Compak Asset Management
Executive Vice President
Who founded the business and how did it start?
My father, Moe, is the founder of the company and the current Chief Investment Officer. He became interested in financial services from listening to the radio and he started reading books about finance and investing in the stock market. Eventually, he landed job in Beverly Hills as a commodity trader and worked for the company for a couple of years. My father started Compak Trading Company in the late 1980s in Dana Point, California. He quickly became known for his technical analysis which is studying chart patterns for commodities such as oil, lumber, gold, silver, and the general commodities that are traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Buzz Schwartz, who hosted a prominent SoCal financial radio talk show, contacted my father, and invited him to guest on the program. The response was so favorable that my father became a weekly contributor. When Buzz retired a few years later, my father was asked to host the show.
My father realized that only a small minority of people invested in commodities, so he decided to broaden his expertise to all areas of asset management. This led to the founding of Compak Asset Management in 1999. We currently have 18 employees with our primary office in Newport Beach. We also have had a long-standing office in Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as San Jose due to my father’s radio show. Compak manages money for nearly 1000 families which is a large amount for one of premiere registered investment advisors in the region. We’ve maintained this large number of clients because my father has a saying “you never forget who brought you to the dance.” We do have investment minimums, but they are much lower than other RIAs. So, we’re really trying to be not only a business and create value for our customers, but also be a beacon of useful information, which is sometimes difficult to get a hold of given the media today.
Did you work in the family business when you were a kid?
I started working in family business when I was nine or ten. Back in the late 80’s, early 90s’s, computers were not a large part of our world. As a commodities trader, my father had these seasonality reports such as orange juice production forecasts. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Trading Places, the key moment was switching out the orange juice report. One of my earliest memories taking the pages for the report, making sure they were in the correct order, binding them, putting them in the envelopes, and then sending them out to clients and potential clients.
Did you get paid for your first job?
No, was just happy to be helping my father in his business.
Can you describe your path for joining the business?
The family business was always in the background for me. I attended the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and recognized I should get outside work experience before I went and worked in the family business. After Berkeley, I worked for a variety of different financial companies including the William O’Neal company, which publishes the Investor’s Business Daily in Los Angeles. I left that job and worked on the trading floor at PIMCO for a couple of years. Since Pimco was one of the largest bond fund managers, it was a great opportunity to learn about institutional money management. I moved back to Southern California during this time period and started thinking more seriously about joining the business. Instead, I went to get my MBA at UCLA/Andersen which I completed in 2012. I joined Compak after graduation and I’m still here today.
Was there any formal planning process for bringing you into the business?
There wasn’t a formal, or any type of preplanning when I joined the company. It was more of a trial by fire which matched my personality. I’ve always believed that I have the resiliency to weather through whatever situation I’m encountering, and this was no different. My initial job was to open new accounts and I received some the leads from the radio show which was extremely helpful. I started learning the nuances of relationship management and had a smooth transition both because of my strong prior work history and a good understanding of macroeconomics and markets. I started incorporating my knowledge into client conversations and played a more active role in managing their wealth. After a few years, I became a member of the Investment Committee which made me proud because it substantiated my value to the business.
Are there any “rites of passage” for joining the business?
Not really. Compak believes in the importance of establishing a career outside the business before entering the business. I had both the outside experience of working in financial service companies as well as receiving an MBA. This was important for several reasons: 1) I was exposed to larger company business practices and could bring them into Compak as appropriate; 2) I already had a sense of myself before entering the business; and 3) I was extremely grateful for the opportunity that the family business provides. If you’ve only worked in the family business, you have no reference points and a little bit of warped reality in terms of what other alternatives are available to you. Family businesses have unique challenges, but they’re also a gift. By working outside the business and moving back into it, you’re able to understand both aspects.
Can you tell us what family members are working in the business?
My father serves as the President and Chief Investment Officer, and he still does the radio broadcasts every day. His younger brother, Feroz, is a portfolio manager and serves on the Board of Advisors of University of California-Irvine’s Center for Investment and Wealth Management (CIWM). My younger brother, Imran joined the firm a couple of years and was doing marketing, but he’s transitioned into relationship management in terms of servicing clients directly.
What is your long-term goal for the business?
My goal is to continue to evolve the business, not revolutionize the business. Over the next couple of years, we’ll continue to add new financial advisors, planners, and support staff. Eventually, I want to deepen our overall relationship with our clients and really move up what we believe is the value stack. It’s very related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how an individual can realize self-fulfillment.
When you’re working with a client to develop a financial and estate plan, you create an intimate relationship with them. Our goal is how can we use the financial relationship as a starting point to enhance our client’s life experience. Wealth Squared is an evolution to our current program called Live 360, which focuses on the habits of happiness in terms of how to develop happiness which we deliver to our clients.
Wealth Squared is taking this concept of total wealth to the next level. We’re not just focused on clients’ financial wealth, also their life wealth. The life wealth component takes more a collaborative effort. But I think that deepening our relationship with our clients, and really broadening out that mission statement is a key element to Compak’s growth.
While the Wealth Squared principles applies to everybody, its highest and best use scenario is working with Family Businesses and Family Offices. The overlap of business, wealth and family can easily create difficult situations that can lead to the poor outcomes for both the Family and the Business. Wealth Squared is designed to take a holistic look at the Family Enterprise and help make decisions that serves the needs of all family members. If we’re able to mitigate some of the overarching concerns of Family Businesses, we’ll have achieved an important part of our mission statement.
What’s the most important moment in the company’s history?
Like every business, we’ve had some growing pains over time. I don’t think of having a specific moment, but it was the transition between trading which was our roots and investing. When I joined the Investment Committee, we also took my skills and added them to the general approach of the firm. One critical point for any family business is how does the current generation incorporate the skills and experience of the next generation. My father always believed in a meritocracy and is results oriented. He’s always trying to find the best way to enhance our product offering and the business.
What’s your favorite event for employees?
We don’t have a specific annual event that the employees look forward to every year. I joined the firm in 2012 and I’m still one of the most junior employees based on years of experience. We’re a small business so we really try to think about employees as family and help them achieve a good work / life balance. We just took all the employees and their families to Disneyland which was a great bonding experience. We also have taken everybody on cruises and our family vacations together.
Because I started working at the family business when I was young, many of the employees have seen me grow up over the years. I remember when our first employees started having children and am now watching them graduate from high school, college and starting their own families.
Was there an event that triggered the change from “the kid” to a valued member of the management team?
Not particularly. Internally, I continue to try to add value in different areas and feel like I’m respected in the organization. Outside the company, I’ve started being featured on my father’s radio show. It’s been fun to read the email feedback and it has also been very helpful. I’m looking forward to exploring additional vehicles where I can become the “face” of the company with NxtGen investors both inside and outside family businesses.
There are always challenges of sons living up to the image of their father especially if their father has achieved celebrity status. Can you discuss some of the family issues within the business?
Within Orange County specifically and more generally in the Southwest, my father has a public persona. However, neither of us have expectations that I must live up to his personality. Our partnership has been evolving in a positive manner whether it’s at work and playing golf together. I respect the fact that he built the business, and my responsibility is to continue to mold the organization, so we serve the needs of our current and future clients.
This doesn’t mean everything has been perfect. Working within the family business is unique, particularly working with your father and uncle who has also been a mentor figure. Within financial services where there’s a scorecard that shows the results of your investment decisions. There were times when I felt like being 100% wasn’t good enough, but needed to be 200% right since I might be disagreeing with my father. Over time, you gain more confidence in your decisions and recognize that you can’t put any additional pressure on yourself by trying to be perfect in an uncertain world.
One of important parts of NxtGen Nexus is that by talking to other NxtGens, you have a chance to discuss key issues and hopefully add solutions how to work through them. Many difficulties within family businesses occur because the familial relationships which are both personal and professional. It really takes being involved in the family business to understand how powerful these issues really are.
Can you describe your most embarrassing moment in the family business?
Unfortunately, it’s more moments than just one moment. When I started in the business, I had the uncomfortable mix of being inexperienced, ambitious, headstrong, and wanting to prove to my family and co-workers that I belonged. I remember some episodes of losing my temper and stomping around the office when things don’t turn out how I wanted them. I never experienced this at any of my prior positions but the family business dynamic changes everything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really learned to be a little bit more even keel.
What do you know now that you wished you knew when coming into the family business?
Whatever might be happening at that particular moment, it’s inevitably going to change. I heard a quote other day; I think it was from Lou Holtz (Notre Dame Football Coach) which focuses on WIN – What’s Important Now. In times of financial stress, like now, you need to focus on what you can make better now and don’t worry about the past or future..
It’s impossible to go through business and life without making mistakes. This is especially true in a family business where the burden of being successful goes so much further than financial success. Families that can stay in the present instead of looking at past mistakes can have an incredibly bright future. Our goal is to help families get there.
Biggest non-family idol or inspiration – Stephen Curry
What keeps you up at night – The markets from time to time
What are you streaming – Star Wars on Disney
What’s on your turntable or Spotify playlist – Upbeat dance music
Godfather I or Godfather II – Godfather Two
Favorite SoCal Sports team – Lakers
Favorite SoCal College – UCLA
Favorite place to listen to music Ohana – Doheny State Beach Music Festival
Quintessential SoCal activity or experience – Swimming/surfing anything at the beach
Desert, Beach or Mountains – Beach, but desert. Good golfing
Best part of SoCal – Culture – driven, but cool
Least favorite part of SoCal – Homelessness, but also emphasis on status and possession
Favorite restaurant – Il Sole
Best junk food – Chocolate
SoCal Social Causes – Think Together, after school program