Jerry Slusiewicz depends on his own analysis and risk-management philosophy to keep client portfolios in order.
In his teenage years, Jerry Slusiewicz recognized the need for a better approach to managing clients’ money.
Slusiewicz, the founder of Pacific Financial Planners in Laguna Hills, Calif., has a vivid memory of accompanying his father, a General Motors employee, to a meeting with a stock broker. At the time, Slusiewicz was a Michigan high school student. He recalls the broker recommending that his father average down in a stock that had already lost half its value. “Well, my dad did it, and I still remember: That company went to zero. It went completely bankrupt. That hit me, as a kid,” he says.
Today, Slusiewicz manages $80 million for clients, using investing strategies to grow capital, protect capital, provide income when it’s needed, and manage risk.
The Stock Bug
Slusiewicz began tracking stocks in the local newspaper while he was in high school, but his interest in the market took hold in college. He studied engineering at Kettering University (the former General Motors Institute) but was intrigued by a friend’s successful stock trades. A chemistry professor allowed him to pursue independent study on the stock market, which only heightened his interest. He took a job with GM after graduation, though he already was unsure about pursuing engineering. After a short stint at GM, he made his move— to California. After arriving in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, he didn’t immediately go into the brokerage business, instead opening a car wash with a college friend using some of his profits from investing. That lasted about 18 months, and then Slusiewicz’s finance career began. He joined a penny stock brokerage, then an institutional sales firm, and joined Shearson Lehman Hutton in 1989.
Early in his tenure, a more experienced broker began teaching him technical analysis, and technical analysis appealed to Slusiewicz’s engineering-trained mind and his sense of independence. “I was beginning to understand the importance of figuring things out for myself, rather than being a normal broker and doing what Wall Street tells you,” he says. In particular, he bristled at the idea of putting clients into investments because the brokerage’s analysts gave it favorable coverage.
He soon became a portfolio manager at Shearson. “I could pick among 300 or 400 different stocks and choose my own, and use stop-losses,” he says. The use of stop-loss orders led Slusiewicz to an intense focus on risk management, which is an emphasis at his practice today.
After working at Union Bank and later at Wachovia, Slusiewicz opened Pacific Financial Planners in 2004. Many Pacific clients are retirees who want Slusiewicz’s help managing investments for their children and grandchildren as well. “I deal with Mom and Pop,” he says, “not just the ultrawealthy.”
Actively Adding Value
His portfolios have three flavors: growth, ballast, and income; the emphasis varies by client. He spends up-front time on the planning process, but Slusiewicz believes that he adds the most value by actively managing client investments. "The growth side of my business is money management, and that’s where I spend the preponderance of my time," he says. "I care about my clients, and that’s where I can help them the most."