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Fig Tree Financials' Purpose

I launched Fig Tree Financials to offer the expertise and experience that many life events have helped shape. I am devoted to helping clients preserve and grow their wealth.

 

I understand the importance of prudent financial management and strongly believe in the dictum, when you can help, you have the obligation to help.

 

I am a dedicated student of the markets and have worked successfully to preserve my clients’ wealth and to help them reach their financial objectives. I understand resilience and the value of an individual’s history – their story.

Intelligent investing rooted in discipline, patience, and consistence over time.

Not hypes, nor trends.

MEET YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR

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Welcome!

I view my services as those of a personal CFO. I offer clear comprehensive guidance and individualized communication -- essential components to a successful long-term strategy. I have managed assets for individuals, institutions and non-profits, and study every aspect of a client’s financial profile to determine the steps necessary for economic well-being.  I have an insider’s view of the financial industry, access to exceptional resources, and the benefit of independence without being subject to organizational pressures regarding investment choices, institutional conventions, or opinion. My clients benefit with fees that are low, stable and where savings compound over time. 

 

I have run businesses at major investment banks overseeing revenues reaching hundreds of millions of dollars and as an entrepreneur, have advised scores of companies from numerous industries. As an educator, I have seen the remarkable resilience of our younger generation adapting to crucible moments in the world around them. I try to help them to respond to change with intention rather than anxiety.

I have a deep appreciation for the challenges and opportunities presented by social, economic, and financial market cycles. I view the virtues of patience and of adhering to one’s proven methods as essential to identifying and profiting from inflection points during these cycles. I approach the markets with humility and avoid all forms of hype and trend. 

My focus is to manage risk through periods of exuberance and fear and to prepare for the unforeseen. Guided by the teachings of Benjamin Graham, the renowned value investor, and Warren Buffet’s mentor, I recognize that intelligent investing is about taking advantage of emotions rather than succumbing to them when markets behave irrationally. The investor’s primary interest lies in acquiring and holding suitable securities at favorable prices over the long term.

My analysis of investments begins with measuring the value of an entity’s assets, balance sheet and cash flows. I believe that price matters when determining a commitment. My decisions are deliberate, and I focus on providing the safety of principal with positive returns. Creating dividend income – compounded over time – is a core principle of my philosophy as is the opportunistic use of fixed income investments. I seek growth at a reasonable price.

 

I possess a learned empathy deeply rooted in personal experience and understand that changes in our lives, whether planned or unexpected, can affect our ability to think clearly and establish goals. I bring a sensitivity of risk and awareness to people as they plan for the future based on events of the present.

James Manfredonia

Registered Investment Advisor

FINRA Series 7 / Series 65

Charles Schwab Custodial Services 

  • Clear and individualized communication

  • Discipline as vital for generating long term income and capital appreciation

  • Client specific portfolios correlated to individual risk tolerance

  • Fees that remain low, stable, and where compounded savings yield substantial returns

  • True diversification and the avoidance of highly correlated investments

  • Tax-efficient income streams to enhance and bridge long term returns

  • Long -term objectives independent of the rigid benchmarking of returns

Key tenets of my approach
My Life and Work Experience

1961 - 1979 I was born in Brooklyn on August 13, 1961 and moved to Staten Island in 1966 when the Verrazano Bridge opened to link the two boroughs. I attended Monsignor Farrell H.S. and Fordham University (BS in Finance and Economics).

1979 - 1983 I discovered Wall Street while seeking a job over Christmas break of my freshman year in college. I was hired to cold call at Lehman Brothers where, at 6'3" with a deep voice, I blended in for the next 3 ½ years as if I were a full-time employee. My ninety-minute commute took me on the 1970's era D Train from the Bronx to the Financial District. Upon graduation, I applied to Wall Street’s best training program at Salomon Brothers. During my interview, one of the partners called me glib, a seemingly simple four-letter word whose meaning completely eluded me. I answered that if I did not know something I would work to find out. It was the right answer.

1983 - 2008 I became an institutional equity trader at Salomon, which was like playing center field for the Yankees. It’s where I learned how to think, how to innovate, how to pick something apart with pointed questions and how to make definitive decisions. You were good, or you were gone, which is a mindset that has served me well. Early in 1987, my mentor Mark Mehl, recruited me to join Drexel Burnham, where I represented our division on the firm’s primary risk committee. It was during this period that Black Monday occurred, with the markets down over 22% in one day. Several years later, Drexel fell from its perch as Wall Street’s maverick founder of the high yield bond market, into default. The announcement came the day I walked into my boss’s office to tell him I was launching the hedge fund, Blair Manfredonia. John Blair, my partner, and I went from broker to client and managed money for individuals and institutions across multi asset classes. We were seeing the business from different points of view. We learned the behavioral motivations behind both good and poor investment choices. Blair Manfredonia outperformed the markets by wide margins for the next two years amidst the S&L crises of the early 1990’s but we were ahead of the broader trend towards hedge funds and could not grow assets fast enough. There were young children and bills. I moved to Merrill Lynch for the next decade, where I ran Wall Street’s largest institutional trading desk and was elected to chair the NYSE IPO and Market Structure Committees. I was also chosen to be help implement Wall Street’s inaugural diversity program. On the morning of 9/11, I walked through the WTC Plaza moments before the first plane hit and am fortunate to be alive. I managed disaster recovery with NYC officials and the NYSE in addition to monitoring complex levels of risk management for Merrill Lynch's equity trading department. Bear Stearns recruited me to run institutional trading in the spring of 2002 and I was happy to leave downtown. The responsibilities at Bear Stearns centered on building excellence rather than maintaining it as I did at Merrill. Malcolm Forbes was correct when he said, “keeping is harder than getting”. I was at Bear Stearns until the financial crisis of 2008/2009.

Charity / Giving Back I was taught the importance of giving back on a nondescript day in 1985 when I asked my mentor why he was writing so many checks. The image of Mark at his desk and ensuing discussion have lived with me since and illustrated the importance of acting and not just speaking. Mark, until his untimely death in 2009, also showed me the power of guiding others. Mentoring is about sincere affection and the story that defined it for me was when he once told me I needed new shirts because the yellowed ones from Sears were not going to work at Salomon. I also learned it wasn’t just about the wallet. In the late 80’s I began decades long relationships and board service, with Covenant House, St Jude Children’s Hospital, the New York City Ballet, RKO Theater, and the Yogi Berra Museum.

 

Family I am the fortunate father of three children who grew up in Millburn, NJ. I coached James, Isabel and Abe on virtually every one of their basketball, Little League and soccer teams. They now live in Manhattan, Jersey City, and Berkeley, CA. I reside in Manhattan and with a home in Lavallette, NJ. 

 

2008 - 2016 I remember knowing things were greatly amiss in the autumn of 2007, just prior to the devastating Global Financial Crisis, but sometimes things just need to play out. There was no power to change anything. As with Salomon Brothers and Drexel Burnham it was hubris in its most absolute form that ruined Bear Stearns and the many others. My life and career changed when Bear Stearns collapsed in late February of 2008 and senior management was not kept on when JP Morgan absorbed the company. I moved to private wealth at Barclays where I managed money for non-profits, retirement accounts and individuals. In 2015, I was recruited to launch a frontier/emerging markets fintech enterprise in that ultimately did not lift after an unsuccessful acquisition attempt. I was managing money for clients throughout that time, but it was evident that an element of re-invention was necessary.

2017 - Present Inspired by my passion to mentor young adults through my work with the homeless youth of Covenant House, I became an educator and  launched Fig Tree Financials. I have since taught at a charter high school, was the Interim Head at a school for severely disabled children and taught in Manhattan’s private schools. I am an undergraduate and graduate level adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business and contribute to the school’s entrepreneurial programs and finance curriculum. I continue to serve on numerous corporate and non-profit advisory boards. I am also an artist and published photographer.

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