Combining Experience & Experiences
Each of us are shaped by our experiences. They help form who we are and how we approach both life and business. For Financial Advisor Ken New, founder of Pinnacle Financial Wealth Management in Merritt Island, two very specific and seminal experiences seemed to have forged his character.
First, he grew up on a family farm in the Big Sky country of Montana. In fact, their land was in the same valley made famous by Custer’s Last Stand, where the Bighorn River provided the irrigation that turned the typically arid grasslands into a garden-like Eden. It is inherent in farming that you approach life from a long-term, seasonal perspective, where stewarding the resources you have can mean productivity, not for years, but for generations. It is an environment where hard work and initiative pay off, and where personal responsibility is required for success and imprinted on your psyche.
It was from this farmstead setting that New set off to Montana State University for an accounting degree, with a plan to springboard after to law school. He saw himself as a future business litigator and had the drive and acumen to realize that dream. But, sometimes, one dream gets eclipsed by another.
During his first summer break – like many college students do, he took available jobs, which put him at the bottom of the economic food chain, as most students realize in today’s times.
“I heard about people working in Alaska on jobs related to the pipeline, earning ten times as much as I was,” he said.
With the bright-eyed determination of a typical student, and risk aversion at the lifetime low, typical of most 18-year olds, New caught a ride with a trucker all the way to Anchorage and ended up staying ten years.
Combining Experience & Experiences
In this second paradigm-shaping experience, New’s farm background made driving big rigs across the ice and tundra, from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, a comfortable fit. Though comfortable is probably not the right adjective. Adventuresome, often dangerous, in a setting as opportunistic as the gold rush days of the 1980’s. “I was pulling down serious money, for a guy my age, but I saw an entrepreneurial opening in the burgeoning population of Anchorage, that grew from 50,000 to 250,000 while I was there,” he recalled.
He and a few friends started a restaurant, Sea Food Restaurants of Alaska, which grew to five profitable and strategic locations. New’s success was a combination of a farm-bred work ethic, entrepreneurial awakening and the fine-tuning of operational skills through the happenstance of learning from a McDonald’s executive who had come to Alaska to erect the golden arches.
That is also where he met his wife Linda, a native of the Space Coast, who had gone north to visit family and see what would unfold. Eventually, the New’s cashed out and moved to southern California. “We wanted to get as far from the frigid north as we could. But the traffic gridlock of San Diego, along with starting a new family, made us realize California wasn’t the place,” New said. They decided to head east to see what opportunities might present in Brevard County.
They moved to Merritt Island in 1993, where years later, their daughter, Lindsey would graduate from the same high school as her mother did. As New realized he was too young to retire, and the 24-7 commitment of the restaurant business was not conducive to the family life they aspired to, he began to look at financial services. It was a field that involved the people skills he had honed as a restaurateur, along with the operational management abilities he had discovered and developed.
Hitting the Reset Button
“I had the opportunity to talk with some people from John Hancock. In the late ‘90’s they were expanding into the Central Florida market, and the more I learned, the more I realized this field was a good fit for me,” he said. As fate would have it, John Hancock’s recruiter happened to be one of Linda New’s best friends in high school, something they realized after he was offered a position at the company.
New enjoyed the mentoring and security of working for a major corporation but things were about to change. When the company decided to take their business in a different direction, he got served “the same pink slip as every other employee.
They did a good job helping people transition,” he said, “but I realized at that point I wanted to be in control of my own destiny.”
The biggest change for New wasn’t running his own business: he had done that as a restaurant owner. It was, instead, pushing reset regarding how to do business. “Basically, what my job had been was to sell John Hancock’s products to people. They had great processes, but I found a whole new portfolio of products that allowed me to customize what was best for each of my clients, instead of trying to fit everyone into the proverbial ‘round hole’,” he explained.
He left John Hancock right after the Y2K scare that began the new century. Looking back on the advances in the last two decades, his business has evolved right along with it. Because it has been a period of dramatic change, following and adapting to change became a part of his company’s DNA, along with developing effective processes that help clients reach their financial goals.
Looking Towards the Future
To New, the key is helping clients understand all the different facets of proven and strategic financial management. That process unfolds not by offering advice, rather by asking questions.
According to New, “Each client has different desires; for one it may be income, with others there may be risk issues, or needs for legacy planning.” One major focus for New and his team is the tax implication of varied investment strategies, not to mention safeguarding against market volatility.
A strategy New has studied extensively is how large endowments have been able to smooth out market fluctuations by including private equity to grow assets while providing income. “The typical family has the same needs as the foundation: they need durable income, coming in at steady monthly increments, without sacrificing the asset,” he said.
The Yale Model, as it is called, was pioneered by David Swensen and Dean Takahashi. They originated this kind of investment approach while managing the endowment portfolio of Yale University. What is different today, versus previous years, is that you can get into this type of vehicle with a lesser investment, starting at around $50-100,000, instead of the $1million buy-in required at the fund introduction.
After understanding the client’s needs and expectations, New sees his role as empowering his clients through education. He likes to say, “If there was a missing piece of information that was costing you money now, or that would cause a significant problem or cost in the future, when would you want to find out about it?” Of course, the answer is before you make a decision.
“One of the best ways for clients to make money is to avoid losing it in the first place. So, we focus on all the missing facts, to keep your money from falling through the cracks.”
Combined with the lessons of his younger years, these are the strategies that New and his team have utilized for more than twenty years of building relationships with people of all ages, from all walks of life, with a variety of financial goals.
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