Strategy, Discipline, & Preparedness

Part of a successful investing formula

It’s commonly advised that you should not start a business with friends because the risk of failure can be far too great. No rewards to be reaped, however, if one takes no risk. That’s how the team feels at Elevate Capital Management where no one talks about risk without using the word ‘reward’ in the same sentence.

Jeremy Bardin and Garo Kochounian met almost 13 years ago working at Oppenheimer’s San Francisco office, which was one of the top-performing institutional teams working at the firm at that time.

“I remember Jeremy had just moved to San Francisco from Dallas, Texas, and I wanted to be a good steward of the city and take him out around town,” Kochounian recalled in a recent interview with Advisors Magazine. “There was a private event at the Carnelian Room, the rooftop of 555 Cal (also known as the Bank of America Building) so I decided to take him there. The music was so loud that we could hardly hear each other. It wasn’t the best environment to get to know someone,” Kochounian remembered.

Although he thought his hosting was sub-par, to Kochounian’s surprise, Bardin said he had a great time. The nearly 40-year-old Carnelian Room shut down shortly thereafter, but a solid groundwork of friendship was cultivated that night, which has grown into an incredibly successful partnership.

Still, ever since meeting and becoming friends in 2009, Kochounian and Bardin had always talked about starting their own firm one day. “At the time, it seemed like such a wild thought for some reason,” said Bardin. “We were loyal corporate soldiers and branching out on our own, while sounding great, felt remote.” Several years later, they left Oppenheimer with Kochounian going to work for MSCI – the byproduct of Morgan Stanley and Capital International – and Bardin joining Merrill Lynch. The two parted ways but always remained close and Bardin ultimately would stand next to Kochounian on his wedding day in 2014.”

California sanToday, the outcome of that friendship is a San Francisco-based Elevate Capital Management, which is a boutique investment advisory firm providing concierge service to individuals and institutions. Bardin, who is a CFA® charterholder (widely considered by many to be the highest designation in finance) says they thought an official launch in 2020 was the right time to do it. “We were at a place in our careers, where we only wanted to do what we loved doing most and were good at,” explained Bardin, “Managing portfolios only, and only for the benefit of our clients – a vindication of the choice of our careers – free from other corporate interests. We wanted to change people’s lives for good.”

While the firm is relatively new, their track record is exceptional. Since inception and through 1H2021, their performance is far above benchmarks. “Our strategy is to take a little bit more risk,” says Kochounian. “With a reward that equally matches that risk profile.” Bardin chimes in, “We have deep expertise in managing portfolios, which comes from years spent on the institutional portfolio management side.”

The motivation and shared visions may have been perfect, but the timing – as it turned out – was nerve-wracking. The partners’ excitement was short-lived as COVID-19 hit just after launch. “We went from thinking ‘this is a great time to start our business’ to ‘did we just make a big mistake?’” said Bardin.

Turns out it was a great time to start the firm – when one considers economic cycles and confirmation biases.

garo head“During positive economic cycles – like the one we experienced just prior to COVID – momentum snowballs, investor anxieties go dormant, and confidence increases,” Kochounian explained. “In a classic confirmation bias, it is simply easier to focus our attention on data that supports our hypothesis rather than seek out evidence that might disapprove it,” he added.

“Understanding your biases and assumptions is crucial to clear thinking and scientific literacy,” Bardin continued. “Value investing has helped create many successful investors in the world, but today’s markets are driven more by macroeconomic events than company fundamentals, dominated by fast growing disruptive and innovative tech companies. “Everyone is susceptible to such reasoning, and that’s when most investors make mistakes,” Bardin noted. “And this is where we have helped so many clients. The business exploded and soon we were onboarding more clients than we ever anticipated.”

Jeremy head“Our knowledge of Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) and Restricted Stock Units (RSU) coupled with our proximity to Silicon Valley, helped us onboard many tech executives” says Bardin. “It helps that our portfolio leans more towards disruptive tech. Our portfolio seeks long-term growth of capital by investing primarily in companies that are disruptive in nature” adds Kochounian. “Think Robotics, fintech, genomic revolution, renewable energy, biotech, cloud, cybersecurity and AI to name a few. We are looking at companies that will outperform their sectors, and sectors that will outperform their industries in the next 5-7 years” he added.

Kochounian maintains that successful investing requires common sense more than a high IQ. “It requires a strategy, framework, conviction, discipline, experience, patience, knowledge and preparedness,” he said.

The partners bring years of institutional portfolio management expertise and believe in the premise that a team of asset class experts working collaboratively better manages portfolios. They live in the Bay Area and most of their clients are tech executives who value Elevate Capital’s extensive expertise working with Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) and other types of equity-based compensation packages (RSUs), which can be complicated in nature.

“There is no substitute for the experience that we bring on how to deal with complex situations and navigate through difficult market conditions,” Kochounian said. “And there is also no substitute for a successful business to be put together by two best friends. The more time we spend together, the more we love it,” Bardin acknowledged.

For more information on Elevate Capital Management, visit:


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