“I want to help people do the right thing and to be at ease”
Drew Pratt is the latest addition to the Rebalance team. As Vice President for Investment Advice, Pratt will contribute to the firm’s wealth management practice while also advancing the Rebalance 360 Product Suite, a full-service wealth management offering.
Pratt brings more than 35 years of wealth and portfolio management, asset allocation strategy, trust, estate and financial planning experience to Rebalance. Prior to Rebalance, he spent more than a decade at Wetherby Asset Management in San Francisco, California, a prestigious independent advisory firm that serves ultra-high-net-worth clientele and has more than $5 billion in assets under management. While there, Pratt served as a wealth manager and director of research.
You come from a background of institutional investing and high-net-worth client advising. Why did you choose to come to work for Rebalance?
I was attracted to the platform and the people of Rebalance. It’s my belief, and I think the belief of everybody else at the company, that while there’s not just one way to do things, in life you try to do things that are consistent with your philosophical approach, your beliefs and what you think is right.
For me, it has always been a lot easier to be in a place where there’s that philosophical consistency. That’s what I noticed first, that we all really see eye-to-eye.
Rebalance is a really good group of dedicated people who have taken an amazingly innovative approach to wealth management. As a firm, we’re helping people do the right thing. We’re helping people make the right financial decisions in their lives.
Investment advice is fairly dry, almost scientific. You seem like a people person. How do you balance these demands?
In my previous work as an institutional advisor and later as a personal financial advisor what gave me a really good feeling was being people’s trusted advisor. That’s a passion for me, giving good advice and then marrying that with this company, this platform and with these people that you know have it figured out.
In the end, I want to help people do the right thing and help them live the lifestyle that they want, to help them make the right investment decisions, help them through the difficult times. And maybe put them at ease a little bit. It’s daunting, working in this world of investing for so long. There’s just so much to learn and understand and process. Most clients are doing other things, the things that they’re good at.
If we can take investing off their plate and and put them at ease, that’s a benefit. Helping people make the right decisions, helping them be successful in their investment lives, that puts them more at ease. I think if you achieve this then you’re doing great things for people.
A lot has changed in investing over your career, principally the move from active investing to index fund investing through portfolios. What have you learned that can be applied to the client experience at Rebalance?
Coming from the world of institutional investing, my thinking has evolved over the past 15 years or so. Before, I was an active manager and I could see how difficult that was first hand. And, of course, I was looking at the data on index fund investing too.
As it turns out, the most effective way to go is also the lowest cost way to go. Yes, you could spend a lot of money and pick active managers and pay a lot for investment management. Or, you could use ETFs and index funds and take more of an asset allocation approach with low fees, low turnover in your portfolio, and therefore a low tax impact.
If it’s that simple, why not just buy an index fund and leave it be for a decade or two?
Low-cost indexing and low turnover is the right way to go from an investment perspective, so that’s part one. And then, part two, you’re hiring you an advisor to look out for you, someone who’s helping you stay with your plan, because we all know that money is emotional and markets will try to kind of force you off your plan, especially during corrections.
So an advisor, I think, really earns his or her money during difficult periods in the market when they help you stay the course. Staying the course over the long term is the key to success.
An advisor should help beyond the financial side. An advisor also should understand you as a person. Ultimately, it’s about the right thing to do from an investment perspective and what’s right from a life perspective. Hopefully you’re paying them to understand you, understand your risk tolerance, understands all the things that are coming up in your life that are going to require the use of your savings and investments.
An advisor should help you adapt as your life changes and help you with planning, help you with multi-generational wealth transfer, help you with all the different things that you’re going to experience. I think that a good advisor possesses the capability to help with all those things, so when you’re choosing an advisor you should look for one that can offer you all that. I think if you do that you’ll feel really good about the money you’re paying for your advisory service.
You’ve given back a lot over the years, helping to lead the investment committees at two educational endowments near your home in the Bay Area. How did that come about?
I live near Mill Valley, California. That is where both my kids went to school. I became involved in 2006 in a local school endowment called the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation. The reason for the existence is really Proposition 13 in California, where our arts and music education and now technology and some other things aren’t paid for by the state. That requires local involvement. So a lot of local endowments have sprung up to bridge that gap and make sure that that kids have arts and music education at school. And, they’ve recently become much more supportive of financing technology equipment, physical education, library and classroom aides and those types of things.
So I was asked to be a part of that and join the Kiddo! Endowment Investment Committee. I stayed involved with the committee as a member and chair for almost 13 years. It was just a really positive way to make an impact on the community and kids. My kids benefited from it and, as time went on and they got older, I also was involved in the local high school foundation as chair of that investment committee. My kids went to Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. That school also had an endowment which was supportive of school programs. It made grants directly into the high school to improve the educational experience.