RIABiz Pre-Launch Feature: With algorithms and awkward questions, an ex-PIMCO 32-year-old crashes the RIA business

Min Zhang will literally size you up and analyze your life like an actuary with Totum Wealth

Brooke’s Note: A man called me today after reading some articles in RIABiz and asked if I would consider managing his money. I explained that we are strictly a publication but asked how he came to this juncture. I wanted to point him in the right direction. He explained that he has always been an aggressive self-directed investor of 100% equities, heavy on Netflix, Amazon and a few other high-fliers, and that his portfolio was now worth about $1 million. But he had just turned 83 years old and decided he might want to take fewer risks and an advisor to help him add bonds properly. Yes, this is a huge job of an advisor: to quantify risk and invest accordingly. Yet, too often an advisor’s assessment of a client’s risk appetite is based upon what the client tells them — a counterproductive echo chamber. That is why entrepreneurs like Min Zhang and Aaron Klein are on to something — two people who came by their ventures from very different places.

 

How old are you? How much do you weigh? Do you live near a New Jersey Highway? What is your risk of being fired?

 

These are four questions no sensible man asks on a first date.

 

Yet Min Zhang, 32, a former PIMCO analyst, is starting an RIA-facing company, Totum Wealth, built on posing exactly such awkward questions — and analyzing them to good effect. Totum means “the whole” in Latin.

 

The CEO of Totum co-founded the company with Mark Cone, 47, who was co-founder and managing partner at Causeway Capital Management LLC, which manages about $38 billion of assets.

 

Weighty issue
If such personal questions sound like those a life insurer might ask, you’re right. Zhang’s most recent stop was Pacific Life where she was director of investment risk management. Her peripatetic career had her hopscotching from Dartmouth College to Stanford University Graduate School of Business, to Causeway, Nutmeg (a London-based robo). She started her career at Lehman Bros. She took a class from Wealthfront Founder Andy Rachleff at Stanford.

 

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