Mark Petrie

Meet Mark Petrie

Bringing institutional investment acumen to San Diego families

Not quite sure what he was going to do with his bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California at Irvine, Mark Petrie began his career working at a growing money management firm in Pasadena. It didn’t take him long to realize he had a passion for investing.

After years of serving institutional clients, Mark now brings that passion to affluent families in San Diego. As a director in wealth management and partner at Aspiriant, Mark guides them through holistic financial planning to help them live their dreams and achieve success.

While working for large money management firms, Mark gained well-rounded investing experience — ranging from domestic and international stocks, growth and value investment philosophies, various fixed income asset classes and alternative investment strategies. During these years, Mark was able to travel the world in search of different investment trends and met corporate executives, economists and government officials. He earned his Charted Financial Analyst® designation in 1998.

At about this time, Mark, who was living in Los Angeles, and his wife (then girlfriend), Jennifer, who was coaching volleyball and earning her master’s degree in North Carolina, decided to build a life together in San Diego. She became a volleyball coach at University of San Diego, while he “took a leap” and joined a small, seaside wealth management firm called Hokanson Associates.

“That’s when I gained my first exposure to total wealth management — working with clients’ holistically, helping them realize their life goals and customizing investment strategies based on their individual circumstances,” Mark says. “I found that to be a far better fit for me than managing money from the ‘ivory tower.’”

Mark, along with founding principals Neil Hokanson and Linda Kitchens, served about 270 clients when they merged with Aspiriant in 2016. When Neil retired at the end of last year, Mark took over leadership of the San Diego office. He recently guided the team’s move to a new office on High Bluff Drive to better serve clients and position the team to grow.

With a fresh, modern and technology-driven environment to work in, he enjoys meeting face-to-face with individual clients and their families to help them achieve their goals through a comprehensive financial plan. Here, he explains what that’s like.

You came from a background of institutional fund management, working for large-scale investors such as pension funds and government entities. How is that different from what you do today?

Prior to working in the wealth management industry, my primary day-to-day concern was outperforming my peers. We didn’t think very much about our clients — we didn’t know them. We didn’t worry about taxes, how much risk we were taking or investment turnover. We only cared about short-term returns and our year-end bonuses. I didn’t know any better — that’s just how money was managed up into the 1990s.

My motivations completely changed when I transitioned to the wealth management industry — my focus became solely about our clients. I needed to be more accountable for my thought process and the rationale behind our investment decisions and strategy. I had to prioritize tax efficiency and take a longer-term investment approach. In short, I learned to act as a fiduciary. This alignment of interests, and the personal accountability that came with it, was a welcome revelation.

With your knowledge of the capital markets, how do you explain investing to clients?

The fundamentals of investing can be counter-intuitive to those not close to or experienced in finance. So, when I speak with clients, in addition to talking about things like cash flow and valuation, the one thing I make sure to explain is how our natural, emotional tendencies can be self-destructive. We’re all susceptible, for example, to following what’s worked previously or exiting our investments when times get rough.

In that light, I spend a lot of time educating clients about Aspiriant’s Capital Markets Expectations (CME) process. By forecasting returns and risk, we’re able to help manage our client’s behavioral biases and challenges. Doing so offers them the best opportunity to reach their long-term goals with the least risk possible.

What resonates with clients today is that many of the drivers of the above-average returns we’ve experienced over the past few years — falling interest rates, rising valuations, tax cuts — have largely played out. Future returns are expected to be more modest than we’ve experienced of late, while risk, or volatility, is likely to increase.

Our clients appreciate that our investment process and philosophy are well-suited for the next phase of this market cycle.

Tell us about the new office and why Aspiriant moved there.

Our new location allows us to serve clients much better. It’s modern, polished and technology-driven. There is more parking, and the office is centrally located in central San Diego.

What’s special about serving clients in San Diego?

From our office, we primarily work with business owners, executives, retirees and inheritors of wealth. We also see a lot of opportunity in the growing health-tech industry. As people accumulate wealth with this growth, we’re uniquely positioned to guide them through all the complex financial transactions and life changes that come along with it.

Aspiriant is one of the very few independent wealth management and family office advisory firms in the country offering comprehensive investment and financial planning advice. And our employee-ownership structure is designed to serve families for multiple generations. I truly love meeting with our clients each day to bring clarity to how their investments fit into their financial plan and help create purpose for their wealth.