Blending family and finance

For Hiral Shah, the idea of family extends to the people he sees as a private client adviser at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management in Mount Kisco.

It doesn’t take long after meeting and chatting with Hiral Shah to realize that he’s a family man with a difference:  His family doesn’t end with his wife, Vidya; their sons, Bodhi and Asher; their daughter, due to arrive this month; and their two dogs, Seven and Chewy. Indeed, for Shah, the idea of family extends to the people he sees as a private client adviser at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management in Mount Kisco.

“We’re part of my clients’ lives,” Shah tells WAG. “Most of my clients know my wife. Most of my clients have met my kids. We are truly a part of my clients’ lives, because they’re inviting us into theirs. I think the most important part of this is having my spouse really be supportive.”

Shah explains that the spousal career support is mutual.  His wife is the principal of the Waverly Elementary School in Eastchester, where she is known by her professional name, Vidya Bhat. He says that following and encouraging the development of her career was for him as significant as developing his own career.

“She went from teacher to assistant principal of the high school to now principal of the elementary school and getting a doctorate in education during that entire time at night,” Shah says. “Supporting each other I think breeds success in itself. It makes the marriage all that more successful, to support each other.”

Shah says that he makes a major effort to ensure that when he’s not spending time with clients he’s spending time with his immediate family, either at home in Purchase or out and about.

“There’s a balance of that work-life cycle, appreciating the beauty that nature has to offer,” Shah says. “This is why we live in Westchester County — visiting parks and playgrounds and walking with our rescue dogs and teaching my kids sports and athletic skills and knowing that I’ll one day be able to coach them and encourage them. The important part is making sure that the work-life cycle is intact.”

Part of that work-life balance is supporting The Beagle Rescue League, a nonprofit in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that is dedicated to saving Beagles, educating the public about the breed and finding permanent homes for rescued Beagles, including some that had been used in laboratory research and were specially bred for the purpose.

“We have adopted a few dogs along the way,” Shah says. “We drove to Pennsylvania with the thought of, ‘Hey, we’re going to find one,’ and sure enough, we found our dog Seven. Our other dog:  We went to a shelter in Long Island and just fell in love with Chewy. He is a small enough dog that the kids can play with. He’s got this overbite and that’s what led to the name Chewy, as in Chewbacca from ‘Star Wars.’”

Jersey Boy

Although Shah was born in Dakor, India, he moved to New Jersey with his parents when he was 9 months old. He grew up there in Wallington before moving to Paramus, where he attended Paramus Catholic High School. He graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark with a degree in computer engineering, having minored in mathematics and business. 

“Schooling actually served as a catalyst for my desire to pursue personal wealth management,” Shah says. “I recognized that computer engineering wasn’t really my true calling. I didn’t really have a passion for it as my other roommates did there and decided not to pursue that as a career opportunity. In my third year of study, I engaged in a business internship with a financial firm, and this experience sparked my interest in what I could bring to this field.”

While pursuing the internship in Somerset, New Jersey, he fell completely in love with the financial field, particularly in helping companies find financing.

“I think that internship really opened my eyes, because I really saw people in all areas kind of help find ways to help a corporation or a person,” he adds.   

He became aware that he could apply the problem-solving skills and discipline that were inherent in computer engineering to wealth management and making financial decisions. 

“I’m a problem solver. I love solving problems,” Shah says. “I just kind of realized that problem-solving allows me to kind of think above and beyond the typical algorithm, your typical logic. The most gratifying part of this is helping the client work to achieve their financial goals and live their best lives. If I’m finding my true calling, why not help clients live their best lives? You get to make a difference one person at a time.”

His first job out of college involved cold-calling, making lots of telephone calls searching for clients.

“It was a small brokerage firm,” he recalls. “I loved the energy. I loved the camaraderie. There were no cubicles. There were just long desks and people working at 7 a.m., and sometimes you’d still see the same people there at 8 at night. It was just a great atmosphere when you’re first getting started, getting firsthand experience, and your managers are sitting right next to you. You kind of pick up everything you can instantly.”

After a couple of years, Shah went to a larger financial firm and served as a registered investment associate, working with a large team.    

Making a plan

On Oct. 5, 2016, Shah — who has two decades as a financial adviser, 13 of them in Mount Kisco, and has become a Certified Financial Planner — received the new Emerging Financial Leader Award at Westfair Communications’ “CFO of the Year Westchester County” event. At that time, he says, receiving the award reminded him, “I not only have a lot more to learn and grow, but I have a lot more to contribute to the profession to make it better for the next generation of finance scholars.” 

The most rewarding aspect of being a financial adviser? That would be when the team manages multigenerational wealth, he says:

“What I mean by that is managing the grandparents, their kids and now the grandkids. That to me demonstrates high degrees of established trust and client satisfaction, because people only want what’s best for their family and close friends. We’re a part of our clients’ lives and vice versa. That’s the power of relationships and I think that’s the number one reason why I find my role so fulfilling.”   

WAG asks Shah how he and his team at J.P. Morgan would go about getting to know a new client and coming up with financial planning recommendations.

“First, my full team and I would sit down with you to discuss your financial and personal goals, current financial situation, cash needs and your risk tolerance,” Shah says. “Learning about you would help us then put together a goals-based analysis and offer our recommendations to help you make the most of your money. If working with a married couple, we typically like to work with both spouses to make sure both are involved in the planning process and aligned. I offer my clients a very personalized level of service but am also able to offer them the global resources of JPMorgan Chase, such as award-winning J.P. Morgan research and educational content and professionals in banking, mortgages, estate planning and more.”

Shah says that the forward leaps in technology have been beneficial for maintaining close contact with clients and executing financial plans:

After all, that’s what families do best — stay connected.

“Our focus is our clients. We want to offer them a frictionless experience and the ability to connect with wealth management professionals who can support their needs. Some tools have changed over the years and are making my job more efficient. I’m talking about digital signatures and virtual meetings, but at the end of the day, it is about staying connected.”

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