For the second year in a row, Barron's Magazine named long-time Juneau resident Peter Jurasz one of the top 1,000 financial advisors in the United States, and one of the top five in Alaska.
Jurasz, with partners Doug Scudder and Brian Lingle, formed partnership JSL under Merrill Lynch. The magazine's selection is based on business practices, quality service, client retention rate, assets and revenue generated for the firm.
When the 1986 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate started school at Willamette University, he was a sociology and psychology major. His roommate bet against him on taking a difficult economic science course, and the challenge intrigued Jurasz.
"Not only did I ace the course but I fell in love with it," Jurasz said. "That was the turning point."
He graduated in economics and returned to visit family in Alaska. On a whim, he applied to Shearson Lehman Brothers, which became City Group-owned Smith Barney. The 2008 financial meltdown and its subsequent bankruptcies made it obvious to Jurasz that City Group had flaws.
"In the darkest of hours in December of 2009, it became a guessing game as to who was going to survive and who wasn't," Jurasz said. "The irony is we had been selected as this top 1,000. In a private sort of way for us, it was a confirmation that it didn't matter what firm we did business with. It was belief in us as the entity JSL group and less about Smith Barney or Merrill Lynch."
Jurasz credits his partners and their different levels of expertise and views for his success. The three will often meet together with clients and emerge with different perspectives. At the end of the day, they have a better plan for that client, Jurasz said.
"I think it is rare that you are going to find an individual who is successful just on their own," Jurasz said. "I think you are going to find that there is a tremendous amount of work force that comes in behind them. I owe just as much gratitude to them and all the work we do as a group."
Jurasz said his job description as simply that of a complex problem solver.
"A person walks in the door with overlapping issues that faze their life," he said. "Most people's lives are pretty complex just in and of themselves. There are similar patterns or themes for each family that resides here but also a uniqueness. ... We are oriented towards wealth management or behavioral management, and the concept behind that is to really help a person manage their expectations."
JSL serves a few fourth-generation clients.
"That's amazing," Jurasz said. "I came into the business and dealt with great-grandma, grandpa kind of thing, passed on to grandma/grandpa, passed on to parents, passed on to working with kids, working on college planning and all that. It's pretty cool."
Jurasz noted typical generational shifts in attitudes toward money - from Great Depression-generation frugality and distrust in the stock market to baby boomer loyalty and value of advice. The younger generations are still shaping their views.
"I think the chapter is still being written on this one because you have, really, the dawn of the Internet," he said. "The notion of instant E-trade or Ameri-trade and loyalties are not born just because their parents did business with you. I don't look at any generation as being negative or positive; they are just the dynamics of what experiences have been in place for that generation while they have been alive."
Jurasz foresees economic growth in the next 10 years, with great innovations and amazing things happening on a global scale. But people will have to adjust to a slower economy, building a comfortable retirement that may not include pensions or social security, and may involve welfare at the poverty level.
"I think it is always important to stay positive," Jurasz said. "There is always growth around the corner, and I am not just speaking economical growth. I mean personal growth, you name it. Being positive is a state of mind and I encourage anybody and everybody to do that."