RIA Founder And Top Advisor Worries About Misconception That Investing Is Easy Amidst Concerns Over Inflationary Environment

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Name: Ken Van Leeuwen

Firm: Van Leeuwen & Company 

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

AUM: $222 million

Forbes Rankings: Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors

Background: Van Leeuwen, 64, started his career in commercial banking at J.P. Morgan when it was still the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company before a wirehouse tour that took him to Merrill Lynch and what was then known as Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. He finally served as vice president at New York-based RIA Integrated Financial Services before setting up his own shop, Van Leeuwen & Company, with LPL Financial in 1997.

Best Advice: The best advice in his career has been not to overreact to every news story or current event on a daily basis, rather to have a long-term focus that isn’t threatened by short term thinking. He also says that it has been good advice to always buy quality because quality wins out.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for Van Leeuwen is to maintain that long term focus and ignore the flavor of the week, which can be meme stocks or other speculation. Additionally, with all the information available, advisors and investors alike have to be discerning with what information to trust.

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Mentors: Van Leeuwen was mentored by his parents who came over from Holland after World War II, chasing dreams of success for themselves and future generations.

“My father was a really hard worker, a blue collar guy, and I learned about hard work from him,” he says.

Lessons Learned: The biggest lessons he has learned have been to keep his eyes on the long term and to treat clients’ money as if it were his own. As an early adopter to the independent channel, he is encouraged to see the increasing prevalence of advisors starting and joining RIAs.

Biggest Client Misunderstanding: Over the last 10 years, as the longest bull market in history gave way to an impressive recovery from the sell off last March, Van Leeuwen has found it hard to convey to clients that investing is not as easy as it seems or has been of late.

“Last March, our client’s eyes were opened to how bad volatility can be, but we haven’t seen a prolonged bear market in a while,” he says. “Clients really need to be careful not to get over their skis or take too much risk.”

Investment Outlook: Inflation is top of mind for Van Leeuwen, despite the reassurances of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

“We still believe we’re in an inflationary environment and we still believe that the economy is at going to be strong for at least the next couple of months or even through the rest of the year, so we’re investing accordingly,” he adds. While he sees real underlying strength in the economy, he has concerns about wage pressure.

What Keeps You Up at Night: Specializing in advising corporate executives, he is kept up at night by the challenges of getting the timing of some decisions right, from managing equity compensation to dealing with stock options or selling restricted stock.

Favorite Book/Movie: Van Leeuwen has been watching the Netflix series “The Crown” and is fascinated by how the royal family has many of the same dynamics of other families. His favorite book is “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Peale, while he is currently reading “Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork” by Dan Sullivan, an entrepreneurial coach and writer.