INSIDE HAWAII INC.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Barron's Magazine has included a Hawaii resident, Gwen Pacarro, center, in its list of the top 100 female financial advisers. Above, Pacarro posed Thursday with her husband, financial adviser Gary Pacarro, and their daughter, wealth management analyst Noel Pacarro, in their office at Morgan Stanley in Honolulu.
Social worker’s daughter views wealth differently
Gwen Pacarro says her desire to help people guides her investment advice
Question: I understand your mother was a social worker and you once found a career imbalance in only dealing with the wealthy.
Recognition: Barron's Magazine has selected Gwen Pacarro as one of the nation's top 100 female financial advisers, and the only one from Hawaii. She is senior vice president and wealth adviser at Morgan Stanley, and created the Pacarro Group, which uses a team of advisers to serve individual clients.
Background: A couple of decades ago, she was working in sales at United Airlines, and was tapped by Paul Loo to start up Dean Witter in Hawaii in 1983, even though she had no formal financial background. (Morgan Stanley merged with Dean Witter in 1997.)
Service: She is chairwoman of the Women's Fund of Hawaii and a board member of the Children's Alliance of Hawaii. She formerly served on the board of the Hawaii Community Foundation.
I think having the background -- being raised by a social worker -- we were always very mindful of people who had less fortunate situations.
In working in my industry, our clients all come to us with wealth. That is not a true representation of the society in Hawaii or anywhere, and therefore I tend to have, I would say, a biased way of looking at the world, or people in my field have a biased way of looking at it.
They can overcome this by making their circle expand beyond their client, whether it be to their friends, their relatives or through working in the community.
Q: Did this mean generating less income for yourself?
A: No. I think initially I did in some ways, but again, I was not motivated by income, but by an outgrowth to need to see beyond clients. Not only was I working in investing funds for nonprofits, I started volunteering as a board member and started working proactively with some of the nonprofits.
Q: How did you go from sales at United to starting at Dean Witter in Hawaii?
A: I was looking for a career, I was living on the mainland, and my husband and I were looking for a career that would allow us to stay in one community for the rest of our lives ... and provide financial security for our family. They had offered an intellectual challenge.
Q: Did you have a background in finance?
A: My background was not in finance. It has always been an interest and it was not my training. I had trained on the job and continue to seek training as (recently) as last month. I just tried to pursue this at age 29.
Q:When you discussed the job with Paul Loo, what did you tell him?
A: That I believe I have what it takes to do this job. I believe I was raised in this community, have a network within the community, will be diligent in lifelong learning and doing what's right for the client. I think my integrity came through and that was important. At the time my children were 2 and 4, so it was a difficult time to start a new career. I could never have done this without a supportive husband who believed in me. I needed something more challenging.
Q: What is the Pacarro Group and how is it different from Morgan Stanley?
A: What we've found is most of our clients are families, they have many issues involved in the management of their wealth, and it is advantageous for the client to have multiple advisers within the group to address their different needs. I also found with clients of wealth, the service model requires a number of different personalities and skill sets. And it's necessary to have the various life experiences to address the needs of all clients. There are six total in the group.
Q: Is this practice becoming more common?
A: It's becoming more in vogue. We were somewhat pioneers in doing this, but it's becoming the model for financial advising firms as they recognize the benefits of having a team approach to working with the client.
Michael Laconsay is our retirement plan and debt management specialist and Gary Pacarro (my husband) is our education strategy specialist.
Q: How do you charge clients?
A: Most of our fees are derived from an asset-based fee that is ongoing as is the service. It's a quarterly fee.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I canoe paddle and I golf and I swim in the ocean.
Inside Hawaii Inc.
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