No. 6 LEVI NAGEL, 34
Morgan Stanley Los Angeles
Many of the Top 40 Advisors Under 40 can trace their success back to an early start. But it would be tough to beat Levi Nagel, who discovered his passion for investing when he started trading commodities in his father's brokerage account at the age of eight.
It was admittedly "win some, lose some" at the beginning, he says, but thanks to the initial experience, he felt comfortable when it came time to invest on behalf of wealthy clients. The main challenge was finding them, he says.
Nagel's break came from a fortuitous and a "somewhat embarrassing" meeting with a well-known local executive, he recalls. Off work for a holiday, Nagel and his wife were strolling through a town in the San Fernando Valley when they passed by the executive's office building. Dressed down and unprepared, Nagel rolled the dice and walked in.
"What? A banker in jeans?" the executive shouted when Nagel walked in. "How do you dress like this?"
Fortunately, the executive's bark was worse than his bite. "He'll scream at you, but he means well," Nagel says he found out. Nagel, who is an Orthodox Jew and an ordained rabbi, eventually earned the trust of the man, who was a Holocaust survivor. Nagel walked out with a list of 20 high net worth individuals the executive also wanted him to call.
"He enjoyed helping people," Nagel recalls. "He saw me trying and had confidence enough in me to let me use his name."
Nagel now oversees the portfolios of around 50 households, many of whom come from that original list. He says he has grown his business by presenting himself as a "one-stop shop" for investors. Rather than pitching prospects on innovative investing strategies, he sells many business owners and executives on his ability to secure competitive loans.
"A big way to get in the door is lending," he says. "It's easier to offer someone money than to ask someone for money."