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Kevin Sánchez

Keeping the Saw Sharp

Kevin M. Sánchez, CIMA®, CPWA®, CFP®
Senior Institutional Consultant, UBS Institutional Consulting, Walnut Creek, California


Once a year Kevin Sánchez, CIMA®, CPWA®, CFP®, has an acting gig in “A Christmas Carol” at a community theater near his Walnut Creek, California, home. He says acting keeps his “saw sharp” for the public speaking he does as an Institute volunteer and board member.

He keeps his professional saw sharp by earning CIMA and CPWA certifications and continuing professional education every year. Sánchez, who manages some $2.1 billion in assets for nonprofit organizations, foundations, endowments, and individuals with his partner Brian Sharpes, CIMA®, at UBS Institutional Consulting, is certain that, “Without the skill set I gained from the CIMA program—and the ongoing education I continue to get from the Institute—I would not be able to engage the types of clients we have or build the business to this scale. Institutional clients, in particular, recognize the value of CIMA certification—they know what the credential teaches. I don’t think they would let us in the door without it.”

Sánchez’s practice focuses primarily on the institutional market, but he also works with a limited number of high-net-worth clients. That’s where the CPWA credential comes in. “CPWA certification provides an in-depth education on the issues wealthy individuals face in addition to managing their investment portfolio—family dynamics, unique tax situations, transitioning a business, and complex estate planning,” he explains. “It fine-tuned my knowledge so I can do a very good job of being a consultant to all their financial concerns.”

Although Sánchez works in a world of multi-million dollar clients, he’s quick to point out that he did not come from a family with money. He broke into the financial services business by offering to do an unpaid internship for a stock broker while working on his undergraduate degree in finance at the University of Oregon. After completing his MBA there, mentors advised him to go out and prove himself—and he did. “No one with money wants to trust someone who is very wet behind the ears,” he says. “To make it in this business, you have to show a track record of success.” After stints as a business analyst for Dun & Bradstreet and a marketing manager for an adventure travel company and medical products firm, he returned to financial services with his track record in hand, eventually joining UBS and partnering with Sharpes to serve the institutional market.

“Brian already had the CIMA certification, and I quickly realized that the training gained from earning the credential was an absolute necessity if I was going to be a consultant to institutions,” Sánchez recalls. “In addition, UBS requires CIMA certification for consultants who work with institutions that have more than $25 million in assets.”

Sánchez likens the nine months he spent studying for CIMA certification to graduate school. “It was extremely rigorous and academic—and it should be,” he says. “We dug into the process of building a portfolio using money managers and maintaining a balanced approach toward allocating clients’ money.”

“Among institutions, CIMA certification is considered the gold standard,” he continues. “Having it creates a quicker level of trust in their eyes. And individual clients who may not recognize the credential are impressed when I tell them that it’s associated with Wharton, arguably one of the top finance schools in the country.”

Sánchez admits that the proliferation of designations can make it confusing to choose the right one. The key, he says, is to fit the education obtained from a credential to the client and the job. He explains: “If you specialize in working directly with clients to develop investment policy, select a portfolio of outside money managers, and evaluate and monitor the portfolio over time, the CIMA program is the best education available. Period. On the other hand, if your job is designing and running a mutual fund, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter is a good choice. My partner and I have opted to hire someone with CFA training to help us analyze stocks and mutual funds, but we don’t see the need to have it ourselves.”

Similarly, Sánchez pursued the Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) certification because it provided a broad education in financial planning appropriate to a wide range of clients. Then, he added CPWA certification five years later to gain a more-advanced education in financial planning for wealthy individuals whose needs are more complex. “I compare it to the difference between a doctor who’s a general practitioner and one who’s a specialist in neonatal cardiology,” he says. “Bottom line: Ask yourself: ‘What is my job and who do I want to serve?’ Then, match your answer to the appropriate education.”

If CIMA and CPWA certifications have helped Sánchez win clients, being active in the Institute has helped keep them. “The Institute’s conferences and publications give me the education I need to provide ongoing value to my clients and show them why they should keep paying me every year to manage their money,” he says. “The Institute’s conferences, for example, bring together thousands of CIMA certificants to focus on this very rigorous academic component of our business to keep our saws sharp. We obtain very high-level information on the latest topics provided by the top thinkers in the field, including Nobel laureates. I interact with some of the brightest colleagues in the field and immediately take back what I learn to my clients. The Institute’s education programs have returned the money I paid to get CIMA certification multiple times over in my ability to build a very large practice.”

Sánchez brings equal intensity to his pursuits away from the job. An adventure photographer, he’s explored the jungles of Papua, New Guinea, camera in hand. An avid mountain climber, he’s set his sights on standing on the tallest point in every continent. He’s reached the summit of Kilimanjaro in Africa, with Aconcagua in South America and Denali in North America next on the list, and Everest the year he turns 50. “It’s a grueling hobby,” Sánchez says, “and there’s pain along the way. But when you get to the top, the feeling of accomplishment is something you never let go.”