A leading financial adviser and author of a new book, Transparency Wave, encouraged University of Georgia students to prepare for a decade of unprecedented change.
“The amount of change and the speed of change we will see in the coming years is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Paul Pagnato, CEO Founder of PagnatoKarp, a wealth management firm and multi-family office. “The next 10 years will bring more change than the previous 100 years combined.”
Pagnato spoke this week to students in the Levin Leaders program and the financial journalism class at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and to students in financial planning’s practice management classes in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. His talks were part of university visits to discuss his book and his work in financial literacy through the TrueFiduciary Institute, a non-profit created to promote financial education for college students.
Pagnato told the students to embrace the coming changes that will result from significant advances in such areas as computing power, artificial intelligence, finance, blockchain, neuroscience, genomics, and disease prevention and treatment.
“I am more optimistic about our collective futures than I’ve ever been,” he said. “We are on the cusp of unleashing the tools that will allow man to solve our most complex problems.”
Pagnato said his outlook was shaped by his own experiences. He started as a microbiology major who discovered he lacked the passion to spend so much time in a white lab coat alone with his microscope. He found his path to success as a financial adviser only to have it crushed by the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession in 2008.
“It was a time that led to deep personal introspection, but it also sparked an intense desire to learn what happened and how to fix it,” Pagnato said. He embarked on a two-year exploration into the causes of the financial crisis, holding dozens of meetings with heads of government regulatory agencies and the leaders of prominent financial institutions.
“The result of all of that research was my conclusion that the regulators could not fix what is broken about the system. The politics are such that it’s not possible,” he said, which is what led him to create a model for a new firm based on business practices rooted in total transparency. He and a partner founded PagnatoKarp in 2016 and have now grown the assets under advisement to more than $4.8 billion.
“We built a model to eliminate conflicts of interest in the system,” he said. “Our clients know exactly what they will pay us and what they will receive in return. It’s a system based on total transparency that leads to trust.”
Pagnato admits he has become a zealot about transparency and wrote his book to explain to others how he sees the increasingly free flow of information leading to a “transparency wave” that will be as transformative as the previous “communications wave,” “digital wave” and “intelligence wave.”
“It’s inevitable that transparency will change everything,” Pagnato exclaimed. “Of course, there are issues we must wrestle with, such as privacy regulation, but ultimately the only way businesses will succeed and thrive is to be completely open and accountable to help earn trust.”
Prior to his recent visit, Pagnato established a matching gift relationship with UGA to help fund transparency research that will explore the intersection of financial journalism and key financial technology apps consumers use for savings, investments and wealth management.
The gift through the non-profit will help fund three graduate students assisting on the project who will be known as TrueFiduciary Institute Research Fellows. Previously, the TrueFiduciary Institute sponsored the Barron’s In Education initiative, which has provided free subscriptions to Grady journalism students, and it funded student travel for fellowships to attend the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing fall conference in New York.
Pagnato said an important part of the non-profit’s mission is to assist students through such gifts and sponsorships. He added, “It’s also important for me to visit and experience the vibrancy of the place and to see the passions and ambitions of these students.”
Pagnato implored them not to allow the pace of change to become overwhelming and suggested they adopt an outlook based on “PMA” – a positive mental attitude. He also reminded students of his own winding career path that started in science before leading to finance.
“It’s OK if you don’t know what your path is today,” Pagnato said. “But you must get out there and start the journey. Recognize that not everything you try will succeed, but you must be willing to experiment and learn. That’s the most important thing to take away from my talk.”
For more information on Pagnato and his book, Transparency Wave, please go to transparencywave.com.