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“He Made Me Feel Like He Cared”

Alum Honored for Helping Same-Sex Couples Navigate Finances

By Carly Taylor ’19


Courtesy of Wood Derricks

Courtesy of Wood Derricks

Although same-sex marriage is now legal coast to coast and the number of gay and lesbian couples tying the knot has skyrocketed—not mention plenty others who share their lives without taking vows—Woody Derricks ’97 long ago noticed something about many of his fellow financial advisers.

“Most advisers seemed to be uncomfortable providing advice to gay and lesbian couples,” Derricks said. “I realized there’s a disconnect between same-sex couples and financial services.”

But despite that discomfort—or perhaps judgmentalism—the need for such services is real, and the Baltimore-based Derricks is a leader supporting this clientele through his company, Partnership Wealth Management.

In part because they’re less likely to have children, same-sex couples have more disposable income available for investments. But they also could face the challenge of who will care for them in their old age.

And in addition to questions about death benefits, shared health insurance or tax-filing status, they may still have to take into account risks from discrimination—potential job loss in certain U.S. states, even refusal to allow them to live as couples in some retirement homes or communities.

Since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal nationwide in 2015, the percentage of married, cohabitating LGBTQ couples rose from 38% before the ruling to 61% two years later, according to the Pew Research Center.

Derricks, who is heterosexual, dedicated himself to working with same-sex couples long before the 2015 landmark decision. He said he began refining his naturally hospitable nature as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, when he worked for Dining Services. The opportunity to serve dignitaries at the president’s house taught him the importance of treating every client with respect.

Derricks had worked in financial planning in California, and when looking to settle on the East Coast, he decided Baltimore was the best bet for connecting with an underserved LGBTQ clientele.

He was chosen earlier this year as one of the Baltimore Business Journal‘s 11 Leaders in Diversity for 2019—an honor that came as no surprise to clients Bob Veltkamp and Greg Nemetz.

They met Derricks in 2003 and continue to use his services. Whether planning their wills or buying a second home, the couple has long relied on Derricks for counsel.

“I need to hear from him that we were making a good decision,” said Nemetz. “It gives us total peace of mind, financially.”

Judy Hashem, who met Derricks over 20 years ago, continues to consult him from her new residence in Arizona—a testament to the quality of his services, she said.

“He made me feel like he cared and wanted to serve the needs of our community,” Hashem said. “No one else had ever reached out to us.”

While it’s great to be recognized for hard work, giving back to the Baltimore-area LGBTQ community just feels like the right thing to do, Derricks said.

“My clients have said they’re proud of me and proud to work with us, and to me that’s more gratifying than winning an award,” Derricks said.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.