An interview with David Loeper, CEO of Wealthcare Capital Management, an RIA in Richmond, VA
On tax day (April 15th), David B. Loeper, CEO of Wealthcare Capital Management—a Richmond-based wealth management firm—will be holding private screenings of the film Atlas Shrugged: Part 1: “The Movie That Hollywood Didn’t Want You to See.” Well, at least according to David Loeper, since Ayn Rand, who published the novel in 1957, advocated limited government and personal liberty. (More on that below.) But of course Hollywood wants you to see the film; its posters are all over the New York City subway system, for example. The film is opening in selected cities on Friday, April 15.
If not for these private screenings by Loeper and his firm, this film would not be available for viewing in Richmond, Atlanta and Pittsburgh; Loeper is also holding viewings in Chicago.
Objectivism, which is the philosophy behind the book/film, is central to Wealthcare Capital’s wealth management process.
In 1999 Loeper, CIMA,CIMC, established Financeware, Inc. (Wealthcare Capital Management is a DBA name of Financeware, Inc. with $400m AUM) after serving 10 years at Wheat First Securities, first as vice president of investment consulting, then as managing director of investment consulting, and then eventually to managing director of strategic planning for the retail brokerage division.
Drawing on these years of experience in financial services, including serving as a fiduciary for all types of ERISA plans, Loeper has authored numerous whitepapers and books including the top selling book, Stop the 401k Rip-off! as well as The Four Pillars of Retirement Plans, Stop the Retirement Rip-off and Stop the Investing Rip-off.
Q: So you are an Ayn Rand fan, and specifically of her heroic character John Galt. Why?
A: Nearly 20 years ago I read Atlas Shrugged. This book clarifies in one’s mind how you can be honest and comfortable with yourself constantly—like the heroes in this book who live their lives with radical honesty seeking no one’s sanction but their own. Objectivism clarified in my mind a moral and noble way to live my life. The basis of the philosophy is that it is up to the individual to achieve on his own – one doesn’t seek charity. This book shows this incredible moral integrity. It’s hard for people to be honest all the time, but not after you read this book. It’s also about reality; the book references: A=A, which means existence exists and it is incumbent on one’s own mind to perceive what is real.
John Galt stands out in the book because the saying, “Who is John Galt?” is a popular phrase which all of society in the book has adopted as the standard response to a question one does not know the answer; or more to Rand’s point, “Why ask useless questions?” The character remains a mystery throughout most of the book until the end when society has completely crumbled because Galt has convinced all of the most productive “men of mind” to “go on strike” and join him in a hidden society where only honorable, productive people live. Libertarianism is essentially based on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and John Galt is the main hero—he is the persona for the philosophy.
Q: How does Objectivism affect the way you run your practice and your personal life?
A: Wealthcare is our patented advising process. It is about avoiding needless sacrifice of your life. It is about unquestionable moral integrity. It is about the acknowledgement that reality exists, and that it is incumbent upon one’s objective mind to perceive reality. It is about using one’s mind to create value. It is about the profound value of an individual’s life and making the most of it. Our patented Wealthcare advising process applies these Objectivist premises, and this results in extraordinary value in our advice to clients. That’s the process that I invented.
For me, the starting point was when I thought about financial advising processes that already exist. Rand said, “An inventor is a man who asks ‘Why?’ of the universe and lets nothing stand between the answer and his mind.” So, because of Atlas Shrugged and how it taught me to be completely honest and objective, I took a step back and evaluated the industry’s supposed “best practices” that I had been teaching to thousands of advisors across the country for years. It took Atlas Shrugged to put myself in the shoes of the consumer to objectively evaluate whether what I was teaching actually had value or not.
For most of us, it is hard to be that self-critical, especially after building a very successful career on it. But Objectivists, with their radical honesty and dedication to perceiving reality, can pierce through the fog of the bromides we accepted about our services in the absence of any real evidence. When I objectively evaluated the supposed best practices I was teaching advisors, I saw that they were filled with contradictions. To explain the contradictions and the premises needed to resolve them, I wrote a whitepaper, “Do you Perceive A Contradiction?” This comes right out of Atlas Shrugged. Francisco, one of the characters, has a quote in the book, “If you perceive a contradiction, check your premises.” That’s the opening quote for the whitepaper. I had no moral choice but to invent a new advising discipline free of contradictions.
Rand said, “Logical contractions do not exist.” The bottom line is that with our process, our careers are truly noble, just like the heroes and heroine in Atlas Shrugged. Wealthcare has completely changed the careers of our advisors where they can once again know that they can be proud of their work. Just ask them.
As for my personal life, I am constantly making choices to be happy, but NEVER at the expense of another—I could not be happy without this philosophy, without this book. Wealthcare is about making the most of your life and we help our clients achieve that. Nothing is more rewarding to me than when my clients hug me and say “thank you” with tears in their eyes. They tell me that the Wealthcare process has enabled them to achieve what they personally value the most in life.
In my practice, I also give every employee at Wealthcare Capital Management a copy of Atlas Shrugged and I inscribe each one with: “Who is John Galt? Are you? – Dave.”
In my first two books, I used the following as the opening quote: “I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another to live for the sake of mine.” – Ayn Rand. This is what is inscribed over the door at John Galt’s power station and is the essence of objectivist philosophy. Think about the quote. In essence, it is saying something profoundly real about us as humans. You cannot be noble as a slave or one who enslaves others. It is the pledge that the “strikers” in the book had to be willing to make before they were welcomed at Galt’s Gulch, his hidden society of heroes.
Also, we have a painting of Atlas in our lobby as well as “The Thinker” and an abstract painting in our conference room called “Logic.” All of our desks and conference rooms have Lucite plaques and crystal pen holders with quotes like: “Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think;” “Morality is the judgment to distinguish right and wrong, vision to see the truth, courage to act upon it, dedication to that which is good, and integrity to stand by it at any price;” and “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see.” These are all quotations from Ayn Rand.
Q: I hear that you are actually screening the movie, a remake, I think, of Atlas Shrugged, at your own expense in cities where it isn’t opening. Is that right? When and where are you showing the film?
A: Yes, it opens (very appropriately) on tax day, April 15th and our firm is holding private screenings of Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 that opening weekend. Our private screenings of the film will be held in Richmond, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Chicago. If not for our screenings, this film would not have been available for viewing in Richmond, Atlanta and Pittsburgh on opening night.I think of it as “The Movie That Hollywood Didn’t Want You to See” because there has been a history of false starts in adapting this novel into a movie due to Hollywood's general disdain for the premises of Ayn Rand's philosophy. True to Rand's vision, an individual “producer” was needed to make the movie a reality.This is not a remake, but the first time this movie has been made. And remember, it is only Part 1. The 1,200-page novel was broken into three parts and it couldn’t possibly be done justice in just one movie, so the producers are making a trilogy of it to remain true to the book.
Q: Why bother? Why not let people go see it themselves if they are interested?
A: Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Richmond would not have the option to see the film because the studio was not originally opening in those cities. That is why I made it so important for us to make sure people in these cities are able to see the film. We have advisors in these cities that are Objectivists. I can’t imagine a client event that is so profoundly important to so many people that are passionate about this philosophy; this book is the reason for it. Our society also needs more people to understand these premises, but the challenge is that 80 percent of the public do not read and those who do read may be intimidated by a 1,200-page novel. Additionally, this movie makes these premises accessible to a whole new audience of people and the movie does a great job of it!