Why Fortune Only Favors the Bold, and Back-up Plans Aren’t Overrated: Entrepreneurial Advice with Frazer Rice

“ Seek counsel from people you respect, make the best decision you can, and move on.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Frazer Rice. In his career he has worked in three different areas: politics, law, and banking. If that doesn’t convince you that he’s a glutton for punishment, he’s also the treasurer of a NYC co-op. Having spent over 15 years in the private banking world, he has advised (very) wealthy families on different aspects of their wealth. Doing a good job often protects the wealth from the family themselves.

Thanks for doing this interview with us. What is your backstory?

I worked for a gubernatorial campaign in college and then worked for a state government agency after college. I didn’t want to be a civil servant my whole life so I did what many confused young people do and went to law school. I had a variety of good experiences there, but in my third year, I had figured out that I didn’t want to be a lawyer my whole life. I passed the bar, moved back to New York and practiced for a couple of years with an eye toward doing something else. I ran into a family friend who had founded the New York office of a prestigious wealth management firm. He liked the idea of lawyers as issue spotters and having confidence in front of high end advisors. He also liked the idea that I hadn’t practiced so long that my answer to every question was “no” or “it depends”. And the rest is history.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

So many to choose from! In the course of my career, I discovered that you can Fedex a miniature pony from Dallas to Taos, NM; that it’s actually very easy to find a criminal defense attorney at 3am on a Tuesday night; when your portfolios overperform, that is when you are in the most trouble; and most importantly, you are most valuable to your client when you deliver bad news.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The most interesting project for me RIGHT NOW is the launch of my book. It is really the formation of small business: a terrifying leap off the pier of corporate certainty and trying to waterski barefoot into the world of entrepreneurism. The buck stops with me and it draws from all of my previous experiences including my recent ones podcasting and becoming more involved in a podcast company. I’ll be interested to see if I survive it!

On the wealth side, I am fascinated by (and therefore studying) the impact of fee compression and technology on the wealth advice industry. I think its potential effects have been underestimated. We are on the cusp of massive consolidation within the industry and the addition of new technologically dominant players. I would not be surprised if half of the jobs within the industry are dramatically altered or eliminated within ten years.

I am also involved in the production of a 100 page graphic novel that has been rewarding on many creative levels. To see a vision (and a lifelong dream) come to life is its own reward. It has been a terrific writing project with one of my best friends. Most interesting is the fact that the intersection with the writing team and artist has been done exclusively via email, the artist based in Bath, England. His talent is superlative. We are lucky to have found him and I can’t wait to get that project to the public. More to come!

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Douglas MacArthur — One of America’s best generals and architect of two of the world’s best military operations who suffered from the inability to have a successful second act.

Teddy Roosevelt — An independent thinker who used his advantages to the fullest, had a successful presidency and then a fascinating post presidential life.

Rasputin — The mad monk who came out of muck of rural Russia with bizarre physical and charismatic gifts and hypnotized his way into being one of the most powerful people in the country. His legendary end only underscores his lasting impact.

Hedy Lamarr — A gifted polymath who’s conquering of Hollywood overshadowed her other gifts: her scientific acumen and inventiveness.

Rob Halford — In the Pantheon of best heavy metal frontmen of all time. His image defined the metal archetype and then fooled a generation of headbangers as he began to embrace his own sexuality. Performance art of the highest order.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

I read a lot of non-fiction. I like to learn about how things work. For some reason I gravitate to books around math and science — probably because I feel like they are my least innate subjects.

Like most middle-aged dudes, I like biographies and history.

On the fiction side, I read a lot of screenplays because I like dialogue more than narrative and I find it easier to visualize. L.A. Confidential, Chinatown, and the Natural are favorites- especially the Natural given the departure from Malamud’s ending and the fact that I was able to enjoy both.

My favorite fictional book right now is Infinite Jest. It was hard work, but immensely rewarding. Wallace’s powers of observation and vocabulary expanded my brain and gave me something to shoot for in my writing (though I am nowhere close).

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

I try to educate in an entertaining way and after years of passive-voice legal jargon and financial compliance-speak, I feel like I am still finding or rediscovering my voice. One way or another, if I can give people something to remember, that helps move things forward for me.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

  1. Read a lot.
  2. Be interested in a lot of things, but become deeply knowledgeable in one.
  3. Start by outlining — this gets something on the page.
  4. Get your idea down on paper by any means necessary. Having a complete first draft of something already puts you a different level than the misty-eyed dreamers
  5. Be prepared to accept criticism and be ready to revise. Writing is a team sport.
  6. You never really finish, you just get really tired of it and move on. That’s ok.
  7. Worry about the business of writing later. You never get to that point if you don’t have something to show people.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

First, I would teach the importance of the power of compounding in 4th grade. Learning the speed and scale at which small numbers can turn into large numbers is a vital concept and will help develop better instincts when it comes to interest, positive and negative leverage, and investing in general.

Then, I would make the introductory class in the Certified Financial Planner curriculum a required course in the first year of college, much like a swim test. Thousands of uninformed, but permanent and damaging financial decisions are made at that time. That one class could help millions of people make better decisions across a broad spectrum of life events.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why?

  1. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Every major life event that has blown up for me has been prefaced with a nervous, sick feeling and my ignorance of a bunch of red flags. Relationships, business, career choices . . . one nice thing about being brought up in a true fiduciary culture is the fact that I sleep well at night recommending actions for clients that I think are in their best interest. I had a client that had been put into an, at the time, logical transaction that was starting to age poorly. My “spider-sense” was going off. I consulted his attorney and we both concluded that it wasn’t the “right” and represented a major risk. We had it unwound, the client made money on the deal and we exited about three months before the 2008 calamity happened.
  2. Fortune favors the bold (But have a plan B). My best example for this occurred when I felt underpaid, taken for granted and wanted to get a significant raise. I had a very good track record. I secured an offer from outside my firm and had the ability to go. Then I went above my boss and my boss’ boss, because I knew that they would find some corporate silo reason for not being able to pay me and to “be patient.” Then I laid out my case to the head of the division. I didn’t ask for the world or make any outrageous demands. I said that I really wanted to stay and I didn’t threaten to quit, but I indicated that there was outside interest in me. He agreed with me and I got what I asked for and that fueled my career for the next five years.
  3. Don’t worry about what other people think. It isn’t productive and you’re probably wrong anyway. I chose a job during my first law school summer based on what I thought my father wanted me to do and not what I wanted to do. Mistake. By no means a disaster, but a definite “what-if” in my life. I would go back and do that one over. Seek counsel from people you respect, make the best decision you can, and move on.
  4. If there is something you want to try, do it as early as possible. This comes from a friend who started a tech company after a Wall Street career in his mid-30s. He loves it but wishes he had started 5–10 years earlier when he had unbridled energy, optimism and fewer responsibilities.
  5. Don’t ever let the pilot light of your creativity go out. When your days are darkest, the activities you love will help get you through. Creativity fuels the soul. If you give up on that for the sake of career, life closes off and it is time to get help. I may not have become the lead singer for Van Halen or a world renowned comic book artist, but I have done things that make use of what makes me Frazer. That leaves me with few regrets. My day jobs have never been labors of love, but they have helped fund the things that I groove on. I am grateful for the opportunity they have provided and I take many learnings and experiences from them. Finally, I cling to the belief that my interests and my earning capability would intertwine someday. Hopefully, I am close to that and every tangible step I take towards that goal is one more toward true independence.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I am a dyed-in-the-wool, but disillusioned and confused Republican, so this will surprise many of my friends. I would love to get Barack Obama out on the golf course. Three hours of alone time with an activity we both enjoy. It would be a terrific shared experience, and I have so many questions about the Presidency and the personalities around his meteoric rise.