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The One Career Move That Changed My Life

David Oransky - hi resQ&A With David Oransky, CPA/PFS

Pilot … sailor … entrepreneur … CPA financial planner. David Oransky, CPA/PFS, is open for an adventure in both his personal and professional life. Embodying the ‘can-do’ spirit and desire for ownership that defines the millennial generation, David left public accounting to begin a career in financial planning and now serves as principal and founder of Laminar Wealth. In order to help other young CPAs understand the career possibilities in financial planning I sat down with David to learn how one career-defining move changed his life.


Sarah Bradley: What is the one career move that changed your life?

David Oransky: It would have to be when I made the decision to leave my job and join a wealth management firm. I felt I was doing well in my role there, but realized my natural curiosity was in personal, not corporate, finance. When I gave my notice, partners and colleagues expressed concern about my decision. Looking back, I’m glad I listened to my heart. Today, I get out of bed every morning excited that I get to not only do work I find interesting, but also get to make a direct and positive impact on the lives of my clients.

SB: What is your primary core value?

DO: Growing up, I was taught how important it is to do your best work and the right thing, even when no one is watching. This has extended into my career as a financial planner. I spend a lot of time researching potential solutions when faced with an important decision. By the time I reach a conclusion, I have looked at all the data and am convinced of the right way forward. As a result, I’m usually steadfast in my opinions, a quality my family would probably instead call stubborn.

I’ll give you an example of how I approached looking for a financial planning firm when I was leaving corporate finance. I looked at every single financial firm in the Bay Area and narrowed it down, after researching various aspects from the consumer’s point of view. I had three criteria: It had to be a fee-only firm, provide comprehensive financial planning and the firm’s investment philosophy had to match my own.  Subsequently, the firm I joined before eventually starting Laminar Wealth wasn’t by coincidence.

The result? It helped me see the bigger picture more clearly. Many non-CPA financial planners come from a sales industry, so there is a very different culture than what I was looking for. I really think that CPAs are well positioned to be the best financial planners out there. We approach it as a consultative engagement rather than a sales pitch

SB: How did you come up with the name “Laminar Wealth?”

DO: Laminar is a physics term that means streamlined. I grew up sailing and I’m also a pilot, so the concept of reducing turbulent flow was familiar. I think the same concept should be applied to personal finance, such as reducing fees and taxes, and focusing on what the client actually keeps in their pocket. Many of the investment strategies out there focus on improving the top line. Doing so usually involves increased risk. Our aim is to instead minimize the drag, and focus on reducing all the frictional costs for the client. All the fees and taxes are akin to swimming against the current. To overcome them, you have to be a really strong and fast swimmer. In most cases, it’s simply better to avoid the current.

SB: What do you enjoy most about working with your clients?

DO: Coming up with creative solutions and seeing the impact those solutions have on my clients’ lives. Whenever I’m faced with a new client situation, I try to find every potential way to solve the problem at hand and make sure we arrive at the best solution for the client. That can mean a lot of extra work, but I’ve never liked shortcuts or being just “good enough.”

SB: What career opportunities are there for a CPA financial planner?

DO: It’s a multi-disciplinary profession. There are taxes, but also estate, retirement, investments, insurance and planning. I think it’s important to have knowledge of all these aspects because they are all so integrated. However, many advisers don’t sell insurance or write estate plans, even though they’re very familiar with the technical knowledge. Everyone needs to know the general information, but then you can specialize in the areas you enjoy most.

SB: Who was your childhood hero?

DO: I’m going to give you two, my childhood hero and my hero today, because my hero today is very important to me. Growing up, it was Chuck Yeager. He was a pilot and the first to break the sound barrier in 1947. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with aviation and space. For me, it was about pushing boundaries and always living on the cutting edge.

Today, it would be John Bogle, founder of Vanguard. Vanguard is owned by the same people whose money they’re investing. It was structured from day one to be in the clients’ best interests. As a result, he made less money for himself, but created the largest and most respectable financial company in the world. His core values are so embedded in the firm that it has continued to succeed even years after he no longer has direct involvement. I remember he once said that all the mistakes he ever made were the result of putting marketing above the best interests of the investor. That’s ultimately what made Vanguard so successful – staying focused on the core values by putting clients’ best interests at the forefront.

David Oransky, principal and founder of Laminar Wealth, is an AICPA Standing Ovation recipient and founding member of the Young Advisers Network. He presented, “Planning for the Next Generation of Affluence” at the 2016 PFP Conference. View the full recording of this session as part of the free sample bundle of conference recordings.

Sarah Bradley, CPA, Senior Technical Manager, Personal Financial Planning, American Institute of CPAs. 


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