Alexander "Lex" Zaharoff is Adjunt Professor at NYU Stern School of Business and Partner in the private wealth management firm, HTG Investment Advisors in New Canaan, Connecticut. Professor Zaharoff has worked for over thirty years in the private banking and wealth management field, including senior positions at Citi Private Bank, Roundtable Investment Partners, HSBC's Private Bank, and Bank of America U.S. Trust. Professor Zaharoff spent the first twenty three years of his career at JPMorgan's Private Bank including global responsibility for product development and advisory services. In 1995, he created the Advice Lab, a think tank that brought together a team of experts to solve complex investment issues for some of the world's wealthiest families. With his colleague, Dr. Ashvin Chhabra, Mr Zaharoff was granted a patent on computing probabilities of attaining multiple financial goals. He has published papers in the Journal of Wealth Management including, as co-author with Ashvin Chhabra and Ravindra Koneru: Modern Portfolio Theory's Third Rail: Achieving Wealth Mobility Through Idiosyncratic Risk. (Summer 2011), and Creating a Goal-Based Wealth Allocation Process (Winter 2008).
What do you do best?
Helping people – my students and my clients – understand why and how to invest in financial markets. The “why” is critical to gain confidence to staying on course through volatile markets. The “how” is knowing techniques which work and avoiding common mistakes.
What makes you the best?
Combining thirty five years of experience with a willingness to apply new lessons learned. Achieving financial goals requires balancing investment theory with a client’s emotional constraints. I am successful thanks to an ability to straddle academia and the wealth management profession. At NYU Stern, I am viewed as an experienced practitioner. In the profession, I am known for adapting Modern Portfolio Theory to private wealth management. Knowing how to apply the latest techniques to help individuals better invest their savings is important. Having the ability and patience to explain a strategy in simple terms makes me one of the best in helping reduce money anxiety.
What are your aspirations?
I strive to teach others the right way to advise clients on investing well and help nudge the wealth management profession back to a focus on values. When I started in the profession in 1982, many firms provided solutions in the best interest of the client, what is now referred to as the fiduciary standard of care. Over the last 3 decades there has been an unfortunate shift from a trusted profession to a growth business – a shift which has enriched shareholders and employees at the detriment of clients. Through my teaching at NYU Stern and advising my clients at HTG Advisors, my hope is that private wealth management will be once again viewed in high regard.
In the 1990s, during my career at JPMorgan, I noted that Modern Portfolio Theory, the leading investment theory of the time, did not fully address the complexity of issues faced by individuals: taxes, longevity, concentrated positions, illiquidity and emotional constraints. We assembled a cross-functional team of in-house experts and academics across capital markets, trust and estates, taxes and analytical modeling. This team became known as the JPMorgan Advice Lab which I had the honor of leading for a decade and is still in existence today.
Most Challenging Moment?
Pushing good people out of an organization simply due to a change in corporate strategy rather than personal performance.
If it was easy, it would already have been done.
Favorite People/Role Models?
No one individual - I prefer learn from many of the talented people I know. No one is a perfect role model, but most have something special to share. It is the unique talents of many of the people I have had the pleasure of knowing which have blended into a composite role model.
Florence Italy (my home during my teenage years), Paris France (where my grandfather retired), New York City (my first home and where we started our family) and any beautiful beach my wife and I can find.
The quality and design of Apple tech, Porsche cars and Nikon cameras.
Teaching at NYU Stern and helping clients and colleagues at HTG Advisors. I love to share what I have learned to help others invest better since the fundamentals of saving and investing is not a required college course.