Danilo  Kawasaki
Danilo Kawasaki39

Vice president and chief operating officer,
Gerber Kawasaki Wealth Management

Fast Facts

  • Recently returned from Shakti Fest, a yoga festival in Joshua Tree, Calif.
  • Was the 2008 paddle tennis World Champion.
  • Works closely with the Brazilian consulate to create opportunities for Brazilian immigrants.

At age 17, on his way to his first class in English in Palo Alto, Calif., Brazilian immigrant Danilo Kawasaki remembers being thrown off a bus because he couldn't understand how to pay the fare and then having to walk three miles. That incident and other challenges he has faced never stopped Mr. Kawasaki, who learned enough English to pass a proficiency test one month later and be admitted to Foothill College.

"My mother, who is a doctor, sent me to the United States because she wanted me to get out of an unstable country," he said.

After transferring to the University of Redlands and graduating, Mr. Kawasaki joined SunAmerica Securities in 2002. He turned to the families of his tennis-playing friends in college to start building a business, and his hard-working efforts paid off when he was named a branch manager at age 24. The financial crisis of 2008, however, confirmed his desire to be his own boss and help people in his own way.

In 2010, he and partner Ross Gerber founded their firm, with Mr. Kawasaki in charge of operations, compliance, training and preparing advisers for client meetings. He says the firm's client criteria are somewhat unusual: "If you look like you'll have a good future, we'll take you on regardless of your current assets; we have no minimums."

He says the approach pays off over the long run, noting that the firm currently manages $656 million.

"People are so thankful we helped them with a financial plan or a budget when no one else would give them the time of day, they become our best referral sources," he said.

— Evan Cooper; Photo credit: Brad Trent

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