First Foundation has its roots in wealth management



Like the financial institution of which he is chief executive officer, Scott F. Kavanaugh is constantly on the move. His Irvine-based First Foundation Inc., which has had a San Diego office on Executive Drive since 2011, has expanded from Southern California (seven branches) east into Las Vegas and west to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Kavanaugh says “My absolute favorite thing to do is to get in the car or get on a plane and go see and work with our bankers and investment management teams to meet with clients. So I probably travel more than the typical CEO.”

Today, the 26-year-old First Foundation (it began as an investment advisory practice in 1990) is a multi-service institution that provides a variety of services. “I would call us a wealth management firm with basically a lot of different tools for people, from investment management to trust services, property, casualty and life insurance, construction lending and financial planning,” said Kavanaugh, speaking by phone from his office in Irvine. “We have a lot of resources that we can bring to somebody.”

The firm includes First Foundation Bank, which opened in 2007, and First Foundation Advisors, which offers such services as estate planning and philanthropic strategizing as well as wealth management consultation.

“We’ve got the ability to bring a lot of resources to the table,” said Kavanaugh, “and quite honestly, it’s my belief that with a lot of the larger firms sometimes the left hand doesn’t necessarily talk to the right hand as well as our firm does.”

There are 320 employees throughout First Foundation, 14 in the San Diego office. A key part of the company’s mission is to give clients personal attention.

“It starts with whatever the need of the client is,” explained Kavanaugh. “Some clients come in because they need help with trust services, some because they need help on a loan or with investment management. We identify the issues and then work forward to figure out all the areas we can be helpful in and discuss that with the client. Then we bring in added professionals (such as financial planners) as the case may be.

“We’re really good at working as a team to bring together the resources that a client needs and doing it with a community feel.”

Like all good CEO’s, Kavanaugh understands the big picture. He’s overseen First Foundation during difficult times but also perceives the promise of the future.

“We were very much actively lending in the worst of economic times, which was 2008, 2009 and 2010,” Kavanaugh recalled. “We were afforded the opportunity to help a lot of people when a lot of other banks were not lending as much or doing as well.

“I’m very hopeful about California and in particular San Diego and Orange County. I see continued growth and stability, and San Diego is very much a strong part of where we believe the growth is going to come from.”

— First Foundation, 4510 Executive Drive, Suite 150, San Diego. (858) 875-0425.

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First Foundation has its roots in wealth management