Home Thinking Aloud Thomas Kane, Chicago Executive, Managing Director at Merrill Private Wealth Management

[Interview] Thomas Kane, Chicago Executive, Managing Director at Merrill Private Wealth Management


Chicago executive Thomas Kane is selfless when it comes to time outside of the office. As a supporter of a number of local causes, he helps advocate and raise money for organizations around Chicago, including Friends of the IDF, the 100 Club of Chicago, Jewish Federation of Chicago, and the Western Golf Association Evan’s Scholars program, among others.

In part, Tom Kane credits serving the community, both locally and abroad, for his success.  Giving back is an attribute his parents first instilled in him as a child when he would watch them donate to the Salvation Army or write a check in support of the Jewish United Fund. It was his parents’ example, plus having the passion and ability to bring people together, that inspires Tom to continue on the same philanthropic path.

We recently sat down with Tom Kane to discuss his thoughts on why one’s contributions really do matter.

What factors make it imminent that organizations need to focus on charitable giving?

Thomas Kane: We rise by lifting others. Giving back and the need for corporate philanthropy is skyrocketing.  I think that the millennial generation is leading the cause and are really changing the landscape by rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. Corporations are beginning to respond in a large way, generating positive impact for a long list of beneficiaries through volunteer programs, donations, grantmaking, etc. But to answer your question, organizations (and individuals) need to focus on charitable giving because it really is their social responsibility.

How has corporate philanthropy changed, even during the time that you’ve been working professionally?

Thomas Kane: Well, in the past a lot of companies would conduct a yearly incentive to donate that would last a few weeks, maybe a month, and that would be it. Now, we’re all acknowledging the obvious – that the need for philanthropy is year-round. There are more opportunities available outside employment-based annual giving.   Technology and viral engagement is encouraging companies to give back in more non-traditional ways and employees are jumping on board, as well. Today’s workers look to social media channels to make decisions about what causes support and which employers are leading the charge.

You are intimately involved in a number of local charities focused on education and helping those most in need. Are education-based programs a passion of yours?

Thomas Kane: I wouldn’t so much say that education is a passion of mine; rather, I’d say it is a necessity. Nonprofits that focus on education seek to ensure that people who have the fewest resources still have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and ultimately in life. Organizations like Teach for America helps build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders. Likewise, The Education Trust works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for all students, pre-K through college, especially those from low income. I work with the FIDF where I sponsor 13 current and former soldiers who are in need of four year scholarships to universities in Israel. Everyone should have access to a quality education.

You support many Jewish causes and recently traveled to Israel. What is some of the work you hope to accomplish there?

Thomas Kane: I did. I was fortunate enough to meet some wonderful people as part of my recent trip to Israel. I spent the day at a Druze village (non Jews non muslim indigenous people of Israel). The village is open to tourists, and the Druze are well-known for their warm hospitality and receive guests with enthusiasm. I will be helping to raise money for memorial/community center for all the Druze soldiers who have fallen in the conflicts in the Middle East.

Above all else, how do you think giving back improves a person’s emotional well-being?

Thomas Kane: During hard times, when you can take a few moments to give someone else a helping hand with no expectation of anything in return, you can restore your belief that things will get better. In the end, you always get more out of giving than you do from getting. Sometimes, the smallest gestures take up the most room in your heart and remind you of the good that exists in people.