inspired you to help people manage their wealth?
Initially, almost all of our clients were friends and family. These loved ones are busy with family, careers and their own lives. Financial planning and long-term investing are a language that most people do not understand. Warren Buffett said, “Investing is simple but not easy.” Because this is not easy and it is presented in a foreign language, a meaningful part of our trust relationship with the client is to protect them from themselves … from their own temptations. I find it to be a privilege and pleasure to help friends and family; and then to help their extended friends and family; and so on.
What was your first job, and how did it influence your ultimate career path?
While waiting to be drafted into the Army after college, I ran the night shift for the Imperial Tobacco Company computer operation. My experience in technology – from this very early-day version of computing to more sophisticated systems – has materially impacted my investment research and financial planning abilities.
What’s left to accomplish on your bucket list?
Over the last 30 years, we have built a team of truly excellent professionals. The two founders of the firm have transitioned over half of our ownership to most of these employees so that the firm can remain employee-owned and independent. At our current size, most firms are acquired by a larger entity – bank, larger advisor, large brokerage firm. When this happens, the economics are that everyone is a winner … except the clients. My #1 bucket list item is to avoid this damage to our clients and ensure that our firm remains 100% independent so that we can continue our purely Client First service model.
Why is it important that you understand your clients’ financial picture?
As GPS tells us, you cannot plan your optimal route without first knowing where you are going. If the purpose is to accomplish specific objectives for a client, the plan requires a clear picture of the starting position. Investing and financial planning are a team effort (client + advisor) requiring trust, full disclosure and a mutual understanding of the results expected by both parties.