Wall Street Journal

From A Career In Science To Working With Entrepreneurs

The Wall Street Journal, by Alex Coppola, May 31, 2017 11:07 a.m. EDT


Paul Pagnato

‘Entrepreneurs have a passion to create; it’s integral to who they are.’

Paul Pagnato, 52
• Founder and CEO at PagnatoKarp, Reston, Va.
• Education: B.S. Florida Atlantic University

Background: “You never know where life will take you,” says Mr. Pagnato, whose path to financial advising has been less traditional than most. He earned a degree in microbiology and spent five years with former aerospace manufacturer McDonnell Douglas before pursuing a career in financial services. He began his advising career with Merrill Lynch, where he spent 19 years. During that time he founded the company’s private banking and investment office in Washington, D.C. Seven years ago, Mr. Pagnato became a registered investment adviser, co-founding PagnatoKarp, a fee-only firm.

His practice: PagnatoKarp works with high-net-worth entrepreneurs in a family office that manages $3.4 billion for 285 clients. Mr. Pagnato says it was his own entrepreneurial spirit that inspired him to start his company and drew him to the client base he now serves. He feels that entrepreneurs share his goal of creating value for their clients. “There’s a mutual understanding there,” he says.

What he learned as a scientist: Despite the radical change in career, the training Mr. Pagnato received and practiced as a scientist almost three decades ago still informs the work he does today. Attention to detail and a commitment to following established processes play a role in everything from investment analysis to due diligence.

On working with strong personalities: Successful entrepreneurs can sometimes seem unyielding. “Don’t be intimidated,” Mr. Pagnato says. “They’ve hired you for your expertise. These are people who give strong direction in their own businesses and respond to it, as well.” Key to a successful relationship with entrepreneurs is confident delivery of advice. Advisers should show strong leadership and conviction in their recommendations, he says.

On wealth preservation: “Entrepreneurs have a passion to create; it’s integral to who they are,” Mr. Pagnato says. That’s why, after the sale of one business, many entrepreneurs have the impulse to start another venture. But the chances of another enterprise having equal success are slim. “Lightning rarely strikes twice,” he says, and one failed undertaking can be costly. For that reason, the firm often uses a planning and investment strategy that segments entrepreneurs’ assets into two buckets. One bucket uses a conservative investment approach to satisfy the client’s lifetime capital needs, helping preserve the wealth they’ve accumulated. Once those needs have been addressed, the client can pursue other passions with the remaining assets at their discretion.

Proudest professional achievement: Being named to the Barron’s Top 100 Financial Advisors list.

If he wasn’t an adviser, he’d be… Back out on the professional bass fishing circuit. While he now fishes only recreationally, Mr. Pagnato spent almost a decade competing with the best anglers in the country.

—Compiled by Alex Coppola, The Wall Street Journal

Read the original article here: From A Career In Science To Working With Entrepreneurs