Northwest Trustee & Management Services began as a vision 35 years ago to bring compassionate trust and estate management services to individuals and families who are often experiencing profound needs. I am thankful for the journey that began in a small office in the basement of our home—I can still hear our three daughters' tiny feet pitter-pattering across the floor above me—to a large trust company licensed in three states, serving hundreds of families, and recognized as a regional leader in personalized trust and estate services. In a process that started several years ago, I am happy to announce that we are entering a new phase in our company and my life. In September of 2024, I will be stepping down from my duties at Northwest Trustee.

As I reflect on this transition, I would like to take you through the experiences that made Northwest Trustee what it is today. In the beginning… three of our earliest relationships included: a train hopping vagrant who had to check his gun at the front door of the Union Gospel Mission to sign documents, a long-time missionary from Bangladesh who trusted me with all her life savings, and a minor child who suffered a life-changing injury and grew into adulthood with high needs. 

These trusts, and others, were managed by me, as a sole proprietor, in which I was named personally as the trustee. Each of these trusts gave me great joy to take on and administer, as I was able to provide a solution that each client had struggled to find. This put us on the path to becoming experts in the field of complex family situations and unique assets. However, as we grew, we needed a structural change to better serve a larger and more diverse client base. It was then that we approached the Washington Department of Financial Institutions and asked to be put under their regulatory authority. There are several benefits to this, which include: our clients receiving regulatory oversight of our operations; there is continuity, in that the company is named as the fiduciary versus me, personally; and we now have a presence in Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Boise (licensed in all three states) and throughout the region. 

So, how did we become the largest, independent trustee in the Northwest, serving families all over the world? I acknowledge God’s hand of blessing and, furthermore, that we have been privileged to hire extraordinary team members. 

About a decade ago, our daughter, Lisa, and her husband, Greg, were working at a non-profit in Kenya to bring development relief to South Sudan, when my wife, Carole, and I visited them. On a safari in the Serengeti, while sitting around a campfire, we shook hands on a leadership transition idea for the company which resulted in a shift of ownership many years ago. As a former accountant for one of the largest accounting firms in the world and CEO of Northwest Trustee since 2018, Greg has brought management skills and new technology to the company that has greatly benefited our clients and allowed for our continued growth. He will continue to lead the company into the future, including moving to its large, new home office in the spring of 2024. 

There are two perspectives surrounding my transition. First, from the company standpoint, things will remain the same, including ownership, personnel, asset and account management, reporting, etc. The great service we have been known for will continue as expected. Second, from my standpoint, I will transfer the management of my accounts to other Trust Officers and will continue my business development efforts and staff training until September 2024. An asset that I will continue to contribute to the company (beyond September 2024) is my “crystallized knowledge” as a board member and advisor. 

So, next fall, Carole and I will enjoy having more time with each other, the family, and our precious grandkids to experience some of our favorite pastimes—hiking, biking, skiing, tennis, traveling and creating memories together.

In conclusion, this transition plan was incubated in Africa and will now come to fruition this fall. I could wax eloquent on all our accomplishments, but I’m most filled with joy when I reflect on the fact that our four core values—integrity, compassion, professionalism, and diligence— permeate everything we do. I have been honored and privileged to serve hundreds of our clients and professional advisors for over 35 years and I am confident that the company will continue to provide extraordinary trust and estate management services in the future. For those that have made this journey possible, I remain deeply grateful.

Sincerely, 

Stephen Trefts
President and Founder

Published January 2024