Deb Weiss, CFA
Okabena Advisors, Managing Director
It’s no surprise that Deb Weiss, CFA, so skillfully helps her clients navigate the world of monitoring and tailoring investment plans. After all, she sits in the navigator’s seat of a single-engine plane built from scratch by her husband with some assistance from her.
Deb, the managing director of Okabena Advisors in Minneapolis, learned to rivet as the couple spent five years building a Van’s RV-7 two-seater and another three years constructing an RV-9.
“It came as a ‘kit,’ which means the entire outside skin of the plane only, absent wiring, instrumentation, propeller and engine,” Deb says. “All of that was custom designed or purchased separately. There is a whole community of lovely people around the world who’ve built planes and share this interest.”
Deb loves her husband’s hobby and where it (and he) can take her, but she gets just as excited by the opportunities to support the missions of her tax-exempt clients and the generosity of her taxable clients who strive to make the world a better place. Her role has her serving as her clients’ primary investment contact, communicating Okabena Investment Services’ strategy while helping them create investment policies and allocations that will meet their risk appetites and return expectations. She loves the total portfolio management aspects, risk management and asset allocation functions of her work and enjoys the variety of people and strategies across different asset classes. She’s also always on the lookout for other, like-minded potential clients whose interests are aligned.
Deb began her career in the controllers organization of the automotive industry before transitioning to corporate treasury, issuing bonds and commercial paper. She expanded into corporate venture investing before taking on responsibilities for manager research across all the broad asset classes, evaluating and selecting investments and managers for corporate pension plans and other employee benefit plans.
Deb took and passed the first two levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) exam in the mid 1990s before assuming corporate treasurer roles that left her little time for further study. When she decided to pursue completion of her certification, she called and learned that the seven-year limit between exam levels had been lifted. She passed Level III on her second try and is thankful she was persistent and focused to achieve the designation.
“You have to be an optimist to stay in this industry,” she says, “believing that over the long run, markets grow and diversified portfolios can produce positive returns.” The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has provided both some challenges and benefits. Working from home has eliminated her commuting time, and Deb loves interacting with her clients. “I miss seeing my colleagues and clients in person, but generally people are more available and flexible about meeting,” Deb says. “And technology has made the transition considerably easier.”
In her words:
What do you want people who work with you professionally to know about you?
I hold myself to very high standards and hope always to meet and exceed clients’ and colleagues’ expectations.
How do you engage with your community?
I volunteer my time on several not-for-profit community-based boards and investment committees.
How do you spend your free time?
These days, I love hanging out with my “pod”, enjoying my family, my home, my neighborhood and the beauty of the Mississippi River and nature generally in Minnesota. When it’s too cold or dark to go out, I knit. I can’t wait to be able to take to the skies again with a destination and far-flung family and friends in mind.
Any predictions for the year ahead?
Who would have thought 2020 would look as it did? I’m not about to attempt to predict 2021. I’ll predict rates and dates, but not both!
Deb holds a B.A. in multidisciplinary social sciences from Michigan State University (Summa cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and an MBA from the Owen School at Vanderbilt University. She and her husband have two adult sons (both happily married and gainfully employed) and two amazing grandchildren (so far).