No. 23: Jason Zaks
Firm: Deutsche
AUM: $722 Million
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Age: 38

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.

Helping others runs in the family for Jason Zaks, who now makes his fourth appearance on this list.

With a few doctors in the family and a sister in the Peace Corps, Zaks wanted to find a way to parlay his knowledge of financial markets to benefit others. After working in corporate banking for Wachovia, he went back to get his MBA in portfolio management and sought out a position with more time in front of clients, which landed an advisory position at Deutsche Bank.

“It’s a natural inclination for people to help others, and I figured I could do that through something that I like,” Zaks says. “[Clients] are investing their life savings they’ve worked so hard to earn over the years. It’s really about putting that first.”

Putting the client’s interest first means focusing on long-term investments and only things that he understands and would invest in himself, Zaks says. After coming of age in the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, he has opted for investments that will preserve capital, or “safe money,” as he calls it. That gives him a pretty broad range of investments from hedge funds to fixed income that have been helpful once again as the market has hit another volatile period.

“It’s like we’re right back where I started,” he says.

Zaks also takes time to make sure clients and prospects understand that he is putting them first. He called on a CEO of a local company for nine years, learning as much about him as he could before finally winning his business in 2012. The client had more than a hundred other proposals from other advisors, he says, but Zaks finally won out thanks in large part to the extra care he put into writing the prospect handwritten notes.

“I was very persistent in staying in touch and learning as much as I could about him,” Zaks says. “I listened to him give a speech, and he talked about how he is a proponent of handwritten notes for anyone who means something to him and has done something to help him, and I am a big fan of writing handwritten notes as well. It’s a little bit of an old-fashioned approach.”