On the big screen, fictional insider-trading sleazeball Gordon Gekko exhorted: “Greed … is good.” In real life, cream-of-the-crop Wealth Advisor Peter M. Weintraub counsels: “Don’t deviate from being ethical, moral and truthful.”
This is one FA who’s giving the industry a good name. Indeed, he counts his code of ethics as an advisor’s No. 1 priority.
Weintraub, 68, has been with UBS Financial Services for 41 of his 42 years as an FA, having joined UBS’s predecessor, PaineWebber, in 1976.
First and foremost, his eight words to live by build client trust. “People need to know that you have their interest at heart, that it’s not the firm saying you should be making [this investment],” says the genial Weintraub, who boasts a glass-half-full outlook: “I’ve always given people the benefit of the doubt. Rarely have I been disappointed.”
He is partners with Harvey E. Demsky and son Daniel Demsky in the Demsky Weintraub Wealth Management Group, with assets of more than $500 million under management. From offices on swank Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills, Calif., the team, including two service associates, specializes in high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients.
Weintraub, named to the firm’s prestigious President’s Council, is so valuable to his complex director, that the manager likens him to almost his partner. “Peter is the soul of the office. He represents all that’s good about our business and the nobility of helping others. He operates with a deep sense of compassion for his clients, the office and me,” says David Bigler, complex director-managing director.
As for Weintraub and Demsky, they’ve been an advisory team for 36 years now, having met as rookies at PaineWebber’s Beverly Hills branch. Today, the two and Daniel Demsky work in close partnership splitting revenues under one production number. All three sit together in one office at one big desk. They like it that way: Prior to an office remodel, they occupied separate side-by-side offices with a sliding window for, um, communication.
“We used to yell and scream back and forth. Now we have a much more efficient way to share ideas,” Weintraub notes.
The two original partners are complements to each other. “I might look at some opportunities that may be a little more aggressive. Harvey probably brings a bit more calmness and less volatility to the team. But both of us look at [investments] that are beneficial to the client on a risk basis more than [on] what the ultimate returns could be,” Weintraub says.
A people-person without a doubt, the veteran FA is particularly skilled at talking sense to rattled clients who can get caught up in the hype of overwrought financial TV reporters and their guests.
“If you watched one program, you would be a buyer; if you watched another, you’d be a seller,” Weintraub laments. “Noise and information overload is one of the biggest problems for financial advisors today.”
He continues. “But you have no control over the direction of the market. So you try to take some of the emotion out of it—both for yourself as well as your clients.”
An even more pressing issue for FAs, he notes, is record-low interest rates. “You need to find [investments] where you can get returns without taking on an inordinate amount of risk. We’ll do premium bonds and [callable] cushion bonds,” for instance. “And we’ll look at short-term bonds, so that if rates do go up, it’s not as though you bought a 30-year bond paying 2.5% or 3%—and now rates are much higher.”
Chicago-born, Weintraub moved to Southern California with his family when he was 10 years old. There, his father started out in real estate buying and selling houses that were blocking construction of the Harbor Freeway—moving more than 100, on wheels, through the streets of L.A.
Growing up with a successful entrepreneur dad and investing a bit of bar mitzvah gift cash in stocks, Weintraub got a taste for finance. As early as high school, he targeted a business career.
Graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles with a bachelor of science in business administration, he began studying at Golden Gate Law School. It didn’t take long to realize, however, that “being a lawyer wasn’t for me. I think the law is better off for it—and so am I,” he jokes.
That was when he decided to become a stockbroker, partly to get exposure to a variety of businesses and thus discover the field for which he was actually best suited.
Weis, Voisin & Co. hired him; but in the weak market of 1969, Weintraub’s start date was put on hold. No prob: The twenty-something sailed the Caribbean for seven months.
Upon his return, he stayed at Weis, Voisin for about a year, then joined PaineWebber but opted against mapping out long-term plans.
“I made myself a commitment that I would try it for two years, and then I could renew my contract after that. Needless to say, I’ve renewed my contract for a lot of years! Some clients have become really good friends, and that,” he says, “is very special.”
As new brokers sitting next to each other at PaineWebber’s Beverly Hills branch, Weintraub and Demsky tossed ideas back and forth. They even spoke of partnering up.
But when a managerial slot opened at another PW office, Weintraub recommended Demsky. He snagged the job, though soon discovered he didn’t care for managing brokers. Whereupon, he phoned Weintraub: “About the partnership, let’s talk about it.”
Weintraub calls theirs “a terrific 36-year ‘marriage.’”
From the start, the advisors built their solid practice by developing relationships—way before it was industry SOP. One approach was cultivating spheres of influence. Integrity was central to gaining these professionals’ trust—and referrals.
“I think the reason people helped us build the business is that they knew that if I made a mistake, it was a mistake,” Weintraub says. “It wasn’t as though I made it with some ulterior motive.