Not just for the uber-wealthy

“I grew up in a middle-class family and my dad was very hard-working,” says Barry P. Mitchell Jr., founder and managing director of Next Level Private in Harrison. “He never really made a lot of money – we didn't realize we didn't have any money, but we had a great upbringing – and he just never got great financial advice, because he didn't have enough money. So, we've decided to forego a minimum to work with successful regular people who need help.”

In September, Barry P. Mitchell Jr. announced the launch of his Harrison-based Next Level Private as a fully independent, registered investment adviser.

Mitchell, who began his financial career in 1987 at Merrill Lynch, was formerly affiliated with UBS as Mitchell WealthCare. Today, his new endeavor features an eight-person team managing $850 million in assets and offering a range of financial services, including goals-based planning, fiduciary advice and financial advocacy. 

 Mitchell recently spoke with WAG about his new endeavor and his distinctive approach to financial advisory services.

When and why did you decide to begin this new chapter in your company’s history?

“Next Level Private started as a concept many, many, many, many years ago, but officially the company itself started on Sept. 3. And it really started with the two questions that I had. The first was, “What am I doing?” I was 56 years old with 34-plus years in the business, working for big banks the entire time. And the second was, “What are you doing, and why are you doing what you’re doing?” Of course, when you ask yourself wide open questions, that can be somewhat challenging and thought-provoking. 

“It led to many, many other questions, and ultimately led us in a direction to try to figure out what is the best way that we can be an advocate for our clients. We decided that an independent, registered investment adviser made the most sense, where we can truly be a fiduciary for our clients and advocate for our clients.

“It’s all about trust. Without trust, you’ve got nothing in this business. And we felt the way that we could deliver the best for our clients (was) this level of independence.”

Who are your clients? And how do you get your clients?

“Our clients are what I call tremendously successful normal people. Not the ultra, ultra wealthy, just good people who recognize that by improving their financial situation they may have a positive impact on the quality of their lives. 

“I grew up in a middle-class family and my dad was very hard-working. He never really made a lot of money — we didn’t realize we didn’t have any money, but we had a great upbringing — and he just never got great financial advice, because he didn’t have enough money. So, we’ve decided to forego a minimum to work with successful regular people who need help.

“For the second part of your question, we get our clients from the community. Just being out there, through reputation, other clients do introductions. I can’t tell you how many times a week the phone rings, and it’s someone saying, ‘Can you talk to my brother? Can you talk to somebody else? I was talking to my sister, she’s getting divorced and etc., etc.’

“A lot of times, we can generally help in almost all scenarios with some good advice. But sometimes they’re not the right clients for us. They don’t need a full-service (approach), but we’re still always willing to help and, from that, we built a great reputation in our community.”

You’re being joined in Next Level Private by your entire team from Mitchell WealthCare. What kind of a person are you looking for to join your team?

“Somebody who cares and understands that people want to be heard and listened to. We can always teach somebody to learn a skill and become proficient in an area around finance or financial planning. But are you somebody who truly wants to help other people? 

“Nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, Yours Truly included. But when you really care, you generally do a better job.”

From an investing perspective, 2021 was an interesting and often unpredictable year, particularly with the newfound mania for meme stocks and cryptocurrency. What is your opinion of these types of investment assets?

“It’s fun until it’s not. And I had some great training over the years, and some years of hard knocks from experience that I realize there’s a difference between investing and speculating. 

“Our job is not to gamble or speculate with somebody’s financial future. We’re not telling people that they should not invest in crypto or meme stocks on their own, if that’s what they want to do. We try to distinguish the major difference between speculating and long-term investing that really should be based on a financial plan with specific outcomes that a client’s looking for from a cash -flow standpoint to improve their financial situation. And we’ve been very successful helping people stick to their plans and not worry what could be on the other side — avoiding the tech wrecks of the world that happened back in 2000.”

What are some of the concerns you’re hearing from your clients at this point regarding the overall state of the economy and their investments?

“We’ve done a good job to get our folks not to focus much on the short-term noise, if you will, because we believe there’s always going to be noise or concerns that are out there on a daily basis. 

“What we try to get people to do is to go back into focus on their specific financial plan and to see how that fits into what they’re trying to achieve long term. Now, I will say inflation is a concern, and we have to ask them the right questions on why they’re concerned about inflation and what effect inflation will have on the probability of their financial plan being successful. Those are the conversations that we’re having with a lot of clients — going back to the plan to try and improve its durability.”

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