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Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022

Profiles: Richard Jones, Reza Zafari



Richard Jones


Senior Vice President, Merrill Lynch, Los Angeles



Age:

50


Education:

B.A., Russian studies. Boston University; M.B.A., Columbia University


Team Assets:

$10 billion


Typical Account:

$80 million


Years in business:

27


Quote:

“We have an integrated wealth management approach where a very successful client can work with us and have all his or her needs in the financial spectrum met.”



Reza Zafari


Senior Vice President, Merrill Lynch, Los Angeles



Age:

46


Education:

B.A., economics, Pomona College; M.B.A., UCLA Anderson School of Management


Team Assets:

$10 billion


Typical Account:

$80 million


Years in business:

23


Quote:

“With the opening up of new markets, in Eastern Europe, Latin America, India and China, we are constructive on global growth.”


Wealth managers Richard Jones and Reza Zafari have a trove of stories that demonstrate their value to clients but most are essentially the same tale.


A client sells his company to a publicly traded corporation for a boatload of stock. The client is inclined to hold on to the stock, which may be the sole tangible link to the old company. But at the urging of Jones and Zafari, the shares are sold and a diversified portfolio is created in their place.


Then, at some point, maybe several months or a couple of years later, the buyout company’s stock takes a tumble from which it doesn’t recover, and the client calls, asking, “How did you know?”


Of course, the wealth advisers couldn’t have foretold the exact sequence of events “We never take credit for knowing the stock was going to drop,” Jones said but they know enough to avoid such concentrated holdings.


Which is why the 20-person Merrill Lynch wealth management team that Jones and Zafari lead with three other partners strives not so much to predict the performance of specific stocks or even markets, but rather to create diversified all-weather portfolios.


“We believe that is the best way to preserve wealth,” Zafari said. “We are not in the business of predicting.”


Jones and Zafari, who work together, linked up 12 years ago at JP Morgan before joining Merrill Lynch en masse with much of their current team eight years ago. At the time, they managed about $500 million in assets for about a dozen families.


“We worked well together and our various strengths complemented each,” Jones said. “When Merrill asked us to come over it made sense for us to come over as a group.”


Today, they manage more that $9 billion in assets for 80 families. The pair trace this growth to consistently providing clients with the vehicles to preserve capital and grow it over the long term.


“Our style is a long-term, multi-generational, institutional style of managing money,” Zafari said.


Jones said the group doesn’t bet big on any particular sector, but does make tactical investment decisions based on assessments of the market.


Currently the group’s overall portfolio shows a slight preference for health care. In contrast, the group is decreasing investments in utilities, as it did previously with real estate investment trusts.


And under this banner of “diversity is best,” the group is keen on global markets. “With the opening up of new markets, in Eastern Europe, Latin America, India and China, we are constructive on global growth. We are in a circular global growth cycle,” Zafari said.


The group style is also to provide for all financial needs, including tax planning, wealth transfer and private banking.


“We have an integrated wealth management approach where a very successful client can work with us and have all his or her needs in the financial spectrum met,” Jones said.


Zafari, who has worked in wealth management since graduating from business school, said he was attracted to this facet of financial services because “it was an integral part of financial markets” and offered an ability to work with interesting, successful entrepreneurs.


Jones, who previously worked in other areas of banking, was attracted to the wealth management field for similar reasons.


“Everyday is a new challenge,” Jones said, “because you are working for exciting clients in a wide variety of interests and helping them solve their problems.”


Following business school, Jones initially worked in international banking in New York, but after two years switched to private banking and wealth management. He moved his practice to Los Angeles in 1990.

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