For a front-row seat to a "beauty pageant" in which four or five wealth advisors pitch their talents, the requirement for admission is net worth of $2 million to $10 million.

That's what it takes to enter the world of wealth management, where L.A.'s top wealth rainmakers compete head-to-head in high-powered pitch sessions.

The pageants are just one of the ways in which investment advisors get their foot in the door to meet multimillionaires. In addition to Power Point presentations and buzzwords like "alpha" and "asset allocation," wealth advisors are eager to display not just their strategies for making money, but also their most important skill likeability.

"A beauty contest, by its very nature, is like a job interview," said Wendi Doyle, managing director of Private Client Services at Lehman Brothers in Los Angeles. "It's all about getting to know the presenter."

Doyle has taken part in a few hundred beauty pageants during her 25 years in wealth management in Los Angeles and is a former managing director at JP Morgan Private Bank.

"Beauty contests can be kind of scary, because you're talking to an individual in a vacuum," she said. "And what you really want to do is address their concerns and motivations."

If Los Angeles powerbrokers think Hollywood is cutthroat, they should try becoming a heavyweight at a wealth management firm. The job involves reeling in clients with assets of between $2 million to $100 million or more, and generally catering to their whims.

Not surprisingly, Los Angeles has become one of the most competitive markets in the U.S. for wealth advisors. At least 200,000 households in Los Angeles County have assets of at least $1 million, excluding real estate. That money has to be parked somewhere and managed for the highest possible returns.

More so than on the East Coast, or even in San Francisco, Los Angeles is a city in which entrepreneurs often come into newfound wealth overnight primarily through the sale of a business or real estate. Many business owners spend their entire lives building a company, only to realize that they have little experience managing their own money. That's where a wealth advisor comes in and the beauty pageant, or pitch meeting, is their first introduction to a prospective client.

Thomas Schwartz, regional manager and a managing director at Goldman Sachs, said one of the biggest issues in dealing with wealth is the emotional attachment that clients often have to their businesses.


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