How $ 5 Billion In Biology Advisor Merrill Lynch’s PhD Has Gained Renewed Relevance Amid Covid-19

Philippe Hartl obtained a doctorate. in Cellular and Molecular Biology and nearly three decades later, this education has gained renewed relevance for counseling clients during a unique pandemic.

Hartl wrote his research thesis on a then little-known technological advance known as mRNA three decades before Pfizer

and Moderna used this platform to develop the first two vaccines to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization.

“I quickly went from being a scientist to being a consultant. Obtain a rigorous doctorate. in the hard sciences is about learning to think, solve problems and approach a circumstance, ”says Hartl, 60, of transferring his skills to a new field, saying he treats it the way he has. made for the hard sciences by putting a “command frame” around issues that may arise for clients.

The Covid crisis has given its unorthodox track record back to use, with Hartl being able to factor his scientific understanding as well as economic data into the advice he offers to his clients. It also led him to fight the severity of the pandemic.

“What keeps me awake at night is that if we continue on this path to become more and more dependent on science and technology, less and less of the population is educated in science and mathematics, or at least have an appreciation of how that affects life – and that will lead to decisions that are not optimal for the species or the country, ”Hartl adds.

This crisis precipitated a different outlook from customers, with a renewed appreciation of time and a revelation that wealth is a privilege and a responsibility. This put the emphasis back on estate planning, family communication and philanthropy.

“It is not since the Spanish flu of 1917 to 1919 that society has been challenged biologically. Ultimately we are an organism on the planet and having a viral challenge to a large population is part of the ecosystem, ”Hartl said. “Remembering this is very difficult and people got very scared, especially in March when a scientific understanding started to form around what was going on and that it was going to go global. “

Hartl used his scientific knowledge to share his expectations with clients but also to encourage them not to panic. While this crisis is unique in that it has a health component, he drew on lessons learned from his decades in financial services, having started his career in the midst of the Treasury bear market in 1994 and later crossing several slowdowns, notably the monetary crisis of 1998 and the crisis of 2008. financial crisis.

“It was different because it was a biological event and the economy was at a standstill, but you can’t be reactive because the same way we beat the Spanish flu, we are going to overcome that, ”Hartl adds. “Maybe it will be another six months, maybe it will be another year, but we’ll get through that. For now, it’s all about keeping a firm hand, having good communication with customers, looking at what might happen in relation to the story, and then making the best decisions possible.

Despite a long career in the industry, 2020 brought new experience to Hartl’s career when he was called in by colleagues to help explain some of the new developments regarding the virus, treatments or vaccines.

“It was a privilege and an honor to be able to put my training to good use,” he says. “You decide to spend years earning a doctorate. and you publish your papers and it’s still in you. We have seen a fundamental shift in the understanding that we are biologically vulnerable. It will change the way people view their investments and their lifecycle. “

Hartl’s interest in a career change came a few years after receiving his doctorate. He was studying pancreatic cancer at the University of California at San Francisco and as he doubled chemotherapy cells late at night, he decided he wanted to take advantage of his science education and resolution skills. problems in a different direction. It took him a few years of due diligence, examining, among other things, patent law in medical schools and biotechnology, before finally discovering wealth management.

His journey in financial consulting began when he cut his teeth for half a dozen years at Goldman Sachs


Hartl is now part of a six-person team with Merrill Private Wealth Management with an average account size ranging from $ 10 million to $ 250 million. Its eponymous team, The Hartl Group, manages $ 5.2 billion in total assets under management with offices in Los Angeles.

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