I named my firm Meta Point Advisors many years before Mark Zuckerberg rebranded Facebook. But now that he’s chosen to rename his company Meta, I’m evaluating how this move might impact my own branding. 

My formation of Meta Point Advisors predated the advent of the so-called metaverse, so my intended meaning of meta is different from Facebook’s. I named my firm Meta Point Advisors because I realized that, in thinking about most issues, I often chose to abstract from reality and to find the why of various phenomena. 

I have always been drawn to the big picture - or the Meta. In the 90s, I studied the development of capitalism and democracy and was driven to live in Russia when the Berlin Wall fell. In the mid 90s, I realized we were at the cusp of a new technological revolution and I sought out a job working for DARPA, the agency that funded the Internet. I was good at the "vision thing". When Rio Tinto almost lost their company for failure to anticipate the 2008 crisis, they brought me on to help them analyze the financial and economic markets. I rose up to be the only one on my team who could envision how the world might deviate from the "base case" and I developed different world scenarios across geo-political, economic, and regulatory frameworks. I went one further than Shell's famous scenarios and created four world views and led my team to create tangible forecasts across our company lines including iron ore and copper. I like bringing my thoughts to a point. What's the big picture or problem and what should we and are clients do about it? Thus, Meta Point Advisors was formed.

From Harvard To Meta: And No, I Don’t Mean Zuckerberg
When Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his college dorm, I was across campus at Harvard’s Kennedy School, writing what would become the first World Economic Forum paper on why companies should care about hiring and promoting women and underrepresented minorities

When I graduated college in 1995, I sensed before others that we were undergoing a huge technology revolution and I wanted to help shape it. Leveraging the defense work I had done in college in Russia, I got a job working for a software development firm for DARPA. I worked with PHDs in artificial intelligence to envision and develop advanced technologies that are finally commercial today.  I envisioned and articulated how these technologies could be used to enhance critical processes. DARPA program managers would hold up my reports and grant my company (now the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs) millions of dollars to prototype the visionary technology which I described. In this first internet boom, I wrote perhaps some of the first papers on how to build collaborative applications (Slack, Zoom, and Salesforce).

However, before and after getting my MBA, I began to hit barriers in the fields of technology, economics, and business. I saw other women experiencing the same obstacles, regardless of our ambitions and intelligence. When I joined Wall Street as an equity analyst, I lobbied to join the tech team that was covering Googleand was quickly advised I could only join the consumer products (e.g. Estee Lauder and Clorox) because “it was a better fit.”  

While I was at Harvard in 2004, I would challenge President Larry Summers on global economic policy known as the Washington Consensus and failed economic policy in Russia. I was pleased that he recognized my valid points and told me I was right several times! But then utterly dispirited when he didn’t reward my insights and instead, announced that the reason there were so few female economists and scientists is that there were not enough women at the upper end of the intelligence bell curve. 

Despite having gotten straight A's, 99% scores, recommendations from the HKS Dean for whom I developed a “theory of war,” and top scores at Harvard, they did not accept me into the PhD program. Meanwhile, they let in my male peers with lesser qualificationsbut “John’s” economics professor took him sailing on the weekend and my economics professor told me he could only have me in his office for 10 minutes with the door kept open for fear of appearances. Guess which tenured Harvard professor lobbied to get his protégé in against all the competition? Why? It wasn’t the hackneyed excuses that there were not enough ambitious and talented women in the pipeline, but that the powerful men were not hiring, promoting, mentoring, and sponsoring those women as they did equivalent or less qualified males. Harvard and companies need to be aware of how informal mentoring and sponsoring creates an uneven playing field and to ensure that all candidates receive similar support.

So I decided to try to change itfirst starting with identifying the “meta” problem. At the time, companies and CEOs did not really care about diversity. I wanted to prompt change in the strongest way possible—by crafting a data-driven argument supported by quality evidence—and created the first business case for the World Economic Forum on why CEOs should care. In 2004, Klaus Shwab, the CEO of McKinsey, and others argued with me that there was no need to focus on the lack of women in leadership as a social and business issue. By 2005, on the back of the success of the first panel on women at Davos (prompted by my paper), WEF launched its Gender Programme and all other firms followed suit, generating study after study that showed diverse teams perform better. 
The Meta Points

I could have joined a big firm. As one example, in 2015, I was the extrovert in the room at the tail end of a Harvard Davos reception. I brought into conversation (introduced?!) the solo-standing titans of finance David Rubenstein and Jamie Dimon (shown in photo) at Davos. Jamie actually wanted the photo taken, as he had just hit the billionaires club and perhaps leading to this highly influential interview a few months later. The next year, Jamie put me forward to work at JP Morgan. But I realized I was done with having my voice unheeded, co-opted, or talked over in big companies -- I needed a place where I could voice my (sometimes contrarian and hopefully always insightful and independent) opinions freely. 

So I launched Meta Point Advisors to write openly about what I call the meta points of finance and the world. For example, what’s happening in China and why? And what’s the point? What should we do about it? My approach is to gravitate towards the why, and to challenge the why if it doesn’t make sense or is outdated. 

I named my firm Meta Point Advisors because I wanted to come up with a recommendation or solution based on understanding the why. I also wanted to be judged by the quality of my opinions and the results of my decisions. This is why I love investing in the markets. If I see something others don’t or before they recognize it (like realizing that Covid could create a market crash), then I can reposition my clients to be best positioned for the new economic reality. I’d rather be judged by the numbers and my performance than judged as a woman. On another note, my Meyers Briggs is ENTP which is rare for most analysts who are ISTJ. I think my intuitive and perceptive abilities help me identify trends before they show up in the data - which translates to money in the stock market.

When it comes to investing, I don’t write about which stocks to invest in. I often challenge the groupthink that pervades the industry. I often focus on the investment and financial models and vehicles that have been developed and whether they make sense. Here some examples of my meta points:

Meta Point Advisors Today: Are We “Zucked?”

Mark Zuckerberg's recent rebranding of Facebook as Meta is about his virtual world of holograms. I appreciate his vision, but it’s based on a different definition of meta than the one I choseand his version of the term, metaverse, actually emerged subsequently to naming my firm Meta Point Advisors. 

It doesn’t help matters that Zuckerberg’s name change came on the heels of the company catching a lot of flack for not doing enough to filter out fake news and otherwise stay connected to reality. My brand has nothing to do with any of that. I want to understand and explain what is going on with people and economies on earth, not escape to space or a virtual reality. Even in this world, at restaurants, it frustrates me to see so many people focusing on posting pictures on Instagram while ignoring their friends and not enjoying the moment.

I feel like my Meta Point Advisors name is tantamount to… let’s say my parents had named me Alexa. It’s a lovely name, also of Greek origin like Meta is, only meaning defender of menbut perhaps seems less like its original meaning now that Amazon has made Alexa synonymous with voice-activated contraptions. Interestingly, the Washington Post ran a story last week on the negative impact of the name to all the women named Alexa.

I like the Greek meaning of meta, which to me connotes the big picture, understanding the root cause, and change or progress. This is why I made it the name of my firm. I like apples too, but it is easier to distinguish between a fruit and a computer without the original meaning getting lost. My initials are MoJo… Maybe it is time for Mojo Investing? Though I'm not sure if that sounds professional... My motto is "Invest Strategically". Perhaps I should use my other favorite words Strategic, Global, Growth in my title? I explained to one client that while other advisors offer kool-aid, I seek to provide pomegranate juice to my clients. Pomegranate Wealth or PomWealth? But I like meta points. How about you? I’d be curious to hear what you think of the name of my firm now that Facebook has co-opted the word meta. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know.

If you are receiving this newsletter, we have met in person and exchanged business cards. It would be great to reconnect on a personal level. Please let me know how you are doing and appreciate any feedback on which ideas you agree with as well as those you don't. I'm always up for a healthy, respectful intellectual debate ;)

Best regards, Maya
Maya is a Harvard-trained economist who leverages her two decades of top-level experience across Wall Street, the City of London, emerging markets, and advanced technology to devise investment strategies for her clients. She advised the CEO and Board of Rio Tinto on macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns. Maya founded Meta Point Advisors after several years as a Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch. Maya's clients benefit from her ability to provide savvy active management without the cumbersome costs and structure of mutual funds. She has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and the World Economic Forum.

Marisa Joelson holds a MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, a MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University, and a BA from Wesleyan University.