Risk Compensation, Summitry and You

Kurt Hoefer, CFA

We’re not social scientists, but we know some good ones who have helped us gain a deeper understanding of the role that Summitry plays with its clients – with people who, like us, call the San Francisco Bay Area home. What did they hear?

The first thing they heard from our clients is that the Bay Area is a challenging but rewarding place to live with all kinds of unique risks and opportunities. Those who are willing to endure high taxes, living costs, traffic congestion and the risks inherent to working in a rapidly-changing information technology economy are richly rewarded with the Bay’s sophisticated urban culture, the proximity to vast open spaces, benign weather and unparalleled professional opportunities. It’s an area that requires a sensitivity to local wealth management concerns that many wealth managers don’t have – the nature of real estate prices in the Bay Area, the cost of living, the region’s employment and investment opportunities, the concentrations of wealth in employer stock, and the anxieties many parents feel about whether their kids will ever afford to live close by.

The second thing they heard is that the Bay Area attracts people who like taking risks, people who like to work in tech or launch their own companies or invest their own money in the stock market and Silicon Valley start-ups. Bay Area residents are active participants in the greatest creation of wealth in history. They like living on the edge, pursuing new opportunities and making the most of life here. We’re a special breed of person and in many ways, we know it.

The third thing they heard is that something changes for Bay Area residents when they reach a certain age or level of wealth – when the stakes get higher. Our otherwise risk-tolerant residents start seeking security. They stop wanting to invest in the markets themselves or follow the next “hot dot” and watch it blow up. They start seeking an anchor to their orbit. And many find it with Summitry. So why does Summitry make sense? 

What the research team found is that Summitry’s comprehensive financial planning approach and value-driven investment philosophy works for our clients the same way a top-rope works for a rock climber or a pair of shin guards for a soccer player. While worn to mitigate risk, these sources of security actually allow people to climb higher and play harder – to continue taking risks. Psychologists call this phenomenon risk compensation. In a nutshell, risk compensation describes how security measures allow people to maintain a comfortable level of risk while going further than they otherwise could on their own. 

At Summitry we don’t call it risk compensation. We just call it an awesome client experience, and we’ve seen it in action countless times. Our clients go from fearing what’s next to optimizing their Bay Area lifestyle, starting a new career or re-enrolling in a degree program. This is where our financial planning comes into play, and why it matters that we’re local and understand all the opportunities to be explored here. 

There’s a phrase we have at Summitry that sums our philosophy up pretty well: When you’re safe, you can soar.

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Aaron Szager

Advisor Group Manager