Replicating the Milwaukee Model

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:37 pm

The Wisconsin offices of Northern Trust Corp. have been a beacon of success for the Chicago-based company. Because of that success, James Rauh, chairman of Northern Trust’s Wisconsin offices, has been asked to take a bigger role in the company and help other offices in the Midwest duplicate the performance of the Milwaukee office at 526 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Rauh will continue to be chairman of the Wisconsin branch, but he has also been named a director of Northern Trust Bank FSB and president of the Midwestern States Region.

Rauh opened the company’s Milwaukee office in 1999 after joining Northern Trust one year earlier. The Milwaukee office started with two people and has grown to about 20 employees.

The Milwaukee office recently hired a new vice president and portfolio manager, and is looking for a new senior banker.

The office also assembled a large network of clients in Wisconsin, including business owners and high net worth customers.

The success Rauh has had in leading the company’s Milwaukee office is directly responsible for his promotion.

“My responsibility is to try to replicate in other Midwestern states the kind of success and visibility we have built in Wisconsin,” Rauh said.

Rauh spends about 60 percent of his time in the Milwaukee office. The remaining 40 percent is spent in Northern Trust’s Chicago offices and traveling to other offices around the Midwest.

Northern Trust officials have told Rauh they do not want him to move to the Chicago area. Instead, they want him to continue his long-term relationship with as many Milwaukee and Wisconsin clients as possible.

“I will still be here, helping do a lot of what I did since we opened this office here,” Rauh said. “We have built a strong team of people who are doing a very good job. Because of that, I have the time to do this.”

While he’s in the Milwaukee office, Rauh assists James Kuehn, in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Milwaukee-based offices.

Kuehn, who was hired in 2000, was recently promoted to president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin for Northern Trust. He will be handling many of the day-to-day oversight of the company’s Wisconsin offices.

“It’s a natural evolution,” Kuehn said. “Jim and I have spent the last seven years working hand-in-hand.”

Rauh and Kuehn have worked as a team in meeting with clients, making large decisions, and helping Northern Trust gain a foothold in Wisconsin.

“Jim and I said to ourselves and our partners that no one does anything alone,” Rauh said. “He and I have built the business together. We’ve gone in front of clients and told our story. It’s been a seamless transition, because we’ve worked as partners in building the business. I rely on Jim’s perspective every day.”

The team approach that Rauh and Kuehn have developed is part of the model Rauh is taking to other offices around the Midwest, to help expand those offices. The idea is to have a local team focused on serving the needs of clients in local markets, but able to leverage Northern Trust’s assets, best practices and network of experts in Chicago.

“We have all that tradition, all of that focus on resources and solutions, and our partners in Chicago can bring that to our newer partners in the Midwestern states,” Rauh said. “What we’re trying to do, through my involvement, is to bring the market-making behaviors to complement that, to get the message out there in a shorter time. We need to get the message to the right people, and a little faster on our feet.”

Some of those techniques involve changing the company’s approach. Previously, Northern Trust tended to take a more reserved approach, waiting for clients to discover the firm on their own, which Rauh called a “Chicago-centric” approach.

“With that approach, they were taking a ‘If you build it, they will come’ approach,” Rauh said. “We want to put that effort on steroids and help our partners build organizations that are much more proactive and more efficient at getting in front of business owners, high net worth individuals and their advisors.

“We’ve got the right people. But we want to help supplement them with some of the market-making activities. We have an attitude of living, working and playing with those people who we want as clients and their advisors,” Rauh said.

Rauh is encouraging Northern Trust’s partners in other Midwestern cities to network with attorneys who represent high net worth individuals and business owners, particularly attorneys who are working on business sales.

Because many of those attorneys are representing clients who have recently sold businesses or may soon be selling them, gaining access to their clients is of high importance to Northern Trust.

“We want to make sure those attorneys know about our capabilities to take this substantial amount of money and put it to work for their client in a short-term cash management system, tailored to their tax situation,” he said. “So, someone who sold their business can take comfort in their money being handled by Northern Trust, and they can take time to work with their advisors on long-term solutions.”

Rauh is working with Northern Trust branches in cities such as Minneapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis, helping them to grow their branches. That means that although Rauh is physically located in the Milwaukee area much of his time, he’s routinely taking phone calls from partners in other Midwestern cities and Chicago, seeking advice on how to expand their offices.

“More people are demanding Jim’s time,” Kuehn said. “Part of my job is getting some of his time for the Milwaukee market.”

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