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A Selection of Top SOUTH FLORIDA Wealth Managers

Many successful attorneys rely on wealth managers to help them achieve their financial goals. In this regard, South Florida Legal Guide asked several experienced wealth managers to discuss their backgrounds and areas of focus. We asked them to respond to the following questions:

• Years in the business?
• How did you get started in this field? 
• What do you enjoy most about being a wealth manager?
• What would you say are your strengths as a wealth manager?
• What type of clientele do you focus on? 
• Please discuss an innovative strategy for your clients.
• Any additional comments?

Patrick Dwyer
Managing Director - Investments
Private Banking and Investment Group
Merrill Lynch
Miami, FL

I have been with Merrill Lynch for the past 18 years.

During college, my father, James Dwyer, helped me realize that finance would be a great industry for me to pursue as a career. My first year at the firm was spent in the Merrill Lynch MBA Analyst Program at the company headquarters in Princeton, N.J., after getting my master’s degree in business from the University of Miami.  After completing training, I moved back to Miami to begin my career as a financial advisor. In 1999, I became one of the first advisors to join a new division established to serve the needs of ultra-high net worth families, the Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch.  I have been at the same phone number for 18 years.

I’ve always enjoyed the science of the capital markets and the art of the investment process.  Additionally, as private wealth advisors, we foster an active, meaningful connection with our clients and champion their interests through proactive and attentive investment planning and management.  I enjoy the personal nature of the process, developing long-term relationships with my clients.  My clients are some of my best friends.  Our clients bring us more than their financial needs – they look to us to help make their lives better and help them reach their financial goals.
Clients tell me my knowledge, commitment, and passion for my profession are my strengths as a private wealth advisor. These qualities help me remain enthusiastic about the work I do for clients, and keep me eager to learn about new things when it comes to investment opportunities.

We serve the needs of ultra-high net worth families in South Florida through the Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch.  Our team of eight professionals provides third party investment consulting and private banking services to high net worth families in South Florida and advises approximately 40 families.  We help them with a variety of wealth management needs, whether they are buying a house or seeking a loan for a business.  We also invest money for clients, and specialize in estate planning, lending services, and concentrated stock and risk-management strategies.

Our clients bring us more than their financial needs – they look to us to help make their lives better. Through a one-to-one relationship with clients, we provide personalized guidance and advice to help them accomplish what matters most to them.  I look forward to growing my business and offering the best financial advice to future clients in order for them to achieve the life that they want.

In regard to accomplishments, in February I was recognized as the number one financial advisor in Florida according to Barron’s “America’s Top 1,000 Advisors: State-by-State” and was also recognized on Barron’s  “America’s Top 100 Financial Advisors” list published in April. I’m also a regular guest speaker at Providence College, where I received my bachelor’s degree, as well as at the University of Miami, where I completed my MBA.   I also serve as chair of the Key Biscayne Community Foundation and on the Board of Trustees at Mercy Hospital.

Mark J. Elliott, CFP, MSFP
Managing Director-Investments
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

I have been in the business for the past 29 years.

After graduating from Indiana University, I interviewed and was accepted by EF Hutton in North Palm Beach.

I enjoy the challenge of working with markets around the world as they are continuously changing.

My strengths are in my listening skills.  I don’t make any assumptions about a prospective client. I typically spend at least one hour with clients just asking questions to understand their goals, preferences and fears.

I deal with the mass affluent clients who have between $2-10 million in investments.

We designed an innovative strategy to allow our clients to know exactly how much they have at risk and help reduce volatility during market downturns. We customize each strategy to adhere to that client’s attitude toward risk and reward.

My mission statement is to “Leave no stone unturned.”  This means that a client’s situation is reviewed carefully from multiple perspectives to help our clients reach their goals.  To accomplish my mission statement, I obtained my Masters of Science in Financial Planning in 2001 (the highest education designation available in the field).  I also situated myself within the context of a private bank in order to have access to the financial products and services that clients need.

Harold Evensky, CFP
Evensky & Katz Wealth Management
Coral Gables, FL

I am going on 31 years in this business.

I was a production home builder in the 1970s. The unprecedented volatility in interest rates and constrained lending policies led me to conclude that the future of home building rested with the few huge and the very, very small firms but not mid-size firms such as mine. In looking around at career options I saw an ad for Bache (now Prudential) and entered the firm’s training program. After receiving my license and being handed a phone to cold call, I soon realized that brokerage sales was not for me. Luckily, that was the early stages of the financial planning profession so I earned my CFP designation and developed my practice as a planner not a broker.

I enjoy helping empower my clients make good decisions regarding their financial lives so they can enjoy their real life.

My strengths as a wealth manager are a passion for helping empower my clients, fascination with the subject matter of my profession, a wide network of professional and academic friends to support my knowledge base, more experience than I’d care to admit to (i.e., I’m older than I want to admit to), and an extraordinary team of partners and associates at E&K.

Our clientele is primarily retirees and senior professionals, such as attorneys and physicians.

In the late 1990s I wrote “Wealth Management” (McGraw Hill), which included a description of a cash flow reserve strategy I developed in the mid ‘80s to manage the volatility risk associated with withdrawal of funds from an investment portfolio during volatile market periods. That strategy was effective in managing our clients’ portfolios through the 1987 crash, the tech bust, the grand recession and our current turbulent times.

One of my favorite stories about applying a creative approach occurred early in my career. My client was an elderly surgeon (in his 80s) who was still in practice. After completing my planning for the doctor, I told him that due to his age, his relatively modest practice size and the cost of insuring his practice, I estimated that continuing to work would cost him approximately $30,000/year. He was very upset until I told him that my recommendation was that he continue to work. He said that didn’t make sense: Why would I tell him to keep working and lose money? I explained that I was a planner, not a money manager, and given his significant net worth, he could well afford to subsidize his practice without remotely affecting his current lifestyle and only minimally reducing his estate (Uncle Sam would absorb a significant portion of the cost via lost inheritance tax). And, if he didn’t work he would probably have to spend far more on therapy to manage his depression. He was ecstatic and worked happily for many more years.

Jack M. Firestone, CFP
Firestone Capital Management
Coral Gables, FL

I have been doing this for over 25 years now.

After spending nearly 20 years as a symphony orchestra manager in Albany, NY, Louisville, KY, and Miami, I wanted to change careers. I completed my MBA at the University of Miami in 1984. Having been a senior executive with ties to the top business professionals in three communities, I desired to serve as a strategic planner. This was at the bottom of the 1982 recession. Despite an extensive and successful professional career, I didn’t fit into the corporate profile, so I chose to be a strategic planner for individuals and families.

I enjoy making a difference – helping families achieve their life’s goals, not only financial, but personal as well.

As a fee-only firm, we are unconstrained as to our ability to tailor our work for the client. Our diverse expertise and group practice allow all our professionals to be available and knowledgeable about our clients. Our initial meetings include participation of multiple professionals.

We focus on pre-retirement and retirement clients. One of our strengths as a firm is working with multi-generational families. We have had up to four generations from a single family as clients. Our client profile is working with entrepreneurs, professionals and small business owners with investible assets in the range of $1 million to $7 million.  

David H. Fox, CFP
Senior VP
The Fox Team at
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.
Boca Raton, FL

I have been working at this for the past 21 years.

I am what you call a “broker brat.”  My dad, who is my partner in the Fox Team at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, started in the business 45 years ago.  My mother represented the judicial side, as she was the first woman arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange.  While in college, I worked as a municipal bond liaison at Shearson Lehman Brothers, a predecessor firm of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.  In 1990, I became a retail broker working with high net worth clients.

I enjoy helping people reach their goals.  These include providing income to retirees, building assets so a client can retire, taking care of generational wealth transfer, college planning and wealth creation.

As a wealth manager, I build investment programs to fulfill clients’ goals.  I specialize in municipal bonds, managed money and asset allocation.

We focus on the high-net-worth client with a minimum of $2.5 million in net worth.

More than 20 years ago, the Fox Team recognized the potential of the high dividend group called master limited partnerships (MLP).  These are natural resource companies that adopted the limited partnership structure, which allows much of the dividend to have a tax advantage.  These companies, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, have provided excellent growth of capital and increasing dividends.

The Fox Team manages over $1.4 billion of assets focusing on high-net-worth families and small institutions.  “We manage wealth from Generation to Generation . . .”

Meg Green, CFP
Meg Green & Associates
Miami, FL

I will say 32 years of helping people with their finances.

Being a young, divorced single mother, I needed to make some new decisions, and didn’t have a clue as to what the questions were. I was embarrassed as well as annoyed by how I was being treated, and surprised that I was so ignorant. Me!   Not long after, I was away for an occasion and happened to meet a woman who was a certified financial planner. I grilled her with questions.  Ahah!  This profession exists. That’s what I had needed. And that was my epiphany. If I, who was college educated and had been around a bit was so ignorant, then I needed to learn so I could help others. Within months, I was working in a financial planning firm in Miami. I had a series 7 license, and eventually opened my own firm, Meg Green & Associates, in 1984. Today, we are a leading wealth management firm in South Florida and one of the top in the nation.

I get great satisfaction if I can help to fix someone’s problems, and make things all right. I love seeing my clients reach their dreams – and sometimes to help them dream.

I can read a person and/or a situation well and go quickly to a solution. People come to us for help, and often their world is confusing and complicated. It’s like a puzzle to me. I’m creative, so I can think outside the box easier than some, and with my knowledge of my business, my years of experience, my very deep relationships in the legal and accounting communities and my amazing partner and team, I can really do a service for a person, their family and/or their business.

We work with wealthy individuals, families, small businesses and organizations. We manage approximately $600 million for our clients, and growing. Our minimum new account is $2.5 million. Our team of eleven professionals and support staff work for each individual client and we make a great effort to add value to our relationships in any way we can.

When the markets were careening in 2008 and 2009, our investment team, led by my partner Todd Battaglia, put together a high risk bond strategy for clients to move some funds out of the way of equities but still have the ability to regain some of the losses the markets handed us, due to high cash flow as well as anticipated appreciation. Many of these bonds were selling for well less than their full value.  High yield bonds, convertible bonds, long municipal bonds, even emerging market debt – all were being dumped by institutions and hedge funds needing liquidity. It was a good strategy in that it did perform quite well, but also gave our clients a semblance of peace during a very turbulent time.

Andrew Menachem, CIMA
Senior VP / International Wealth Specialist
The Menachem Wealth Management Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Aventura, FL

I started in the business 16 years ago. 

My father passed away shortly after I graduated from college.  I was the oldest child.  My three other siblings were teenagers and my mom was 48 years old.  The assets that my father left behind had to support a large and relatively young family.  I was overwhelmed by the loss of my father and neither my mom nor I had any real understanding of investing.  We made many mistakes.  We did what most investors do, putting too much significance on short-term results.  We went to advisors who had the “hot deal” of the moment.  We wasted a lot of money and went through a lot of grief until we learned our lesson.  It was during this time, that I decided to choose to become a wealth manager. 

The thing I enjoy most about being a wealth manager is helping people avoid the pain, confusion and errors that my family went through.  I did this by creating and teaching a course at the University of Miami on the topic of wealth management.  I also publish a monthly column in the Money section of The Miami Herald designed to teach readers the proper way to invest. 

Most clients come through referrals.  My typical client comes to me after some kind of liquidity event such as selling a business (which I might have helped them do), exercising a large amount of stock options or receiving an inheritance. 

My strength as a wealth manager is to effectively manage risk.  No matter what’s going on in the economy, no matter what’s happening in the world, it’s my objective to customize a portfolio that will produce stable results.  In today’s complex world that often takes investment strategies that are different than the ordinary investor or advisor might consider. 

Salvatore A. Tiano
Managing Director
The Tiano Group at J.P. Morgan Securities
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

I have been in the business since 1989.

I played hockey at Dartmouth. My freshman year, my line-mate was a senior who went on to work for Kidder Peabody’s brokerage training program on Wall Street. He used to tell me that I was cut out for the business and that he thought I would do well. It motivated me to begin reading the Wall Street Journal as a sophomore in college and to major in economics. After graduating in 1988, I got a job at Drexel Burnham and the rest is history.

I absolutely love the fast paced nature of this business. I love the challenge and responsibility of managing and protecting my clients’ wealth. I have learned a great deal from the daily interaction with my clients, who are some of the most successful people in business. I enjoy providing outstanding service to my clients and I’m adding to my team to make sure my clients always receive personal service.

I am able to stay calm in the face of major uncertainty in these volatile markets. In addition, I’m not a “one size fits all” manager. I focus on each client individually and tailor the asset allocation based on that client’s needs and goals. I treat my clients as an extension of my family and my goal is to provide excellent service.

I typically focus on clients whose net worth is greater than $10 million as well as small institutions and nonprofit foundations.

I recently worked with an owner who sold his business to a publicly traded company. I was able to develop a sophisticated hedge using derivatives to protect the client from downside movement in the stock, since more than 90 percent of his net worth was now in the acquiring company’s stock. When the stock plummeted, the client’s total loss was very limited. Ironically, the client later bought his business back for pennies on the dollar.

I joined Bear Stearns (now J.P. Morgan Securities) in 1991. I currently have over $550 million in client assets under management. In 2010, I was recognized in Barron’s magazine as one of the Top 1000 Financial Advisors in the country, ranked #14 in the State of Florida. I live in Palm Beach Gardens with my wife Kim and our four children. I serve on the board of Directors of the Palm Beach Zoo, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, and the Palm Beach Pops.

Benjamin A. Tobias, CPA/PFS, CFP, CIMA
Tobias Financial Advisors
Plantation, FL

I started my own accounting firm in 1980 and found myself providing financial planning advice for some of my clients, although I was practicing as a CPA. In 1988 I obtained my CFP designation and sold the accounting portion of my practice two years later. I consider this my 32nd year in business, but others may say it’s only been 24 years. 

As an accountant I found that I liked the concept of planning with clients much better than merely recording what had happened over the past year. I already had a strong economics background and was always interested in capital markets and investing. It was a natural progression for my focus to switch from that of an accountant’s to that of a financial planner and investment advisor.

In the accounting profession, clients see you because they are forced to do so.  Usually it’s the IRS and tax season, but just as often the bank needs certain paperwork filed; either way people generally come to see the CPA when they have no choice, and they often aren’t happy about it either.  As a wealth manager, my clients come to see me on their own volition because they want or need advice.  The entire experience – and relationship – is generally very positive and often fosters a real friendship. This profession affords me the opportunity to help people plan for and realize their goals and aspirations; what more can I ask for in a job?

My greatest strength is tying all the loose pieces together. It is very important to be able to quickly see and understand a client’s entire situation. My training as an auditor really allows me to quickly put the pieces together so that when it comes time to call upon my CPA and CFP backgrounds, I’m ready to mesh the various aspects of planning to develop the best possible set of alternatives.

Our clients are generally wealthy individuals who have had some success in business or their profession. Often times our clients are already retirees when they come to us, but these individuals benefit just as much from our advice as a middle-aged couple would.  Interestingly, I frequently find myself helping recently widowed individuals, especially those whose late spouse took care of most of the financial affairs.

We have a very wealthy client couple who live well below their means. I am always trying to get them to spend a little bit more money in order for them to make their life a little bit easier. For example, when these people travel they fly coach, which for them is difficult because of their various medical conditions. I once pointed out to them that if they kept saving money this way, they were only making it easier for their son-in-law to fly first class. This had a nice effect. 

It is very important when seeking financial advice to make certain the person offering to help you has your best interests at heart: both legally and morally! This means that this person should be a fiduciary, meaning they are legally obligated to act in your best interest.  Unfortunately, the majority of the financial industry does not believe or adhere to this concept.

If you are seeking advice from someone, you absolutely must ensure that the person providing you with advice adheres to this concept and will put that in writing. Be ready and willing to request anything told to you verbally be put in writing and if you have any trouble with that, you are best advised to find someone else to help you. (You should be aware that in some organizations, individual representatives are not allowed to commit to writing.  If you are working with one of those organizations it is okay to ask for something in writing and have it given to you later in accordance with that organization’s policies and procedures.)

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