Cher Munoz says there was a story her grandmother liked to tell of what Munoz was like as a child. If a sibling had taken away a toy that Munoz wanted she would just wait until her sibling became interested in something else and then go back after the toy. As an adult, she demonstrates this same patience and tenacity, going after what she wants in the high-stakes world of advising high net-worth clients on how to invest their money. Whether going for an MBA without a business background or purchasing her own firm – as she did in January when she took over ownership of Zephyr Investment Management Inc. in Westlake Village – Munoz isn’t shy about achieving her goals. “I’m a builder,” she said. “I am always on to the next thing.” Munoz and her staff of four serve between 150 and 200 households, advising them where to invest money in the stock and bond markets. Yet after being raised by a widowed mother and working as a teenager, Munoz believes that money isn’t everything. After all, her CFA title might command a higher salary at a large brokerage or mutual fund. But she enjoys the independence and the contact with clients that Zephyr brings. Munoz sat down with the Business Journal to discuss her career, how she does it with two young children and why camping in Southern California is at least the equal of the northern half of the state. Question: What made you interested in taking on ownership of Zephyr? Answer: I had been an employee since 1996. In order for me to stay here on a long-term basis I had to eventually become the owner. Otherwise I would have outgrown Zephyr. I knew that becoming an owner when (prior owner) Marsha (Roubidoux) decided to retire was absolutely ideal compared to the other choices I had as far as this industry. Why did you think you would outgrow Zephyr? I’m a builder. That is where my wheelhouse is. I am logic driven and am constantly thinking. I am always on to the next thing. If I don’t have that next thing in front of me, I quickly get antsy. What is your goal for Zephyr now that you are the owner? When I am one of the top financial advisors in the country then I may possibly be a little bit satisfied. For that to happen, the growth is organic growth by adding more clients and bringing in other advisors who I do the investment management for. I know we can handle one more advisor in the space we have right now. If we were to add two more advisors then we are going to have to move because we will outgrow this space. What is your strategy for handling your clients’ finances? The namesake of Zephyr means the calming, gentle breeze of the west wind. That is how we guide our clients through the stock and bond market. Historically, we are much into risk management. That is a term that a lot of financial advisors are throwing around these days. The reason why is because of the two bear markets in the prior decade, clients really want a way to grow their wealth and not have a wealth decimating decline. A lot of people are using the term (risk management) these days but very few financial advisors do it, and even fewer do it well. How does Zephyr handle risk management? We are students of the market. I have a different upbringing than most financial advisors. Most are just glorified sales people. I came from being a portfolio manager. That means I choose the investments. Can you be more specific? At Zephyr, we use a proprietary investment management process called Business Cycle Asset Management. It is an investment strategy designed to capitalize on all stages of the business cycle. As the forces released by the business cycle evolve, they create opportunities for informed and active portfolio managers. By understanding these fluctuations, we can determine where we are in a given cycle, and from that knowledge, make informed investment decisions. Investments are allocated in various asset classes which include stocks, bonds, cash and other investment vehicles that make the most sense within the cycle. What is your breakdown between stocks and bonds? The allocation to stocks and bonds will change as the economic cycle changes. During the good times, growth accounts can go up to 100 percent stocks, moderate accounts can go up to 70 percent stocks, and income oriented accounts can go up to 35 percent stocks. During the stages of the economic cycle that are unfavorable to stocks, accounts can have a 0 percent stock market allocation. Do you like domestic or foreign stocks? We do have a decent amount in the U.S. stock market. In the international stocks there could be a buying opportunity coming up once in a generation. Even if there is moderate progress there could be a really good investing opportunity. We are still looking for it. What kind of bonds? Any type of bond available is on the table for our investment strategies. During the past few years, we have utilized high-yield bonds quite a bit, as they have returned as much as the stock market with much less volatility – that doesn’t mean it will be the case going forward, though. TITLE: President, owner COMPANY: Zephyr Investment Management, Westlake Village BORN: Van Nuys, 1973 EDUCATION: Bachelors in music, Cal State Northridge, 1996; CFA designation, 2002; MBA in Finance, Pepperdine University, 2006 CAREER TURNING POINT: Achievement of the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and pursuing MBA. MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE: Pastor Garry D. Zeigler of Spirit Food Christian Center in Winnetka; radio talk show host Dave Ramsey; all my MBA instructors at Pepperdine. PERSONAL: Lives in Thousand Oaks with husband Rick Munoz with whom she has two young children: son Dylan, 4, and daughter Sarah, 1. Has stepdaughter Yvette, 31, who has three young children. HOBBIES: Reading, Pilates, camping with family. Can you make any specific investment recommendation right now, considering the markets have just hit a record high? If anybody knew where the market was going to be with consistency they would be a gazillionaire. The market is like this unruly child at times. It’s emotional; it does its own thing. What is driving the growth in money management? Is it the retiring baby boomers? There is a tremendous amount of money that is going to be changing hands in the next decade or two. And people are going to need help with what to do with that. How did you get your first job in the money management industry? I’ve been working since I was 12. About when I was 14, I started here and there to do filing for a financial advisor. He was the husband of my Big Sister (from the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters organization). He thought I had the aptitude for this type of business. What qualities make for a good financial advisor? This is a business of absolute trust. This is an awesome responsibility and one I don’t take lightly by any means. Finances are very personal so you need to trust the person who you turn over the management of your investments to. This is about them and their families and if they can trust me in every sense of the word, that is what makes a good financial advisor. Wealth management is still a male-dominated industry, isn’t it? Eight percent of advisors are female in 2012. I am somewhat of an anomaly, this unique kind of advisor. This is the second year in May I will speak at a women’s conference (arranged by broker/dealers). I am speaking on buying practices. (Zephyr) is the third one I have bought. They say that half of the advisors in the next 10 years are going to retire. Well, who is going to take on all those businesses? In this industry, the buying and selling of practices is really starting to explode. A lot of people are interested in it and want to know how to do it. The fact that I’ve done three now and I am a woman doing it is kind of rare. What were the other two practices? I met this other advisor in northern California a few years ago. In 2009, he contacted me again and he said he might want to sell the practice. He didn’t know I was going to jump all over that. All these businesses require down payments. I can’t even tell you all the hoops I had to jump through. This was during a period of time when nobody wanted to lend money. I kept going forward. It was like sheer will to be able to get the deal done. And the second? In 2011, our custodian (TD Ameritrade Inc.) was aware of somebody down the street who wanted to sell. So they put us together and even though I was pregnant for the second time, the selling advisor still went forward with me. This was double the size of the first practice (I bought). Once again I had to go through all the hoops. How does your status as a woman-owned business affect getting new clients? I have discovered there are a lot of people that once they even have one conversation with me know what I’m about. That makes them feel comfortable – but not everybody. There are a few individuals, not too many, that I’ve come across that you could tell had a lesser degree of respect for the fact that I was a female when they were used to dealing with males. How did that make you feel? I didn’t give it the time of day. I cannot be bothered by that type of stuff. It comes down to this is what I was meant to do. It’s hard to hurt my feelings. I don’t take anything personally. Was there anything in your background that helped in being a financial advisor? I lost my father at an early age. From an early age I always had to work. There is never enough money in the household when there is a widow. My mother thought it would be nice to introduce me to music in junior high school. I played clarinet all through high school, and I got my undergrad (degree) in music. That was by far one of the best training grounds for this business and being a portfolio manager. Playing music is good training to be a financial advisor? In music, especially when you are in an orchestra, you have to be constantly aware of everything going on around you. By always having a focus that was global in nature it was like I hit a home run when I became a portfolio manager. I really took to it. You have to constantly know all the economic things that are going on, how everything fits with everything else. Music gives you a huge amount of discipline. You’re constantly every weekend doing another competition or concert. Besides all your homework you have to practice for at least an hour every day. My work ethic is extremely developed. I have nothing but good things to say about that type of upbringing. Do you still play the clarinet? When I got pregnant with my first child – my children are four and one now – I had to verbally tell my husband and my mother that I would forego playing music until my children were over five. They both know how I am; that I have too many things (going on). When they (her children) are a little bit older I will then be able to do music but don’t think I am being selfish about doing it because they’ll get to do it too. That will be a way I can do it and also still have time with my family. That brings up a good point. How do you handle your business and your young children? I am the consummate outsourcer. I outsource everything outside of work and spending time with/doing things for my children. You can’t have this type of career and two young children and cook dinner and spend time with your husband and be involved in your church and do laundry and clean your house and organize all the family activities and get enough sleep. Anyone who says you can is just not living in reality. So what do you do? Something has to give – so I “give” the house-cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. to someone else to do so I can spend the time I have outside of work with my family. Also, I rarely go “shopping” for anything by getting into a car. I order everything online because I can’t take the time to go shopping. In addition, when I travel for work, I take my children and mother along. You mentioned to me earlier you were an avid reader. What was the most recent book you read? I just read “Proof of Heaven.” (Author Eben Alexander) was a neurosurgeon who went into a coma for seven days and has what he called an NDE, a near-death experience. He described what he went through during that week he was in that coma because he vividly remembers. I rarely get to read for pleasure. I have been building and building and building for so long. My mother was an avid reader and I think I learned from her. In her house you had lines and lines of bookcases with books. What else do you do outside of the workplace? Our family loves to camp. I don’t want to be encumbered by having electricity. I want to be free, because to be outside, and to be with your family outside, that is the best way for kids to grow up. I didn’t grow up camping and my husband introduced me to that. We are going to get out twice in the next few months. Where are your favorite places to camping?Bass Lake (in the Sierra Nevada), number one. I’m trying to get my husband out to Big Bear. He is kind of prejudiced that northern California and the Bass Lake area are really better. But I am working on him. We are going to easy stuff like Leo Carrillo (State Park) in a few months because my daughter is still so young and it doesn’t take too long for us to drive over there. As she gets older we’ll branch out a little bit more. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and space reasons.