Kelly R. Smith
Founder, Managing Principal
Kelly founded Certis Capital Management in 2005 to serve the needs of a family that had sold a third generation family business. As Chair of the Investment Committee he directs the firm’s investment philosophy. Kelly oversees every aspect of what Certis offers, with top priority given to delivering best in class, globally sourced investment options that are backed by the highest level of service. Kelly directly manages long term wealth management planning for each of our client families, strategic philanthropy, and is experienced in addressing the family financial dynamics associated with transfers of wealth between generations.
Prior to starting Certis, Kelly was with Pacificor, a top percentile performing hedge fund focused on high yield bonds and other distressed securities. Among his other responsibilities, Kelly served on the investment committee and established Pacificor’s Insurance Dedicated Fund.
Before joining Pacificor, Kelly was a Vice President with Credit Suisse (formerly Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette) where he led one of the Private Client teams in the firm’s Los Angeles office. Prior to Credit Suisse Kelly was an Associate in the Private Client Services division at Lehman Brothers in New York City.
Prior to earning his Masters degree he worked for private equity firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners in Beverly Hills, California.
Philanthropy has been an area of interest to Kelly for over 20 years. He is currently on the board of the Eleos Foundation, a local organization partnered with Seattle based Global Partnerships to address poverty on a global scale. He is also on the board of The Friendship Paddle, a community based support group helping families face the challenges of life threatening illnesses. Kelly also serves as a director for the family foundations of some of Certis’ clients. Kelly has completed a philanthropic fellowship as a Katherine Harvey Fellow at the Santa Barbara Foundation, and has served as a board member for other non-profits.
Kelly holds a degree in Economics and East Asian Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles, as well as an MBA in Finance from the Anderson School at UCLA.
Todd E. Dawes
Senior Vice President, Portfolio Director
Todd joined Certis as the firm’s Portfolio Director in August 2014. At Certis, Todd oversees the firm’s due diligence process as well as directly sourcing and monitoring investments. As a senior fiduciary professional, his primary role as Portfolio Director is to ensure the matching of client goals and needs with innovative investment solutions. Todd holds responsibility for coordinating all aspects of portfolio construction, management and administration. Certis’ philosophy of fostering and bringing forth thoughtful, thorough, and effective investment analysis is shaped in our weekly Investment Committee sessions. Todd leads Certis’ Investment Committee meetings, and directs the research staff towards fulfillment of client support and analytical agendas.
Prior to Certis, Todd was a Senior Partner at Persimmon Capital Management, a multi-family office in suburban Philadelphia. At Persimmon he led the Investment Committee, oversaw the firm’s investment operations, conducted due diligence on traditional and alternative investment product and served as Portfolio Manager for the firm’s multi-strategy fund of funds as well as its multi-advisor 40-Act mutual fund and managed account business.
Before joining Persimmon, Todd was Director of Research at Advisorport, Inc., a Turnkey Asset Management Provider serving the registered investment advisor industry. Todd was Head of Advisorport’s Investment Committee and led its due diligence process. Todd directed the firm’s research staff and was instrumental in the launch and management of the firm’s multi-strategy fund of funds investment product.
Todd holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Wayne State University, and an MBA in Finance from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business.
David J. Backens, CFA
David joined Certis in 2005 and is the Senior Analyst at the firm. He works in tandem with the Portfolio Director to manage and execute the analytical work performed here at Certis. The majority of his responsibilities fall into three categories:
- client education and reporting
- investment sourcing and valuation
- portfolio modeling and monitoring
The institutional quality analytical work done at Certis is one of our core values and David is responsible for upholding the high standards we have developed for due diligence. Due to his thorough understanding of our clients’ investment mandates, underlying fund managers and Certis’ proprietary economic indicator model, David is a key member of the firm’s Investment Committee.
David holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and is registered as an Investment Advisor Representative. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Business Economics and Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Director of Operations
Margaret oversees all aspects of operations and provides support to Certis’ Investment Research and Client Service functions. Margaret’s primary responsibilities are comprehensive financial tracking and reporting, and in service of this, she creatively restructured the firm’s financial tracking and reporting systems. Margaret directs efforts to continually improve and customize Certis’ capabilities to best serve clients’ needs.
Margaret graduated from Claremont McKenna College with dual degrees in economics and organismal biology. She played varsity soccer and golf all four years at Claremont, and in her senior year, won the Division III golf National Championship both individually and as a team. As an ocean-loving, avid diver she is also a fully rated SCUBA instructor.
Tawnie joined Certis in 2018 as the Client Services & Office Manager. She works with each of our families, seeing to all areas of customer service & communication. Other aspects include helping manage client accounts and working closely with many of our partners. The Office Manager portion of her job includes making sure that the professional environment is organized
Prior to joining Certis, Tawnie worked at Paul Mitchell the School as the Financial Aid & Admissions Advisor.
Tom primarily supports our reporting and operations departments. With his background in computer science and data security, Tom works to maintain and improve efficiency, security, and accuracy throughout all aspects of Certis operations.
Tom earned a BA in History at the University of Mary Washington in 2014, and is currently pursuing degrees in Computer Information Systems and Computer Network Engineering at Santa Barbara City College. Tom’s college career is distinguished by his thesis work doing research at the Princeton Rare Books Archive on the career of British Naval Admiral John Elphinstone. Before coming to Certis, Tom worked in a role supporting the American Heart Association.
Client Service Associate
Stephanie joined Certis in 2008 and works directly with each of the firm’s families, seeing to all areas of customer service, and communicating regular updates. Prior to joining Certis, Stephanie worked at the El Montecito School. She is a graduate of Westmont College where she was a Provost Scholar and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Business.
CPA – Controller
Ms. Clark oversees accounting, budgeting, payroll services in addition to other accounting based management functions for Merus Advisors and Certis Capital. Marcella has been with the organization since 2015. Ms. Clark holds degrees from California State University – Channel Islands as well as from Universidade Federal De Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil. She holds the Certified Public Accountant license.