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Four Palm Beach advisers make list of 'Barron's' top 1,000


What do a man raised on a cattle ranch in Montana, another on a farm in western Pennsylvania and a third from a seacoast community near Cape Cod, Mass., have in common?

All are Palm Beach investment advisers whose names are on Barron's list of the top 1,000 financial advisers for 2012.

Palm Beachers have acquired their wealth via many paths: entrepreneurial success, the corporate ladder, inheritance, investments -- or any combination of ways. Regardless, managing a fortune takes discipline, patience, knowledge and confidence.

If they happen to be seeking professional money management, there is no shortage of advisers at banks, brokerage firms, trust companies and independent money managers here to select from.

But among the dozens of licensed registered representatives, Certified Financial Advisors, and well-educated and experienced money managers working in Palm Beach, only four have made Barron's top 1,000 list for 2012.

No. 8 is Kurt Sylvia of UBS Financial Services. He is followed Anthony Rizzo of Deutsche Bank, No. 48, then Paul Luther and Christopher Andrews, both of Merrill Lynch, No. 54 and No. 56, respectively.

All four also made the Barron's 2011 list of the top 1,000. Sylvia also made the Barron's top 100 list in 2006 and 2008.

Rizzo was not permitted by Deutsche Bank to be interviewed for this story.

Making the list

You'll find plenty of similarities in how Sylvia, Luther and Andrews manage money. Each is part of a team; each knows preserving wealth can be just as or more important than increasing it; and each knows how important relationships are in building and keeping his client base.

But it takes more than smiling faces, a team effort and respectable returns for your name to wind up on the Barron's lists.

In the questionnaire sent to all advisers hoping to be included, Matthew Barthel, associate editor at Barron's, said, "There are 102 data points that are calculated, under three broad headings -- assets under management, revenue growth and quality of practice -- with a number of sub-calculations under each."

And, he said, though performance is important, other factors -- such as the blend of an adviser's client base -- also matter in this top 1,000 list that Barron's has been publishing since 2009.

But what you won't find on the list, published each February, are tidbits about their personal backgrounds, what's involved in managing wealth and what they've learned from their experience in the markets.

Right place, right time

Luther, for instance, is the senior member of Merrill Lynch's Wealth Management group in both experience and age. With 50 years of financial industry experience, counting two years spent in the military, Luther, 69, who grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania, began his career at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He got his first job the old-fashioned way: walking into an employment office in Washington, D.C. After high school, his plan for the future was to go to college at night and work during the day. So he left Pennsylvania, headed to Washington and began job hunting.

Luck was on Luther's side the day he got off a bus in Washington, noticed a sign with an eagle signifying the SEC and, underneath it, a brass "Employment Office" plaque. He walked into that office about 8 in the morning and found the only person there to be the director of personnel. After chatting with him, Luther was hired as a clerk and by noon that same day began working.

Luther recalls that at that time, there was a 15 percent government-wide reduction in hiring, and the SEC was the only government agency hiring. The year was 1962.

"The first week I was there, the market was down like 100 points from 339 to 239, or something like that," said Luther, who has worked at Merrill Lynch for 35 years.

At first he thought he was fortunate to find a job so quickly, but after that initial week had second thoughts. "I figured I may have been one of the dumbest guys around coming into a job with a company that's going out of business."

Luther earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from George Washington University, with an MBA in econometrics. His title is that of Wealth Manager Advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Getting back to Florida

Andrews, 46, works with Luther at Merrill Lynch and, like Luther, is part of a six-member wealth-management team. Although the two share rural roots -- Andrews grew up on a cattle ranch in Montana -- their formative-year backgrounds are as different as cows and crops.

Luther's early career included positions at the SEC, the Census Bureau and the National Association of Securities Dealers, where he helped design the NASDAQ Index and the calculation of it. Andrews earned a bachelor's degree in business and modern language from Pacific University in Oregon, and he traveled extensively before earning his MBA in international finance at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

"I studied Chinese and Japanese and then spent two years studying in China before going to graduate school," said Andrews, who began his career in 1993 in London working in equity derivatives with Goldman Sachs. While there, he decided to change focus, preferring to work with individuals and families in private banking wealth management.

Three years later, he joined JP Morgan Private Bank in New York, participated in that firm's training program and later transferred to its Palm Beach office.

"My wife is from Florida, all her family is down here and we were trying to get to Florida all along. So it all worked out," said Andrews, who has been with Merrill Lynch's private banking investment group for 13 years. During that time, he has made the Barron's 1,000 list three times.

Andrews is a private wealth advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Youngest of the bunch

Sylvia, at 45 the youngest of the trio, grew up near Cape Cod in Marion, Mass., and spent a number of summers on the cape.

A graduate of Providence College, he earned a degree in finance in 1989.

Sylvia became interested in finance during college. "I always had an interest in it. My dad is an educator and my brother is an accountant," he said.

His first job after college was as an analyst with Dun & Bradstreet in Miami. After a few years with D&B, his father-in-law, who worked in the banking industry, introduced him to a bond house in Miami.

"I worked with FMS for about six years and wanted to broaden my (investment) horizons and accepted a position at Wachovia Private Bank in the First National Bank building in Palm Beach," Sylvia said.

While at Wachovia, Sylvia was recognized on Barron's top 100 list. "I was one of the first advisers ever in Palm Beach County recognized by Barron's to be one of the top 100 financial advisers in the country," he said. He received those honors in both 2006 and 2008, the first when he was 39.

Today, Sylvia is part of nine-person UBS private wealth-management team. His title is senior vice president. And, as do others who enjoy the seashores of Cape Cod and its surrounding islands, he works at UBS offices in Boston and New York during the summer.

Managing all that money

Ideally, $10 million is the target amount to be a client these wealth advisers seek. That said, $1 million can get you through their doors. Once there, how your account is managed is as individual as your and your family's personal goals and needs.

Sylvia said he wants all investors to know that wealth management is not a cookie-cutter business.

"Sometimes I feel that people believe that investment management is all the same and the results they get are all going to be the same depending upon how the market does. And that really is not what I have seen in my career," said Sylvia, who has been managing money for more than two decades.

Not all money managers implement portfolio management solutions in the same way, and there are different levels of competency within the world of high-net-worth advisers. For instance, he said, if he reviews portfolios of 15 ultra-high-net-worth individuals held at other firms, they will all be different.

"Not every bank is going to manage money the same way," he said. "There may be certain parallels and asset allocations that are similar, but the level of work done by some advisory firms exceed the work done by others."

All three advisers said tax-free municipal bonds and dividend-paying stocks play a big part in their clients' portfolios. Exchange-traded funds, private equity and the use of third-party money managers may also be part of the fold. Even hedge funds, gold and volatility products such as the VIX (Chicago Board Options Exchange Market Volatility Index) may have a place.

But at the end of the day, they said, it's the client's money and it's the client's choice about where it's invested.

Lessons learned

During Luther's investment career, he has seen the Dow Jones Industrial Average go from about 330 to 14,000. As a result, he has an "unbridled confidence" in the United States' capital markets and said it's "absolutely essential" for individuals who want to build wealth to own stocks.

He's also learned that investors need to be confident -- but not overly confident. And patient.

"The markets have their own rhythm, and when the motion gets going in one direction, you don't know how long it's going to take or how wide a swing there will be in that direction or the other," Luther said.

Andrews, both a certified financial planner and a certified financial analyst, said he's seen how investing conservatively, rather than aggressively, can pay off. "My personal point of view is that the clients who tend to be a little bit more conservative in their investment strategies, that don't take big risks, seem to make more money on long periods of time," he said.

And Sylvia's learned throughout his years in the business "that anything can happen and to expect the unexpected," he said.

"After the Internet bubble bursting, what happened in 2008 with the banking crisis, we advisers need to be aware of these kinds of tail risks," he said. "And that on any given day, anything can happen either geopolitically or within the markets that can have a very significant effect on a portfolio's performance."

It's that kind of risk consciousness about which investors and advisers, regardless whether their names are on a Barron's list, always need to be mindful.

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