A Ukrainian Native Who Became An American Success Story, And One Of Its Top Financial Advisors, Shares His Expertise With Clients And Industry Readers

By Laura D. C. Kolnoski • Photos By Tom Zapcic

Ed Moldaver was eleven years old when he arrived in America with his parents in 1978 from their native Kiev, Ukraine, then part of the former Soviet Union. Accustomed to an austere lifestyle, the freedom and choice that greeted the trio in Highland Park was a revelation.

Pictured above (L) JP Bartolomeo & (R) Ed Moldaver

“In USSR there is one type of butter, toothpaste, etcetera, and everyone pretty much wore the same government manufactured style of clothes,” recalled Moldaver. “There was always a shortage of toilet paper. The first time I walked into an American supermarket, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I adapted very quickly.”

In Kiev, his mother Inna was a concert pianist and music teacher, his father Sam an engineer. Shortly after Moldaver was born, a mandatory draft sent his father, only 21, to serve as a prison guard in Afghanistan. After the family arrived in the U.S., his father worked in construction while his mom gave private piano lessons.

“My dad got into the gasoline business and owned a few stations, and my mom became a realtor,” he recalled. “There was great diversity in our town. It was a wonderful place to grow up and learn what America is all about. I met many friends there and we stay in touch.”

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While attending Pennsylvania’s Widener University, he kick-started his career by procuring an internship as a runner in the New York Mercantile commodities pits at the World Trade Center. Determination and talent propelled Moldaver’s steady rise. Following eight years at small and regional firms, Moldaver joined Bear, Stearns & Co.’s retail brokerage unit, where he became a senior managing director in private client services. Six years later, he was managing director at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management before joining Barclays in 2012. Until last April, he and his team served clients at Barclays, which became brokerage and investment firm Stifel Nicolaus through an acquisition.

Pictured above JP Bartolomeo

In May, Moldaver and Jimmy Lee, his right hand for over 20 years, and their team, which oversaw $3 billion in clients’ assets, were invited to join Rockefeller Capital Management, the original family office of John D. Rockefeller, at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza. For the past 135 years, Moldaver explained, the oversized family office only served the Rockefeller family and others of great wealth. It now serves several hundreds of Moldaver’s clients as well as several other talented teams recently invited to the platform.

“This place is a game changer,” he said. “Utilizing the family office services and the co-investment opportunities is like nothing I have seen in my 30 year career.”

Along the way, Moldaver earned multiple-year slots on Barron’s Top 100 Financial Advisors in America, Forbes America’s Top Wealth Advisors, Forbes Best-In-State Wealth Advisors, and the No. 1 Wealth Advisor in New Jersey. He also holds a Certified Portfolio Manager designation from the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, and he has served as a board member of the Academy of Certified Portfolio Managers there.

Moldaver has contributed to and been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Crain’s New York Business, and other media. An author, he has written two books: Logical Investing, Bringing Financial Certainty to an Increasingly Uncertain World (2012) and Logical Investing: The Fluff, The Bark & The Bite (2016), which Amazon called, “An emotion-free guide to wealth management.”

“After Barron’s named me the #1 Financial Advisor in New Jersey, a partner suggested I write about investing and our industry in a way that would be helpful to our typical client,” Moldaver related. “It’s not an ivory tower academia book filled with financial jargon, but an honest assessment of the industry and various investment strategies, providing the street smarts to manage money college courses do not cover. I wanted to share that knowledge.” When COVID-19 hit, Moldaver put more analytical thinking to work.

Pictured above Ed Moldaver

“In a way, COVID made things more efficient,” he observed, adding he’s engaging in Zoom meetings with clients he rarely saw in person and conducts significantly more meetings. “Going into the office less per week saves me hours of commuting I can turn into productivity. Sales people in our industry have great success at parties and events, but that becomes more about their personality. With that piece missing, the decision to invest with you becomes much more about actual performance, which is what it should be based on in the first place.”

While working from home can mean he never fully unplugs, Moldaver said spending more time with his family has been a blessing. An avid weight lifter, he has accumulated commercial gym equipment that “came in handy during the lockdown. My boys are also into it. We are the best shape of our lives.”

“With markets going higher, we now have what I call an extreme fear of missing out,” he noted.

“There is a lot of liquidity and investors are bidding up risk assets. Generally, when there is extreme fear, I like to buy. At Rockefeller, we are more into multi-generational wealth creation. If you have time, an opportunity to buy when there are no buyers is rare. The type of down move that we saw in March and April previously happened in 2008. The markets have returned 9% annual returns over the past 60 years. If you bought during these sell offs, your returns would be even better. In my book, I list 75 things that the markets have been afraid of since 1933. Your track record would be 75-0. The lesson is never bet against the USA.”

Moldaver relocated his family to Monmouth County’s Colts Neck in 2006, moving to a portion of a horse farm owned by the late Tony Abbatiello, a stalwart of the state’s equine industry. On their first meeting Abbatiello had to haul the newcomer’s car out of the mud with a tractor.

Moldaver quickly embraced his new community, coaching youth baseball and football, and joining the “Breakfast Club,” an informal group of local business and governmental leaders who perform social service projects.

“We love this town,” he said. “It’s completely opposite of New York City, and close to the beach. The horse farms are beautiful and we go riding often. The people here, especially the old timers, are great.”

Pictured above (L) Jimmy Lee & (R) Ed Moldaver

Active with New York’s Guardian Angels for years, he is its treasurer and a member of the Board of Trustees, and was awarded the Cyber Angel of the Year Internet Safety Award by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Moldaver is also a supporter of New York City’s Police Athletic League, and a former Partner in Education with the New York City Public School System’s mentoring program.

Leisure activities for him, his wife Eve, and children Jenna, Danny, and Nick include biking, golfing, and enjoying the family’s Long Beach Island home, where Moldaver can gaze into the financial horizon.

“In the long term I am optimistic,” he said, citing the arrival of COVID vaccines and stimulus funds from the government. “There is great liquidity in bank accounts, and cash still on the sideline. As that money makes its way in, the economy should continue on the current path to recovery. Seeing client’s plans that we put in place years ago come to realization is the most gratifying aspect of my work.”

One of the key players on Moldaver’s team is JP Bartolomeo, a 30-year veteran who joined Rockefeller Capital Management in May 2020 along with his team members. Bartolomeo’s earlier career focused on the institutional equity side of the business, serving hedge funds, asset managers, and global mutual funds ranging in size from $500 million to $100+ billion in assets under management. Lauded among his peers for his large personality and zest for life, he embodies a combination of rare skills, including a unique understanding of entrepreneurial success, private wealth, and institutional capital markets. “It’s to no one’s surprise that his reach is both vast and deep,” noted Moldaver. Bartolomeo is a dedicated husband and father to three boys, an avid snowboarder, triathlete, and Eagle Scout. He may look familiar, as his interest in helping others extends beyond his professional life; he is the former mayor of Colts Neck and still serves on its governing body.

Pictured above, Former Partner Governor David A Paterson, JP Bartolomeo, Founding Partners Ed Moldaver & Jimmy Lee
NY Rockefeller Management
45 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY
212.549.5190
www.rockco.com/moldaverlee/