Bezou ‘Saved’ And ‘Smiling’ – $400M In Client Assets, Second Chance At Life
It started with a sense of impending doom.
“I should have died from something that has no symptoms or warning signs,” said Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) Jason Bezou. “I somehow knew death was staring me down, but great doctors like Dr. Quynh Mai and Oschner’s Dr. Patrick Parrino saved my life at 42.”
After a series of medical tests based on a hunch in 2016, New Orleans native Bezou was told he had an aortic aneurysm caused by a previously undiscovered birth defect. Two days before his open heart surgery the singer/ songwriter released “Smiling,” a song dedicated to his wife Sara and three young daughters, in case he didn’t survive the operation.
“First, it confirmed my faith,” Bezou said about the near-death situation. “It made me really understand that the unexpected happens, and that we have to be prepared for it. Three little girls needed me. If I was disabled or dead what would happen to them? Did I have enough cash for being out of work for several months?”
In three out of his last five years with Capital One, Bezou was the top advisor in the country in client assets invested. He founded The Bezou Financial Planning Group last summer when Capital One Investing sold its investment arm affecting more than 2,000 local investors. Bezou’s business utilizes all the tools, technology, regulation, oversight and resources of Woodbury Financial, Pershing LLC and Advisor Group. He now has 10 employees in five offices in Baton Rouge, Chalmette, Hammond, Monroe and New Orleans, and they manage more than $400 million in client assets. Bezou said he approaches investing differently after his life-saving surgery.
“I now have a conversation with clients about taking more income once their families are financially capable and enjoying their money while they can, focusing their legacy on what messages they leave behind,” he said. “Tell your family you love them, and that you know you were loved. Clearly summarize the most important messages you want them to learn from you. Money is important, but the skills, integrity, work ethic and closure that you leave behind are more important.”
Bezou is also bullish about the state of the current economy.
“Almost daily, I talk with someone whose life is improving because of the booming jobs market,” he said. “From CEOs to recent graduates to the waitress gleaming over how many people are eating out and how well everyone’s been tipping, there is no question about the opportunities. Take advantage of it while it’s here because history tells us it won’t always be like this. So now is the time to ask for that promotion, or consider a new career or start that business you always dreamed of. As far as investing goes, it gets a little tricky after stocks have skyrocketed for so long and volatility is the new norm. Best thing to do is really evaluate your investment time horizon and how your nerves are holding up after watching your portfolio value get crushed in the last quarter of 2018.”
Regarding the ups and downs of the stock market, Bezou said to stay put, remain “unemotional” and stick to your financial plan.
“Weeks into a government shutdown with mixed signals on the future of interest rates and renegotiations of foreign trade that is much vaster than China headlines, many investors feel they can walk away after higher than expected market gains and finally get a decent rate on safe investments paying four percent,” he said. “That sell-off certainly creates a buying opportunity for those who have been sitting on cash equivalents waiting for a clearance sale. But, it could certainly get worse before it gets better. If you are regularly investing in stocks and other savings vehicles for the next 10 years or more, it is certainly a good idea to consider shifting a little to your more aggressive holdings whenever we see a 15 or 20 percent dip. Of course, this is when many clients call me wanting to sell, and when appropriate, my most critical job is talking them into sticking with their plan.
“Three months ago when I talked to more conservative clients or clients who are at the phase of life where they are using their life savings for income about shifting the aggressive funds to cash reserves, many just can’t stomach selling something that’s doing well the same way they currently can’t stand to stay in or buy more of something that is currently dropping,” he said. “When we feel sick, we forget what it feels like to feel good, and when we feel good we think we are indestructible until flu season. It’s human nature. The key is to have a plan so that you make precalculated decisions versus emotional ones based on what’s going on right now. Things change fast, and the worst performing investment accounts are those where clients chase a hot stock tip because someone they know just made a killing in ‘xyz.’ Or people who say, ‘get me out of this investment because if it keeps falling like this, it’ll be worth zero in a few years.’ That’s just not how sound investing works.”
In 2016, Bezou received the Capital One “Investing For Good” award for outstanding service, client surveys and a demonstrated depth of financial planning – an honor given to only two advisors in the history of Capital One Investing.
“There is no silver bullet,” Bezou said about investments. “You hear commercials slamming this type of investment or promoting that one. The truth is that we cannot predict, but we can make a plan. The investment vehicles available are almost endless and complex. Each serves a purpose. Understand how comfortable you are with volatility, and really open up to your advisor and customize it to fit your life.
“I try to inform and educate clients on the realities of what can happen, and am comfortable with a certain portion to take bigger chances, but in general I focus on the part of their portfolio that is a diversified approach to funding their future goals rather than suggesting a hot stock,” he said. “I have my thoughts and enjoy them, but making a plan is my area of expertise.”
Bezou started his financial career in college. He was a teller for Hibernia Bank in 1998 and earned his MBA at the University of New Orleans in 2000 with a 4.0 GPA. Bezou worked full time but also sang professionally on the weekends. In 2002, Bezou became a financial advisor for Legg Mason (now Morgan Stanley) and then joined Hibernia Investments in 2004, which later became Capital One Investments.
While at Capital One, Bezou served on the National Advisory Board and even scored a cameo in a national Capital One Investing commercial. Bezou’s Monroe, Louisiana, office was deemed the fastest growing Capital One Investing business in the country, growing from a $50 million business to $157 million, and catapulting northeast Louisiana to one of the company’s top 10 regions.
In Monroe, Bezou and his wife co-wrote a book entitled, “SAVED – One Man’s Salvation Through Hurricane Katrina” and recorded a music CD called “Beating The Street.” He sold it at his live concerts with proceeds going towards SAVED, his nonprofit that raises money for disaster relief missions.
“I founded SAVED in 2012,” he said. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I saw many Christian organizations sacrifice their time and money to help all of us who were devastated. I started SAVED because I wanted to find a way to raise money for disaster relief missions whenever and wherever they hit. Even when I wasn’t a believer, I respected the positive message of love and respect and giving to people in need that Jesus taught us. So when I fell in love with a devout Christian during Katrina who showed me the light while helping me find and rescue family members during the storm’s aftermath, I had to share the great news and new peace I found in faith.
“It was my singing that truly led SAVED,” Bezou said. “A very successful man and master of business named Wayne Williamson heard me sing at a church fundraiser following Katrina. He was sincerely moved by my Katrina story and how it brought me to the church. Wayne offered to fund a good portion of a project and brought clarity to my vision. That vision was to use my time, talent, testimony and treasure to help the church do the great things it does. When my business took off and Capital One named me the bank president and we were having our third daughter, I had to make a hard decision to back off when it looked like our book and CD were gaining recognition and taking more time than I had. Now, I just give the book and CD to people who I believe will benefit from them and write songs with positive messages.”
In 2014, Bezou and his family moved back to New Orleans and now reside in Lakeview. Bezou successfully underwent open-heart surgery, made a full recovery and his music video “Smiling” has received close to 70,000 views of Facebook.
He said there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between the music business and helping clients invest their money.
“It takes a whole band to make a great song and everyone involved to put on a performance,” Bezou said. “We love a great guitar solo or the climactic high note held out during the national anthem on the ‘land of the free,’ but without the bass player and drummer and right lighting you could never build a three-hour event or concert. Same way with investing. These TV commercials or shows that focus on the hot item that they either love or hate or their prediction of why the markets will rise or fall make for good sound bites that sell, but financial planning is so much more intricate. For clients who are willing to discuss their entire picture, we meet with their attorneys and CPA’s and discuss estate planning, taxation, trusts, business succession and so much more than just the sizzle of the investment. And my team, led by my head of operations Derrek Gaspard and chief administrator Tucker Thorpe, work together to make sure clients are contacted regularly, responded to quickly and on top of every aspect of their life.
“In December, we worked tirelessly making sure clients older than 70 ½ took required IRA distributions; clients who needed a tax break took advantage of the recent dip and harvested tax losses; those with cash waiting for a dip, added money; and some clients strategically created taxable gains to avoid passing those gains to heirs who are in higher tax brackets.
“That bass line, keyboard rhythm and drum beat make the song,” he said, “just as much as the singer and guitar.”
The Bezou Financial Planning Group
New Orleans/Lakeview Office
422 Harrison Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70124