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We sat down with Michael Hess, RICP®, vice president and wealth management advisor with WestPac Wealth Partners in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Hess, Retirement Income Certified Professional®, is a vice president and wealth management advisor with WestPac Wealth Partners in Beverly Hills, California. The native New Yorker, who started his career at Merrill Lynch in 1996, has come full circle in his career.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
It was a natural progression. I left Merrill Lynch to pursue institutional sales of variable annuities and 401K plans. Shortly thereafter, I received a promotion to co-national sales manager of the annuity and 401K sales force. Then the WestPac team, who knew my work well, recruited me. I’ve become so passionate about being able to have a positive direct impact on a family’s life, which this side of financial services allows versus my previous finance career. Currently, I work closely and thoughtfully with individuals, families and business owners. I am grateful to have had many choices of firms to join, but WestPac stood out because of not only the high-level of extremely knowledgeable advisors, but also their unique and different philosophy. WestPac fit my personality and desired approach to clients the best.
Please explain your role with WestPac Wealth Partners:
At WestPac, I serve as quarterback to my clients’ personal economy. All too often there are “too many cooks in the kitchen”, meaning there are well-intentioned professionals trying to help, but who arrive at their solution without coordinating or communicating with the other professionals working for the same client. Taken in a vacuum these solutions may look good, but life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are always multiple elements in play. Without looking at the entire picture, typically, this leads to suboptimal planning.
Then how do you create an optimal plan?
First, our team implements and assesses each client’s “living balance sheet” then approaches it from a from a protection-first mentality. We take a financial MRI, if you will. It’s not about only looking at your assets and liabilities. It’s imperative we do a deep dive to make sure that you are protected from the known and unknown. We examine the best use of one’s capital and how to deploy it efficiently and effectively. Ultimately, we put everything onto one page to clearly show our clients where they stand financially. Then, if there are deficiencies, we make adjustments accordingly.
Sounds similar to a family office?
Indeed. The biggest difference between us and a traditional family office is that we have hundreds of wealth advisors throughout the country who not only work with ultra-high net worth clients but also with couples just starting out and those in between.
You must be really busy then!?!
Ha. Yeah. My philosophy is to help everyone I can. There are so many people who are being ill-advised or have no proper management at all. It’s my goal to educate my clients so they can make sound financial decisions and then hold them accountable to the plan we collaboratively create.
How did you come about this philosophy?
Just before turning 40, my wife, Samantha Harris, received a breast cancer diagnosis. It was a complete shock. She had just had a clean mammogram and 11 days later she found a lump. After sharing the news she was going to have a double mastectomy, our family received so much support and love that I knew we had to pay things forward. Fortunately, she is now 4 ½ years cancer free. But this really highlighted to me the importance of planning early. Thankfully, we had done planning, but oftentimes families wait. When people wait to do their planning, the ones who suffer are the spouses and children who don’t have a voice to push their parents or breadwinning spouse to properly plan. I strongly believe it is incumbent upon me and the financial community to advocate for those people.
How else do you “pay it forward”?
In January of 2017, I ran a 50-mile ultramarathon to raise money for Feeding America. It took me 10 hours, but I raised $25,000 and it became a family affair. During my 10 hours my then five-year-old ran eight miles and my then eight-year-old ran nine miles. Samantha ran eighteen! In addition to raising the money, I wanted to teach my kids to set really high goals, work really hard to achieve them and never give up!
Ok, so how many marathons had you run before this?
ZERO! I played basketball at Ithaca College and was an Honorable Mention All-America my senior year, so I’ve always been athletic, but this was way out of my comfort zone. This goal surpassed others I have set in the past in anything I have done. Having my wife and kids cheer me on gave me incredible pride. All these things have informed who I am and how I want to help others. I look forward to meeting new clients every day. If the knowledge and expertise my firm and I have can help others to reach their goals, then we are doing it right.
Michael Hess is a Registered Representative & Investment Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, Financial Representative of Guardian 2018-71222 Exp 12/20