Growing up in Michigan the son of a physician whose hobby was investing, Tom Baker thought he’d someday employ the same model, having a profession and dabbling with finance on the side. Initially, that’s what he did. He got a law degree, worked on the floor of the Chicago Options Exchange, and spent time as a tax accountant before landing at a large San Francisco investment advisory firm. Then, in 1998, he founded his own wealth management firm in his Menlo Park garage.
“Ever since high school, I’ve read books about investing,” he said. “It was always something I was interested in, but I really didn’t think it would be my professional focus. I still look at financial management not as work, but rather as something that I really enjoy doing.”
Tom came West to attend grad school, earning a J.D. and MBA from the University of Santa Clara. “I purposely came to the Bay Area because of its prominence in the area of finance,” he said. “I wanted to be in a financial city and thought it would be San Francisco. Instead, it’s been Silicon Valley.”
Tom founded Baker Investments in 1998, which morphed into Blue Oak Capital when he partnered with Loren Walden a year later. A third partner, Matt Kenaston, joined in 2009. They typically service clients who have portfolios valued in the $2 to $10 million range.
All three partners agree on the importance of work/life balance. For Tom, that’s meant recreational cycling. He typically rides 150 to 200 miles a week. He’s also very involved with his three children, two of whom are at Menlo-Atherton High School. “Cycling, kids, and the business — those three things really occupy my time,” he said.
A newer pursuit is vegetable gardening. “It started with tomatoes and evolved into eating food grown at my house,” he said. “I have all kinds of herbs plus blueberries, strawberries, lemons, oranges and grapes. I’m using every available corner. It’s really therapeutic and something that the kids can get involved with, too.”
Photo by Irene Searles