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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 17, 2022 5 months ago

Trust firm bucks office shrinking trend, more than doubles office space with $5M investment

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Caldwell Trust Co. recently moved into an 8,000-square-foot space.
by: Amanda Postma Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Forget work from home and office contraction. Venice-based Caldwell Trust Co., which handles some $1.4 billion in assets, is going in the opposite direction: it recently moved from 3,000 square feet of space to 8,000 — an investment of more than $5 million. 

“We ran out of space,” CEO and President R. G. “Kelly” Caldwell Jr. says. “We didn’t have enough conference rooms to meet with people. We were having to use conference rooms for offices.”

In February 2020, the independent trust company closed on the former Cain/Wilson Building at 27 S. Orange Ave. and the adjacent parking lot in downtown Sarasota for $3.35 million. The building is 10,000-square-feet, with 2,000 square feet being a portico. The remodel came out at about $2 million, roughly 10% over budget and several months longer than expected. 

While a new Sarasota home for the company, Kelly Caldwell is well familiar with the property. “When we moved our office to Downtown Sarasota 15 years ago, this was the building that I said, ‘That’s a trust building,’” he says. “We had our eyes on this building for a long time.”

The company has also been overseeing client assets for a long time, dating back to when it was founded, in 1993. The company offers a full range of fiduciary services to individuals including serving as trustee, custodian and investment advisor, financial manager, and personal representative. It also offers 401(k) and 403(b) qualified retirement plans to companies. The firm has grown significantly, too, from managing $900 million in assets around the end of 2018 to $1.5 billion in assets under management at the end of 2021. That's a 66.66% increase. Currently, Caldwell Trust is slightly off that track at $1.4 billion assets. 

The dip is partially attributable to the recent marker roller coaster ride, an element Caldwell and his team address often with clients. “I have to remind people there’s been volatility in every aspect of the market,” he says. “We had almost a decade of what I call a low, below normal interest rate market. Interest rates are rising back to normal levels, but coming from zero is a massive increase in interest rates. But it isn’t abnormal.

“The market is telling you, the world’s not coming to an end.”

Caldwell says there are quite a few outside influences, like the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 pandemic, that have been adding volatility to the market. But once those crises have ended, volatility, he predicts, will also leave the market. “Our expectation with clients is that the latter half of this year into next year will be better than the first half of this year,” he says.

He adds that Florida stands to be more resilient than the country at large, with its open for business mindset. “Irrespective of what’s happening across the United States," he says, "even if there’s an economic slowdown, Florida will be benefiting from this for years to come.

“When people come here, they bring their wealth,” he adds. “Our growth projections are that people are going to continue to come. We’re continuing to grow.”

That includes the company's new Sarasota office. 

Currently, the new office employs 14-15 team members with the space to grow, which could happen sooner rather than later. The company has 35 employees in total, but Caldwell says he’s continually seeking to hire more people.  

As an essential business during the pandemic, the company never closed the office. Office interactions were limited, but Caldwell Trust continued to operate. 

One area that changed was the six-to-seven-member IT department that began working from home during the pandemic and has not stopped since. Caldwell believes that will continue as a permanent change as production has remained steady, if not increased a bit. 

Despite that, Caldwell says the office locations will continue to flourish for the firm because it’s a good place to host clients. 

Original construction of the Cain/Wilson Building provided space for five stores. With the renovations, the building features eight offices, three conference rooms and a boardroom. Exterior renovations also included installing new hurricane-proof windows, upgrading the front doors and enhancing the brick facade. The remodeling team included Nokomis-based contractors Eric DeVaughn and Sam Green of S&E Renovations Inc., Holly Logan of HV Logan Design LLC in Sarasota and Steve Hazeltine of Hazeltine Nursery, Port Charlotte. 

In 2015, the Caldwell Trust built an 11,500-square-foot headquarters at 1400 Center Road in Venice. It has maintained a Sarasota presence since 1998, when it opened an office in Palmer Ranch. In June 2009, it established its former Sarasota office at 1561 Main St., the space it has since outgrown. 

A bit of time, obviously, more than two years, passed between closing on the sale and moving into the new office. The biggest holdup was the entrance, which was an essential component of the project, Caldwell says. 

“We couldn’t submit without that part of it being done,” he says. “If you’re in the business of taking care of families for generations, it helps to have a facility that looks like you’re going to be here for generations. This building had the foundation for doing that.”

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