People are continually telling Eduardo Lombardi upon first meeting that they expected someone older.
"I get that all the time," he said with a smile.
That's because at 34 years of age he is at the helm of a fast growing business with a relatively novel premise: to offer all-inclusive estate planning services out of one office.
For anyone unfamiliar with estate planning, it can be a long, drawn-out process -- especially for larger estates -- requiring extensive communication between tax lawyers, accountants and the financial associates that will manage the assets.
By creating its own law firm -- Centara Legal Group -- and merging with an accounting firm -- Clopine and Associates LL -- to offer tax planning, and by cultivating its asset management and insurance groups, Centara Capital has developed over six years an in-house solution that has streamlined the estate planning process, saving its clients valuable time and money, according to Lombardi.
"Outside of these walls it is very rare that a CPA and a portfolio manager will communicate about their clients," he said from Centara's Mission Valley offices.
Lombardi said he doesn't know of any other operation that offers similarly combined services with coordinated communication between departments.
Lombardi and his business partner, 35-year-old Centara co-founder Derek Myron, who is a senior estate planner at the firm, met at the University of Washington where they studied finance. After stints in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and at a hedge fund in New York, Lombardi and Myron, who had been working for Principal Financial, decided to start Centara in San Diego with the idea of catering to what they saw as an underserved market: estate planning for the aging baby boomer population.
Centara primarily handles estates in the $5 million to $20 million range. Its wealth management division alone increased its assets under management by 70 percent in 2006 and now handles more than $85 million in assets. The company charges 0.7 percent to 1.25 percent of holdings per year, depending on the amount invested.
"Each customer has different needs," said Lombardi. "Our system enables all of those needs to be met in the most efficient way," with specific attention to the needs of each client, Lombardi said.
The company began hosting countywide seminars to educate retirees about the pitfalls of not having proper estate planning if they expected to pass money on to relatives. Later, the company abandoned seminars in favor of traditional marketing. Centara now offers an hour-long estate planning show on KOGO radio AM 600 on Saturday mornings.
Despite outside marketing, Centara continues to attract a majority of its clients from referrals. Lombardi attributes this to the company's structure and the customer service clients receive. "We don't lose clients," he said.
The company has even attracted the clients of new employees as they come to realize the value of the company's holistic system, according to Lombardi.
Although the fastest growing divisions of the business are the asset management and estate planning services, Centara plans to double the size of its staff to approximately 100 within the next six months in order to roll out a new product it has been developing that will compete within the burgeoning industry of reverse mortgages. Centara developed the concept and sold it to an outside financial institution, but will manage the operations on the same floor of its suite in Mission Valley.
Lombardi also said the company plans to increase the number of securities brokers/dealers it oversees by recruiting the top 1 percent in the area to join its management group, offering these brokers' existing clients the benefits of Centara's all-inclusive services.
Over the past year Centara has invested in its IT systems, speeding and enabling communication on client needs between separate departments within the office, according to Lombardi.
"I think we're very innovative; there's no blueprint to what we're doing here," said Lombardi. "It takes a lot of creativity."