Jimmy Crocker Helps Clients Plan for the Future

Jimmy Crocker Helps Clients Plan for the Future
Crocker taught wills and trust classes for 17 years at Birmingham School of Law and was named Professor of the Year numerous times. (Steve Lewis)

As head of Wealth Management since 2020, Jimmy Crocker oversees more than 100 trust employees serving Simmons’ entire six-state footprint with about $6 billion in assets under management. Crocker was previously executive vice president and director of trust at IberiaBank Corp. of Lafayette, Louisiana, where he worked for 10 years.

A University of Mississippi alumnus, Crocker holds a juris doctor from Birmingham School of Law and a master’s degree from the University of Alabama.

What are the most common questions Simmons Trust clients are asking in the current investment market, and what do you tell them?

Interestingly, even for clients with different goals, the most common questions center on preservation of capital and purchasing power. This is as you would expect in a year that has seen high inflation, rapidly increasing interest rates and concurrent double-digit declines in stocks, bonds and real estate. Clients want to know how to cushion their portfolios from the steep drops in the markets. They also want to know how to ensure their cash and short-term investments are benefiting from higher rates, and thus helping counter high inflation. And they want to know how the current market environment is impacting their long-term goals. We answer these questions as we always do, with an acknowledgement of the economic and market realities affecting our clients, with a focus on a beneficial perspective on what they want to accomplish and with the assurance that we are staying abreast of changing market conditions and managing their portfolios accordingly. For some clients, this means showing how we can indeed take advantage of higher rates for their cash and short-term investments. For other clients, this means taking advantage of market declines to help bolster the preservation of their long-term purchasing power. In up and down markets, we listen to our clients and show them how we can help them achieve their investment goals.

Do you see generational differences in how people invest?

Yes, and not only in how they invest, but to some extent in why they invest. With the proliferation of easily accessed investment advice, research and tools (both good and bad), along with the very low cost of accessing investments, younger generations may lean toward investing for themselves instead of hiring a professional. Older generations, who typically have more assets to manage and have experienced the difficulty of navigating volatile markets, may prefer the help of professional investors. In addition, there appears to be a broader societal acceptance in younger generations of investing for nonfinancial purposes, such as investing only in companies that align with their personal values or investing to create an impact on the world. As a professional money management firm, we must adapt to changing investor preferences. One thing we have done is to establish strategies specifically for investors who wish to emphasize environment, social and governance issues in their investment portfolios.

What common mistakes do people make in their retirement planning and how do you head those off?

Retirement is a major area of interest for many of our clients. Navigating it financially can be more complicated than it first appears. People can make mistakes regarding how much money is needed during retirement, how withdrawals are made and how to manage taxes and Social Security. Retirement planning can also include charitable giving strategies and intergenerational wealth transfers. We help our clients avoid common mistakes by listening to their concerns and helping them determine how well they are prepared for retirement. Updating their estate plan is often something that clients overlook. Whether you have the addition of children or grandchildren, have a descendent with special needs or have a change in your financial position that might impact your taxable estate, you will want to review and possibly update your estate plan. Reviewing and advising clients on their estate plan and helping them work through the structures based on their personal and business needs and working with an attorney to make changes as needed are added benefits our clients receive. We give them tools to help them understand the risk and opportunities involved, and we provide strategies to help ensure their retirement years are not stressful, but rather financially sound and enjoyable. 

What’s the best leadership lesson you have learned?

Know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Leadership is not being the smartest person in the room or having all the answers. Leaders inspire and leverage their teams’ talent to meet, exceed and overcome obstacles and/or challenges. Those obstacles and/or challenges may be a sales goal, recruiting talent or retaining key employees. Make it easy for your team to give you honest feedback. Promote an environment that fosters communication, one in which your team feels at ease providing honest feedback. Ask those team members who look at things with a critical eye what they think. It may be a little uncomfortable and you may not like what you hear, but it’s necessary. Always focus on the “why.”

What are the key goals of ensuring the good transfer of an estate? What pitfalls should you avoid?

Proper estate planning plays such a vital role in ensuring the good transfer of an estate. Not only do clients need a proper estate plan, but they need one that is crafted for them and their family dynamics. Trusts are a powerful estate planning tool that should be used. We discuss with our clients all aspects of estate planning and tax planning to educate them on the process and some options that might be available to them. This includes how assets are to be distributed, charitable giving, family structure, family dynamics, descendants with special needs, benefits of a corporate trustee, etc. Three big pitfalls that you should avoid and watch for are verifying that the attorney you choose to draft your estate plan has a focus in that area, that your assets are properly titled in your trust or there is a mechanism in place to transfer your assets upon your passing, and that you update your estate plan as needed. If you have high net worth that might impact your taxable estate, have a descendent with special needs or even have a blended family, you need to make sure your attorney specializes in that area and that the final estate plan truly outlines your wishes for distribution. When it comes to estate planning you need to verify that assets are properly transferred to your trust during your lifetime or there is some mechanism in place that will transfer your assets upon your passing. These are just three of the areas that Simmons Bank Private Wealth focuses on and really provides value to our clients: to help our clients get an estate plan in place by connecting them with the right people, verify that our clients know what their estate plan says, and verify that the way the estate plan is drafted outlines their wishes and that all assets (i.e., business interest, real property, brokerage accounts, bank accounts, retirements account, etc.) are connected to that estate plan in the proper way.

How might someone’s wealth management goals change over time, and how do you know when to change strategy?

A client’s wealth management goals may change dramatically over time. Clients can encounter unforeseen circumstances that necessitate higher expenditures than were expected. Clients can have inheritances that bring more freedom and choices. A client’s personal views on taxation may change as more personal wealth is accumulated. The purchase or sale of a business can really change a client’s goals, whether it is needing capital for a purchase of a company or more business interest or selling the business they spent their whole life building. A change in family structure or dynamics can have a big impact on their goals, like becoming a blended family, protecting government benefits provided to a descendent with special needs, and having a corporate trustee in place to minimize the family discord. Of course, as a client ages they are going to be more aware of their financial picture and goals for retirement and legacy planning. Good communication with our clients helps us see any changes and address them accordingly so our clients can be confident that their wealth management goals are met. We are grateful for the opportunity to be with our clients through each of these phases and help to provide them guidance on how each change may be impactful and when a new strategy may be needed.