“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Since 1948, Hefren-Tillotson, a privately-owned wealth management company founded in Pittsburgh, has been creating financial plans that turn client’s goals and wishes into reality.  

Hefren-Tillotson co-founder Willard J. “Bill” Tillotson had the vision to recognize that for clients to achieve their long-term financial goals, they needed a step-by-step, detailed plan. More than 35 years ahead of the competition, he developed the MASTERPLAN™, which provides clients with a comprehensive, written review of an individual’s financial goals and objectives. 

The MASTERPLAN was a stroke of financial genius and has contributed to Hefren-Tillotson’s longevity and success. When the company began 70 years ago, it had one location in the Benedum Trees Building and now has two offices in downtown Pittsburgh as well as locations in Butler, Greensburg, North Hills and South Hills. Hefren-Tillotson has expanded from 40 employees in the early 1980s to 250 and is now one of the oldest and largest full-service wealth management firms headquartered in Western Pennsylvania, managing over $12 billion in client assets. Hefren-Tillotson has clients in 42 states and numerous countries around the world. 

Mr. Craig A. Tillotson
Vice Chairman, Hefren-Tillotson

“Since 1960, we’ve been developing financial plans for clients. This was especially unusual in those days since most people had pension plans that were managed by their employers,” said Craig A. Tillotson, Vice Chairman, Hefren-Tillotson. His sister, Kim Tillotson Fleming, serves as Hefren-Tillotson’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer following their father and grandfather, Art Hefren, who founded the firm in 1948.  Their father joined the company in 1958. 

In 1978, Congress passed the Revenue Act, which allowed employers to sponsor 401(k) retirement saving plans for their employees whose tax-deferred contributions are invested at the employee’s direction into one or more funds in the plan. “When people began moving their retirements dollars into 401(k) plans, many of them didn’t know how to invest their money. We’ve never been taught in school how to manage money, but we’d already had decades of using the MASTERPLAN for our clients and were poised to help,” said Mr. Tillotson.  

“When you talk to clients, their greatest fear is running out of money in retirement; some fear that more than death,” said Mr. Tillotson. “The best way to avoid that is to develop a plan. It’s never too late to start planning, but the earlier you start, the better.”  

The first step in the MASTERPLAN is to meet with you. A Hefren-Tillotson advisor will get to know you, your goals, your beliefs about life, your ideas about money and the values you hold dear. Then your advisor will examine your unique situation and determine your short-and long-term needs. From there a financial plan is developed that is tailored for you. Hefren-Tillotson is a privately-held firm, free of conflicts of interest associated with proprietary products.  

“We love the opportunity to compete for a client’s business. I advise anyone who needs some help managing their money to come in, sit down and talk to us. Learn about the way we do things. Learn our philosophy, and we can determine if we’re a match,” said Mr. Tillotson. “Once we put a plan in place, 95 percent of it is staying the course and making slight adjustments periodically to get back on track.” 

Having a financial plan in place is a huge stress reliever, and today’s financial plans need to address aspects that weren’t such an issue in earlier times. “College costs have sky-rocketed, so that must be considered. Also, long-term care is a newer cost that must be factored into a financial plan. Years ago, families took care of their loved ones, but today we’re scattered, and we’re more independent. While family members may be willing to care for us, many of us don’t want to be dependent on them. We don’t want to burden them,” said Mr. Tillotson. 

“My grandfather, Art Hefren, always said, ‘Do what’s right for the client, and you’ll be fine.” Hefren-Tillotson embraces the time-tested values of respect for the individual, integrity in thought and action, teamwork through family-oriented culture and relentless commitment to excellence.  

“Part of what makes us different is our commitment to the community, which comes from the top down,” said Mr. Tillotson. “We’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity in Pittsburgh and have had 23 employees go build homes with them in Guatemala as well.” Hefren-Tillotson also supports numerous other charitable causes from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to the United Way to the Walk for Children’s Hospital.   

Hefren-Tillotson also believes in educating the public as well as children about financial matters and hosts numerous free, no-obligation seminars throughout the region as well as airing a weekly radio show “Your Money & You,” on Sundays at 9 a.m. on KDKA radio, which is hosted by James G. Meredith, CPA/PFS. Their website has a wealth of information from videos and blog posts to a weekly podcast called “Ask the Advisor.”  “Our Chief Investment Officer Donald Belt has developed a financial education curriculum for grade school children, and numerous people are using it,” said Mr. Tillotson.  

The company has received many awards and accolades, including being named the Best Place to Work in the Extra Large Company category three times since 2011 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. It has been honored by being included in the United Way Hall of Fame, receiving the Outstanding Performance Award from 2009 to 2018.  

“I believe our success comes from being a family. We consider our employees and clients to be part of that family. We treat everyone with deep respect and with the highest level of integrity, which is evident by how many long-term employees we have and the retention and stability of our clients,” said Mr. Tillotson. “We love to see people get started with a sound financial plan so that they can achieve the goals they have set.”   

For more information on how Hefren-Tillotson can help you develop a financial plan that achieves your financial objectives, visit: www.hefren.com. 

By Janice Lane Palko