Eli Butnaru heads Mora Wealth Management’s new office in Miami, which the company sees as “the international wealth management center of the West.”
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ELI BUTNARU AT A GLANCE
• Title: Chief executive officer of Mora Wealth Management USA.
• Age: 53.
• Born: New York; grew up in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
• Prior experience: Citibank 1984-2001 in Venezuela, Miami, New York, Seoul; UBS, 2001-11 in Miami and Palm Beach.
• Education: Bachelor of Science (’83) in finance and production management from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
• Hobbies: Tennis, golf, cooking.
BY INA PAIVA CORDLE ICORDLE@MIAMIHERALD.COM
From his offices high above Miami’s Brickell Avenue, Eli Butnaru oversees Mora Wealth Management’s daily operations while working with clients to help create customized investments for their assets.
Butnaru, chief executive of Mora Wealth Management USA, joined the company last August, prior to opening the Miami office in October.
He brings more than two decades of experience in international banking, having held senior management positions with Citibank, and most recently, leading the Palm Beach and Miami practices of UBS-AG.
We met Butnaru in his offices on the 29th floor of 1450 Brickell, and then he responded via email to these questions:
Q. Mora Wealth Management is relatively new to the Miami scene. Please tell us about the company, its history, ownership, and size, including assets under management.
A. Mora Wealth Management belongs to the MoraBanc group. Founded in 1952, the group has preserved a strong tradition in the field of private banking. Its Andorran shareholding is in the hands of the entity’s founding families.
Professional service, quality and financial strength are the foundations of MoraBanc group, which has about 6.3 billion euros (nearly $8 billion) under management as of December 31, 2011.
Q. Tell me about Andorra. Is it experiencing the same problems as other European economies such as Spain and Greece?
A. While Andorra has not been immune to the plights of its European neighbors, MoraBanc has not suffered, thanks to MoraBanc’s solid investment policy and conservative asset-liability management. As a result of its cautious approach, and anticipating a major economic slump, MoraBanc has proactively managed its balance sheet according to sound and conservative banking principles. MoraBanc sports a very high solvency ratio (29 percent) and liquidity ratio (101.6 percent), as of December 31, 2011
This spring, Moody’s, as it has done for seven consecutive years, reaffirmed MoraBanc’s A2 rating, giving it a “stable” outlook.
And earlier this month, the financial publication, The Banker, part of the Financial Times Ltd., ranked MoraBanc 26th out of 1,000 banks worldwide, in terms of solvency.
Q. Why did you choose to open an office in Miami and how did you pick your site?
A. Europeans and Latin Americans have steadily made Miami the de facto international wealth management center of the West. During the past several decades, Miami has become a preferred destination for those who want to establish a second home. While generally known as a prime vacation spot, Miami has evolved into a fairly advanced cultural and financial center. These facts, combined with the diversity of its population, make Miami a prime hub for establishing Mora Wealth Management’s America operations.
The office site was chosen given the impeccable location and design of the building, the commitment to green standards, and the superior street access. This clean look reflects the seriousness of our endeavor.
Q. It seems that it would be particularly challenging to open a wealth management office during an economic downturn. Why did you choose to open at this time?
A. It is precisely during downturns and tough economic circumstances that Mora Wealth Management can add value. Our disciplined approach to risk management can clearly be demonstrated during challenging times. Risk management is the cornerstone of our asset management philosophy.
Q. How many employees do you have and do you plan to expand here?
A. Mora Wealth Management has 12 employees in the new Miami office. In concert with regulatory entities, Mora Wealth Management would like to expand to 35. This expansion process encompasses compliance and supervisory personnel. Mora Wealth Management’s growth will be in sync with our regulatory entities.
Q. Does Mora Wealth Management also have offices in other countries, and do you plan to open more locations?
A. In addition to our Miami office, we currently have offices in Zurich and Montevideo, Uruguay. We will consider further expansions as we consolidate our presence in our regional hubs.
Q. Please tell me as much as you can about your clients. Do they live here? Do you have a minimum target of investable assets? What is your goal for the office?
A. Our clients are high net worth individuals, family offices, pension funds and endowments. Most of our clients are not U.S. persons and live throughout Latin America and Europe. These clients often visit the United States and tend to have real estate investments, second homes and business interests in the Greater Miami area.
Given our disciplined approach to risk management, our clients have investable assets that start at $1 million. Asset size is important in as much as it enables our firm to search for the best available asset managers who fit our approach.
Our clients have complex multi-jurisdictional situations. These clients have several members of their families living in the U.S. and are therefore subject to multiple tax jurisdictions. The complexity of our clients’ situations compels us to be sensitive and knowledgeable in estate planning and legal matters.
Our office has aggressive growth goals. Mora Wealth Management is prepared to consider acquisitions in addition to our organic growth.
Q. Please tell me about the services you provide to your clients. Do they differ from those offered by other wealth management companies?
A. In the broad sense, most firms offer similar services to ours. The key differentiating factor is our approach to risk management and execution of the strategies. Mora Wealth Management will only employ external asset managers with compelling track records and proven ability to preserve capital. We monitor for strict compliance with our investment policies and make swift decisions when the time arises.
We do not offer, nor have, proprietary products. Thanks to our unique business model, we can strategically partner with the world’s leading wealth management products providers to provide our clients with customized investment solutions tailored to fit their unique needs. Our “open-architecture” approach, combined with our multicultural composition and presence in Europe, Latin America and North America, enable us to source investment opportunities globally and craft investment solutions from an array of products available on the market to offer the most attractive options to our clients. Our clients’ goals are completely aligned to our goals.
We also offer our platform as broker dealers and registered investment advisors for those clients who wish to be self-directed.