Q&A: Private Banking/Wealth Management

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Richard Kass is chief investment officer of KBK Wealth Management.

Please describe the career path that led you to wealth management and to the role of chief investment officer.

I began my career at Bear Stearns working in options and municipal bond trading. Next, I moved to IDS Financial Services, where I trained to be a financial planner. I completed my Certified Financial Planner certification and later moved to a firm called Total Asset Planning. I spent 15 years there, learning the business and helping individuals develop strategies to meet their investment goals.

I've been a financial planner for 20 years. My work revolves around designing investment portfolios, looking at risk, making sure individuals have the right insurance coverage, and structuring pension plans.

A large part of our practice deals with retirees and designing strategies that allow them to maintain their standard of living into retirement. We do a lot of income planning projections, as well as evaluating risk in portfolios.

What's a typical day like for you?

My day begins at 5:30 a.m. when I review the day's news and go to the gym. I usually read The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Bloomberg. This allows me to hit the ground running.

When I get to the office, I review client reports and the prior day's trading to make sure that the trades we've made are in the right investment accounts. Typically, I have a set agenda which revolves around client meetings, in which we'll discuss their portfolio in detail and determine whether they have sufficient income streams or too much exposure in a particular asset class.

Over the past 14 months as market turmoil and volatility have ensued, I've spent a great amount of time talking to clients and preparing portfolio reviews. We also produce a quarterly newsletter to help clients understand the markets.

What are the most important skills for a career in wealth management?

To be a successful, you need to have technical understanding of various investment products so you can advise clients. It's important to be a people person, because the job requires you to listen and understand clients' fears and goals. It's critical that you be able to communicate with a wide range of people. They can range from professionals who are familiar with basic investment concepts to others who have little understanding of the markets. So it's important to be able to take complex investment concepts and simplify them.

Any advice for up-and-coming wealth managers?

I am a firm believer in the knowledge and skills that come with the CFP certification. It's valuable whether you are just starting out or changing careers. It's important that you be able to meet people and talk about investments and markets. Other areas in finance and investments are quantitative, but this field is about working with people, understanding their concerns and being attuned to their life needs and how you can help fulfill them.

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