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Louis Chiavacci - Merrill Lynch

Louis Chiavacci believes that wealth managers need to listen carefully to their clients in order to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and goals. “A good wealth manager also needs to be able to deliver difficult news,” said Chiavacci, an international private wealth manager with Merrill Lynch in Coral Gables. “Too many advisors will tell clients what they think they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.  In my experience, clients will almost always respect you for delivering your true feelings about an issue, even if they don’t agree with you.”

Drawing on his 26 years of experience, Chiavacci says a good wealth manager should become an valued partner with a successful attorney, accountant or other professional, providing suggestions and advice. “That partnership is important, because most successful professionals possess an investment bias based on how they accumulated their wealth,” he said. “For example, a successful real estate broker may have a difficult time initially understanding why she should be investing in anything other than real estate.  The same can be said for high-tech entrepreneurs, and small business owners, among others.”

In fact, many investors tend to “fall in love” with an asset class or even a single stock position, according to Chiavacci. “This bias can sometimes stand in the way of the professional and his or her family accomplishing their goals, such as financial independence, wealth transfer or a philanthropic legacy, because it places an unneeded degree of risk on their investments.”

While many busy professionals are comfortable making quick decisions, important wealth management issues, such as building a portfolio, and tax and charitable planning often require careful consideration and a methodical approach, Chiavacci said. “Sometimes, successful professionals will become frustrated that everything can’t be accomplished in one 30-minute meeting. But it’s important not to give up at that point and continue moving ahead.”

Chiavacci believes that a good wealth manager has a thorough understanding of the markets as well as the client’s goals and personality. “When interviewing a prospective wealth manager, you should ask plenty of questions, and pay particular attention to his or her investment philosophy,” he said. “We suggest peeling away the layers of the onion in an effort to understand exactly what you are getting.”

Chiavacci got his start in investing in the late 1970s by following news articles on Federal Reserve actions regarding money supply, and continued under the guidance of a retired U.S. Navy commander with Merrill Lynch in St. Petersburg.  After earning an MBA, he joined Goldman Sachs in New York, and moved to Merrill Lynch with his team in 1997.

“Most of my clients are first-generation wealth creators, such as entrepreneurs, corporate executives and private equity and hedge fund managers,” he said. For example, Chiavacci recently helped a client who had sold his business in exchange for stock in a thinly traded company develop a more diversified portfolio and achieve his other personal goals.

“Our team enjoys helping families achieve their goals while taking on as little risk as possible,” Chiavacci said. “We also thrive on the psychological challenges of the markets intersecting with the challenge of decision making under times of uncertainty and economic stress.”  

Louis Chiavacci is an international private wealth manager with Merrill Lynch in Coral Gables who has provided wealth management advice to affluent families since 1986. He has been recognized by Barron’s as one of the nation’s top 100 financial advisors from 2004 — 2011, and was the #1 advisor in Florida in 2009. He is a member of the Private Wealth Management Advisory Council to Merrill Lynch Management, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law.

South Florida Legal Guide 2012 Financial Edition

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