Like many people working in Silicon Valley, Ronald Gong would love to change one particular part of his job: his commute. The 50-plus mile drive a day is grueling, but Gong, a personal finance adviser with Harris MyCFO, has a trick up his sleeve -- a compressed natural gas truck that allows him to drive in the carpool lane even when he's alone.
"It's a unique car in Silicon Valley, so everyone knows when I'm driving to work," the 38-year-old chuckles.
Gong's environmentally friendly tendencies earn him a thumbs up not only from emissions regulators, but from his ultra-affluent clients (read: $20 million-plus in net worth). "For all the wealth my clients have acquired, they get the biggest kick out of it and always want to drive it," Gong says.
As a client service director specializing in tax planning for Harris MyCFO, Gong represents 32 families with a total net worth of roughly $3 billion. He thinks of himself as a "financial quarterback" that manages the money managers, rather than managing the money itself.
Gong touts 18 years of financial advisory experience, with the last five coming with MyCFO after spending the first part of his career at a Big 6 accounting firm, where clients on average held net worth of a paltry $2-to-$5 million each.
Gong and his team handle all aspects of his clients' family office needs, from accounting and estate planning to philanthropy and negotiating a deal for a Porsche Carrera GT. They're even responsible for finding the $400,000 sports car. "We have a vast network of car dealers," says Gong. "When someone asks if we can take care of something like this for them, the answer is always yes."
The relationship can also be as intimate as paying all their bills, which can be one of the less glamorous parts of the job. "A typical family may pay 20-30 bills a month. Can you imagine what billionaire's family looks like?" he laments.
Being located in Redwood City, the heart of Silicon Valley, has meant that Gong's clients are almost exclusively of the "new money" persuasion, having made most of their fortunes within the last 20 years. His oldest client is nearly 60. His youngest? A ripe 26.
"Our clients say they need someone to sit on their side of the table, because from a financial perspective there is so much out there," he says. "As you attain wealth, you receive a lot more calls. We act as a filter in many cases."
Gong sees his role as simplifying their financial lives and anticipating what his clients need, like setting up trusts for newborn children and setting the educational funding wheel in motion. "My clients want to build and grow their businesses," says Gong. "Wealth is something that came along with that. They understand what we're doing. They just don't care to do it."