Rukeyser, 51, was fortunate enough to be mentored by his late uncle, Louis Rukeyser, host of the longtime PBS TV show “Wall $treet Week.” “I like to think I’m doing the same thing he did — just in a different venue,” says the advisor.
Here, in an interview with ThinkAdvisor, the advisor looks ahead at the markets: “Unlike the financial crisis [of 2008-2009], this time there’s light at the end of the tunnel: As soon as there’s a [coronavirus] vaccine that people feel is safe, the world will turn on again.”
Overall, he thinks that ,”Over the next 12 to 36 months, you need to be very bullish … . It really doesn‘t matter who wins the White House [because] the markets are focused on a vaccine and the stimulus. Those are the two drivers.”
Managing director Rukeyser and his three partners advise three billionaire families and about 17 other families worth $100 million or more via their New York-based practice. Several clients work in the biotech industry or other areas of technology.
Of course, his super-wealthy clientele are concerned about protecting and preserving their money. So, as the advisor frames it: “Our job is to make sure they stay wealthy.”
He works with clients to review their long-term financial plans, pivoting on “the three L’s”: liquidity, lifestyle and legacy. They also work together on the value — to both client and advisor — of comprehensive estate planning, and on his new enthusiasm for environmental, social and governance (or ESG) investing.
Rukeyser grew up in suburban Larchmont, part of Westchester County in New York, graduated from Harvard with an economics degree and joined Prudential Investment’s leveraged buyout group.
Later, he earned an MBA in finance from Wharton and then — figuring he was better suited for wealth management than “impersonal” investment banking — joined Morgan Stanley.
There, he and Alexander Williams, whom he met at Wharton, became advisory partners. They remain so 25 years later.
The UHNW practice he and Williams built is open to new clients with at least $25 million. “The common theme is that all the families are rich,” he said, summing up his clientele.
Rukeyser spoke about his practice in a lengthy phone interview, from his home in Rye, New York, on July 24. Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Will the pandemic bring changes to the financial advisor’s job or the industry in general?
PETER RUKEYSER: I don’t think it will ultimately change the delivery of financial advice. Unlike the financial crisis [of 2008-2009], this time there’s light at the end of the tunnel: one or [more] coronavirus vaccines.
So people can see beyond this crisis and know it’s going to come to an end — maybe in the fall or around the new year or the first quarter. As soon as there’s a vaccine that people feel is safe, the world will turn on again.
To what extent?
We’re all going to live like it’s New Year’s Eve for a few months. Short-term, anything can happen: We can always have a 5%, 10% or 15% pullback, which is normal.
But over the next 12 to 36 months, you need to be very bullish because we’re going through a period of incredible stimulus; and it really doesn’t matter who wins the White House.
Really? Please explain.
That isn’t meant to be a statement on politics. I’m saying that the markets are focused on a vaccine and the stimulus. Those are the two drivers. The economy and the virus are the two most important things.
How have you been interacting with your clients during the pandemic?
I’ve started to invite them to my backyard. We sit outside on chairs 10 feet apart; I order in dinner, and we have some nice wine.
People are really craving a human connection. They need almost an emotional timeout from the 24-hour news cycle about COVID and the market [volatility].
Do you discuss their accounts in the backyard?
We talk about the markets, but it’s more reconnecting about what’s going on with their families, their kids. We talk about all the important stuff.
What other special events do you provide these ultra-high net worth clients?
One interesting thing we do is an annual ski trip for all the clients, and they ski together. Last year we went to Yellowstone Club in Montana; we’ve been to Vail and Aspen, Europe — all over.
By getting the families together in a relaxed setting, they’re often able to talk and share ideas — like how to raise kids in a wealthy family without causing them problems.
What else happens on those trips?
We have speakers and little roundtable discussions at dinner about different topics. Clients love it.
It’s almost like a club that the families join. They meet really interesting people in different industries. This has been very effective.
Amid the pandemic, what are your clients concerned about most?
They’re not worried about where their next meal is coming from, but they are worried about protecting and preserving their money. Our job is to make sure they stay wealthy — to protect and help families no matter what pitch comes their way.
What’s one specific way you’re helping during this difficult time?