Monterey Private Wealth Is Product of Willow Ridge Capital Advisors Merger

The name Monterey Private Wealth may be new to Hacienda, but partner Gary Alt has been in the same office at 4733 Chabot Drive since 2007, when he moved the office of the wealth management firm Willow Ridge Capital Advisors.

This past September, Alt and partner Steve Merrell, who helmed the Willow Ridge office in Monterey, joined forces with another prominent team of financial managers, Ken Petersen and Cris Cabanillas of Petersen & Ramistella, Inc., to form Monterey Private Wealth, Inc. (MPW). As before, the new firm maintains locations in Monterey and Pleasanton.

"Ken Petersen is the most well-known independent investment advisor on the Monterey peninsula, and not just because he writes a weekly financial column for the Monterey Herald," Alt points out. "He is also a tax expert."

Petersen's expertise, combined with Alt's specialty designing small business retirement plans and Merrell's many years managing billion-dollar mutual fund portfolios for American Express, has created a group with exceptional experience and resources.

The firm's principals first got to know each other through the Rotary Club of Monterey. As they became better acquainted, they realized the "powerhouse" their combined strengths represented for their core market of high net worth clients.

"We specialize in wealth preservation for business owners and CEOs. Especially as a result of the 2008 market turmoil, the number-one concern is still how to protect wealth over multiple generations," Alt relates. Among the firm's expanded menu of services, interest is growing in tailoring company retirement plans to align with goals for employee incentives and retention, integrated with the owners' own wealth objectives.

Another area of increasing focus is a new crop of investment products that "provide more stable growth in the stock market." MPW has been doing granular fiduciary research over the past three years to evaluate these new products, scrutinizing their internal cost, exploring the best client fits, and evaluating all the risks.

"Being a fiduciary means that we are legally bound to put clients' needs ahead of our own. We are entirely fee-based. We don't sell any products that pay a commission to avoid any conflict of interest," Alt explains.

"Steve's background in mutual funds and the way portfolio managers think, combined with both Ken's and my certification as accredited investment fiduciaries, means that now we can look at investments in a way that is very different from a typical investment advisor," he continues.

Their due diligence on these new products reveals some "really good investment options," he says. "They are a particularly good fit for people who in the past relied on bonds for stability and safety."

Still, the MPW team does not make a move before spending time understanding clients' needs and then developing a roadmap to align investing with their goals as they build an optimized portfolio.

"We help people develop a full-scale plan so they can have confidence in retiring with the lifestyle they want, and then we advise them on investments, but we don't do one without the other," Alt emphasizes. "It's not wise to invest without a plan."

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