Investing in the Future
Gentry catches up with two of Silicon Valley’s sought after financial advisors.
Silicon Valley native Mary Beth Suhr was raised in Saratoga, where she attended Saratoga High School and later Santa Clara University. “I grew up with a creek in my backyard and down the street from an orchard in a neighborhood where families had six to nine children and we all played in the streets well past the sun going down. It’s a miracle we are all still alive. My family had a business here for 50 years, so I have been able to navigate between the old line Santa Clara Valley families as well as the newer generation of the high-tech industry.”
Suhr’s husband is a fifth generation San Franciscan whose great grandfather founded the oldest restaurant in San Francisco that still bears his name. For the past 30 years, Menlo Park has been their home and is where they raised their two sons. “We chose to settle in Menlo Park because it had beautiful, tree-lined neighborhoods, great schools, and a strong sense of community. It reminded me of my childhood in Saratoga where I spent hours riding my bike with friends all over town. It was also located between our extended families in Saratoga and San Francisco. Having lived in the Valley my entire life, I have seen many changes and helped people and companies manage through the boom-bust cycle that has characterized our economy. My history in the Valley gives me a perspective that keeps me grounded on what’s most important.”
How did you decide to pursue a career in Wealth Management?
During my senior year at Santa Clara University I took a course on how to market yourself for your future career. One of the assignments was to take a skills and interest survey and personality test, which indicated I was well-suited for a career as a stockbroker. Instead, I pursued a career in banking where I spent the next fourteen years working with entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals, and CFOs of public and private companies finance their growing business operations. Later, I was recruited to join the investment team on a multi-billion dollar internet technology mutual fund. There, I spent six years analyzing and covering a multitude of stocks, but having nameless, faceless shareholders as clients did not allow me to have any meaningful connection to people or to have an impact on their lives.
Simultaneously, I grew up in a large family with a successful family business and saw firsthand the challenges and responsibilities that accompany financial success. I also saw how, if not handled properly, the decisions you make can impact the lives of each family member and can influence relationships for multiple generations. When I discovered how hard it was for my family to assemble the right group of advisors to help them, I decided I wanted to fill that role for others.
What type of clients do you work with?
I work with a variety of clients that reflect the diverse character of Silicon Valley. My clients are mostly senior executives of public and private companies, public company board members, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business owners, and multi-generational private wealth families. While my clients have unique circumstances, they all possess one thing in common: they’ve accumulated a meaningful amount of wealth and need help developing a comprehensive and cohesive wealth strategy. Clients often seek out help when they are experiencing a significant liquidity or life event, such as the sale of a business, retirement, divorce, or widowhood.
How do you work with your clients?
I work collaboratively with my clients and engage with them much as a consultant would. I obtain an understanding of what they hope to accomplish in life. Who are the people who matter most to them? Do they have any causes they want to support? What values are important? What concerns do they have? What worries them most? I also work with the next generation helping educate them about good financial habits, how to invest, and how to be responsible stewards of their wealth.
What is your process when working with a client?
It begins with listening. I want to understand your goals and ambitions. What is important to you and your family? What type of legacy you envision? I want to identify any challenges and circumstances that are unique to your personal situation. Next, I analyze and assess your current and future financial situation to determine the likelihood of reaching your goals. I address any potential shortfalls or the impact unexpected life events may have. All of this is used to develop a customized wealth management plan that seeks to meet your goals and objectives and is aligned with your values. Upon approval, we implement the plan and provide ongoing reviews, portfolio rebalancing, tax management, risk management services, and make adjustments as needed.
How do you define success?
Everyone should have their own vision of what success means to them. For some, it may mean attaining wealth, fame, or power. For others, a life well-lived with satisfaction and joy may be enough. Silicon Valley is a highly competitive place to live and work and it has become one of the most expensive places in the world to live. As a financial advisor, I see the strain living in this fast-paced environment can take on people and their children. For me, having a healthy, loving family, a career where I am able to help people build resiliency for whatever life delivers to them, a home where I can share good food and wine with friends and family, meaningful relationships and the ability to give back, all gives me great satisfaction that I have achieved my vision of success.
Questions you recommend clients ask of a potential advisor?
I think it is important to understand why they chose this career and what motivates them. Clients should also understand how their advisor gets paid and how they choose the products and services that might be used. Clients want to work with people they can trust, so the more open and transparent you can be around costs, compensation, and potential conflicts of interest, that will go a long way towards building that trust. Lastly, in an age where security is paramount, how are you going to keep my personal, private information and data secure?
Marina Perry led a global childhood. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Perry moved to Argentina at the age of 2. “My father was from Davenport, Iowa and my mother was from Buenos Aires,” she notes. “I attended an all-girls bilingual British school from kindergarten through highschool and finished my University studies in the United States. My family had a focus on financial planning. My father was a financial advisor, my brother joined him and my sister pursued a management track at the same financial services firm. Because my family was so focused on careers in finance, at the time of pursuing my own professional development, I decided to go against the grain, choosing majors such as Literature, and later switching to hotel management. I eventually realized that it was International Business that I enjoyed the most, so that was my emphasis.” Marina moved to the U.S. at the age of 19 and married at 21. “I had my daughters when I was 29 and 31,” she recalls. Her early career was spent working several administrative jobs at the Asian-U.S. Complex of Merrill Lynch in San Francisco.
What was a turning point in your career?
Five years into my job at Merrill Lynch, and on a typical day at work, my then boss sat me down in her office and kindly stated that I would no longer have a job there, with one condition. She gave me a set of books to study to get my FINRA licenses, and told me that upon passing my exams, she would “ship” me to the San Mateo branch of the same firm, and I would be starting my career as a Financial Advisor. By now, I had divorced my husband and had two daughters to feed at home. Needless to say, I was terrified.
Fast forward to 2019, I could not be more grateful to that boss, for sponsoring me, and seeing in me, what at the time I could not see for myself. It is my hope and responsibility as a leader, to do the same for other professional women I encounter in my professional path.
What is your focus at Morgan Stanley?
Today, after many years of a strong work ethic and dedication, paired with my newfound energy given that I am almost an empty nester, I have three very important roles: I am the Branch Manager for Morgan Stanley on Borel Ave in San Mateo. Our office is beautifully and conveniently located in the midst of redwoods and ponds accented by beautiful fountains. It is a serene oasis with plenty of parking and brimming with intellectual capital from our Financial Advisors and Staff. At Morgan Stanley San Mateo, we house Corporate Plan Services teams that focus on equity compensation management for several powerful companies in our market and overseas. I encourage clients to count on us as an intellectual resource and tap into us at their convenience.
You are a champion of women at the firm. Tell us about that.
I am also the head of the Morgan Stanley Silicon Valley Complex Women’s Leadership group. We are 54 female financial advisors strong! This is a cause dear to my heart. I am fortunate to be in a position in which I live and breathe financial savvy, but I recognize that many successful women are not privy to the same information. Having two daughters and having been the sole provider for them, I recognize how fortunate I am to embrace my financial self, and to be a role model to my daughters. Hopefully Josie will become a Financial Advisor one day and join my practice. By being financially engaged and strong, I have set myself free from many personal situations that were not good for me. People sometimes vilify money, but it is your purpose for it that defines the value of money. I have witnessed how additive it is for a couple to have financial intimacy. Financial knowledge in a family should be shared, because burdening one party, regardless of gender, is toxic.
The reason I can be a Manager and a leader for our women’s group, is because of the lessons I forever learn from those I care most about in my profession: My clients.
Who are your clients and how do you help them focus on financial empowerment?
Being a Financial Advisor, Certified Financial Planner™ CRPC and Senior Portfolio Manager, as well as Executive Financial Services Director to a select group of clients, is my highest privilege. I have learned so much from each of my clients through their lives, values, aspirations, purpose, and legacy. They inspire me to bring my best version of myself to work every day, and stay at the forefront of my profession, to always be inquisitive and diligent on their behalf. I love to empower women financially as well and to help educate the next generation of clients to be good guardians of their family’s wealth. My clients mostly live in the SF Bay Area, South Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and internationally.
How do you strive to meet your client’s needs?
Utilizing Morgan Stanley’s suite of Modern Wealth Management I encourage clients to dream up their best lives, so I can design a financial course for them to help make those dreams a reality for themselves, their communities, and future generations.
How are clients needs in Silicon Valley different from other parts of the country?
Silicon Valley has to be the most exciting place to practice my profession, because of the sophistication of people’s financial constituencies, and their resulting financial planning and portfolio management needs. Many times clients tell me, “I did not know that product or service or solution was available to me!” That is so refreshing to hear. It makes my day when we can put our financial toolbox to work towards maximizing the utility of our clients’ financial resources. Being part of the Morgan Stanley Silicon Valley Complex allows me to align myself with what I am convinced is the smartest wealth management leadership team in the industry, headed by Scott Rash.
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