Financing Vets

Financing Vets
Boss: William O’Neil + Co. Inc.’s Dean Kim. (Photo by David Sprague)

Los Angeles is home to an impressive number of venture capital and private equity firms, as well as banks and financial advisors. This Special Report looks at eight leaders in the finance sector, all of whom are respected for their longevity and innovation in the field.  

Founded and named after entrepreneur-stockbroker William O’Neil, William O’Neil + Co. Inc. is an SEC registered investment advisor based in Playa Vista. It provides global buy and sell recommendations and bespoke independent research for the world’s leading institutional investment managers. 

Dean Kim, head of product research at the company, said it has increasingly turned its attention to financial markets and business development opportunities in India under the direction of its parent company, Data Analysis Inc.

What’s your day-to-day look like as head of equity research?

My day really starts at the close of the day before – I’m trying to understand where the market is going, what the market has priced in and what it hasn’t. The following morning, I’m looking at overseas markets and any major events that are out there, I’m paying attention to the headlines. We typically have our morning meeting where we go through research ideas – what to buy and what to sell – and really throughout the day I am thinking about new stock ideas, as well as speaking to clients, because they want to get various opinions from different analysts out there. I’m constantly communicating with clients.

How interested is William O’Neil in expanding its presence in Greater Los Angeles? 

We’re a smaller part of a larger company called DAI – DAI has different parts, one is asset management, and they’ve actually got a printing business called ODS (O’Neil Digital Solutions Inc.) Because of that printing experience, DAI is able to expand its printing services for regulatory reports for the financial and health care industries, and they’re actually doing quite well. So, they’ve definitely been expanding, and our asset management team is in the process of launching new products.

What are some greater economic developments that are impacting or could impact your industry in the near future? How is William O’Neil preparing for or handling these challenges?

In terms of greater economic developments in the near future, everyone has to be paying attention to AI. The phenomenon of ChatGPT AI is going to change many different sectors – not just finance – but specific to finance, ChatGPT or AI itself allows faster decision-making. As analysts, we dig into the company filings, we dig into their numbers, but we can get those numbers much quicker with AI. Decision making will be faster and faster, the way information prices in information will be that much more efficient. And unless you really adopt AI and what it can do for you into your business, you’re going to get left behind.

At the same time, we can get all this information at the tip of our fingers – but it’s up to us how to interpret that information. We think at the end of the day, there has to be a human interpretation of the data, and the human-to-human communication aspect of the job will still be there.

What is one of the most important professional lessons you’ve learned from your time in the industry? How has it guided how you handle
your work?

I’ve been doing this for well over a decade, and something I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be wrong – no one’s going to penalize you for being wrong. People won’t blame you for expressing a viewpoint, and if you can express those views backed by data, that’s ultimately the best thing you could be doing for the client. They need to hear every opinion, good or bad, the bull case and the bear case. 

In the beginning, I’d beat myself up on a stock call. But I found out that being able to stake a position is important, and leave the clients to ultimately make their own decisions.

Clients remember your best calls – they tend not to remember your bad calls. In our profession, that’s very healthy.

Who or what helped you climb the ladder in the early years of your career?

Before joining this industry, I used to be a management consultant. I’d come into a business and quickly formulate a plan for making them more efficient. That helps with equity analysis because you’re studying stocks, you’re studying the company behind it. What are the key drivers for the company, what’s their competitive strategic positioning? 

That prior experience really helped me come up to speed.

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