No. 21: Bruce Munster

Firm: Morgan Stanley

AUM: $772 million

Location: Los Angeles

Age: 37

Note: This profile is part of a special series devoted to On Wall Street’s Top 40 Under 40 ranking for 2012. Every day we take a look at an advisor who made the list to find out the secrets of their success.

As Bruce Munster tells the story, he really didn’t intend to become a financial advisor on the day he launched his career. “I was running a property-casualty insurance agency,” Munster remembers. “We had a booth at a local job fair, and our booth was adjacent to one from a major brokerage firm. I got to talking to the people in that booth and, when the job fair concluded, I wound up getting recruited.”

Since then, Munster says that some “tipping points” have helped to shape his career. “In one instance, I was making cold calls and I called this billionaire who lived in the area,” he says. “I didn’t even know who he was. He called me in and spent a great deal of time talking to me, explaining what wealthy people really wanted from their advisors.”

From this meeting, Munster says, he came up with the idea of offering a “virtual family office” to clients. “We would put together leading tax and legal advisors to form a personal team for wealthy families,” Munster says.

Currently, Munster and this personal team approach are focused on mid-market M&A. “We represent over 50 families and about half of them have sold a business,” Munster says. “In such transactions, we’ll work with the deal attorneys and investment bankers. We don’t provide legal business but we bring people together to help our clients get good results.”

Especially after selling a business, clients rely on Munster to manage their investments. Recently, he has been increasing their equity holdings, especially in domestic companies.

“We see problems in Europe,” Munster says. “However, if those stocks go lower, we might be aggressive buyers.”

On the fixed income side, Munster aims to keep clients’ money safe. If the long end of the yield curve climbs quickly and the dollar falls, higher inflation is likely, he points out.

“Higher tax rates are also a concern for our clients,” Munster says. “We’ve seen some of them taking steps such as socking away large amounts in defined benefit pension plans and using cost segregation studies to accelerate real estate depreciation.”