Best Financial Advisor Firms: 7 Qualities to Help You Identify Them
Identifying the best financial advisor firms begins by knowing what you want. The top firm for one investor won’t be the same as for another because different companies specialize in different areas. For those looking to invest $5+ million in liquid investable assets we highly recommend you request and read the comprehensive wealth management and financial planning book written for high net worth investors, it is free here.
STRATEGIES FOR FAMILIES WORTH $5 MILLION TO $500 MILLION
The insights you’ll discover from our published book will help you integrate a variety of wealth management tools with financial planning, providing guidance for your future security alongside complex financial strategies, so your human and financial capital will both flourish.
Clients frequently share with us how the knowledge gained from this book helped provide them tremendous clarity, shattering industry-pitched ideologies, while offering insight and direction in making such important financial decisions.
Table of Contents
What do you want out of life that an advisor can help with? Before we get to seven ways to identify the best financial advisor firms, consider your preferences on some common investment issues:
Some investors prefer to take an active role in managing their investments. Others want an expert they can just hand it to and not have to worry about it.
For those seeking an active role, they may not need a full-time financial advisor, and would be better suited just paying someone hourly when they need advice, or annual flat fees.
For those who want to work with a financial advisor who they can trust to manage their investments and deliver the long term financial security and peace of mind they seek, they would work with an advisor who charges a percentage of assets under management and provides ongoing financial advice and portfolio management.
It’s an important decision that you should only make after you’ve conducted comprehensive research. For in-depth information about the questions you should ask a wealth management firm and for services and investment advice you should seek, read our guide for investors worth $10 million or more.
Some investors want to work with a big company that has been around a while. Others prefer a small, independent firm that specializes in working with people like them.
Types of Investments
Some financial advisors work with a narrower set of investment options. They may be all in-house, such as you might find at a large banking firm that invests mainly in its own funds. Or, they might work with hedge funds or other specialized investment opportunities. Other advisors provide a broader range of options and are not beholden to a single institution.
Level of Customization
Some financial advisors will offer a standardized set of investment plans based on common principles. From that low level of customized planning, you can find advisors all along the spectrum up to fully customized financial advice and planning.
So – what do you want?
Do you want an active role or a passive role? What size company would you like to work with? Do you want a broad range of investment options or prefer a narrower selection? Do you want a plan customized to you, or would you prefer to choose from pre-designed plans and asset allocations?
Where Pillar Wealth Management Fits
Here’s where Pillar Wealth Management sits among these questions. We exclusively work with affluent investors, families, and business owners who have $5 million to $500 million in liquid assets. We work with all ages from people in their 30s up to those in retirement.
We prefer to work with investors who want to enjoy their lives and have peace of mind about their finances, knowing they are set for life. To that end, we prefer to work with investors who don’t want to be involved in every little decision. You have a life to enjoy, and we want you to go enjoy it without worrying about your investments.
We are a boutique, private, independent wealth management firm, not a big public company.
We offer a wide range of investment options and asset classes, but these are offered within the context of a proprietary financial planning process that is unlike what you will find at ordinary financial advisor firms.
And, we offer the highest level of customized investment planning and financial advice. Our plans are 100% customized to each investor. This is the deliberate outcome from using the proprietary planning process we developed and perfected over the last 30 years.
Other financial advisor companies may serve young investors, independent investors, retired investors, or in some cases people from specific professions. There is therefore no single ‘best’ financial advisor company for everyone.
If you’re looking for a personal financial advisor, then that person’s own level of experience, knowledge, and expertise in helping minimize your taxes, manage your investments, and craft your estate plan matter far more than the company logo on their brochures.
This is why we created our signature written work, 7 Secrets to High Net Worth Investment Management, Estate, Tax and Financial Planning. Because you only have one shot at getting this right. You need an advisor with a proven investment process for achieving time-tested financial security for people like you. You can get the guide for free today by clicking here.
The Best Financial Advisor Companies Have 7 Things in Common
There are many financial advisor firms that cater to a variety of client profiles. Selecting the best company among them takes time. However, we give advice to many clients on how to do an initial screening.
Here are seven qualities to look for from the best financial firms:
The top advisors have years of experience working with investors in the areas of their specialty. For instance, Pillar Wealth Management has worked over 30 years exclusively with high net worth and ultra high net worth investors. A firm that specializes in retirement planning should have lots of experience with it.
Look for a track record that the financial advisory firm you’re considering has worked successfully with people like you and has a healthy amount of assets under management (AUM).
By spending most of their careers working with investor accounts within their area of expertise, they understand the kind of issues those investors face. If you’re a high net worth investor, you can get more insights on our customized approach to high net worth financial planning by scheduling your free consultation with us.
A fiduciary is an investment advisor who has committed to always giving financial advice that is in the best interests of their clients. They do not make recommendations based on how they can profit from it too. A fiduciary must also clearly disclose it anytime there is a potential conflict of interest.
Being a fiduciary isn’t just a choice you make. To be a financial advisor who is registered with either the SEC or your state’s regulator, you have to follow the fiduciary standard.
3. Customized Financial Planning
Many financial advisor firms offer a fixed set of standardized plans, usually defined based on their asset allocation. You’ll see phrases like ‘moderate,’ ‘aggressive,’ ‘conservative,’ and various others.
The best financial advisors offer much more than this. They offer customized investment management and financial planning that is tailored specifically to your life and financial situation, your short and long-term goals, and the lifestyle you desire to live, now and well into the future.
When an advisor claims to offer customized planning, make sure you clarify what they mean by ‘customized,’ and that it really is what you expect it to be.
4. Fee Structure
There are many different ways financial advisors charge for their services, but they can be broadly grouped under two categories – fee-only and fee-based. A fee-only structure, as the name suggests, involves only a fee.
This fee is usually calculated on a milestone basis, hourly basis, or as a percentage of the total assets under management (AUM) by the advisors. If any extra services are sought, then the fees for them are separate, but this is the basic structure in the fee-only model.
The fee-based model involves fees and commissions on products “marketed” to the customers by their advisors. An example of the fee-based model is when a client invests in a certain mutual fund that the financial advisor recommends, then the advisors may get a commission or a kickback from the mutual fund company.
In this model, there is an incentive to push certain products and services as there may be a desire to earn more commission. Fiduciaries, as you might imagine, tend to use the fee-only approach. You can read about the merits of both these methods in our book: The Art of Protecting Ultra-High Net Worth Portfolios and Estates – Strategies For Families Worth $25 Million To $500 Million. Order a free hardcover copy today.
5. Cost Management
Some advisory firms focus a bit too much on investment returns at the expense of investment costs. For example, frequent trading and churning of portfolios can result in large short-term capital gains tax, which can easily negate any real or perceived gains that at first seem greater than other investors are earning.
Investing in large-expense-ratio funds can also result in avoidable costs to the client. And there are many other costs, many hidden and hard to pinpoint, you might be paying with various financial advisors.
The top advisory firms divide their focus equally between earning large returns while minimizing investment costs, some of which are unavoidable. And they make clear any costs that aren’t part of your normal fee.
6. Continuous Monitoring
The top financial advisor firms don’t just put your plans and goals in a drawer after you agree to let them manage your investments. They do not standardize their monitoring process so that all their clients are treated the same.
Instead, the best financial advisors communicate personally with each client. They update you frequently. They perform stress tests periodically to evaluate if the portfolio can handle unexpected life or world events. The best firms are much more proactive.
To learn more about how important this can be, click here to read our guide on the 5 critical shifts that help improve portfolio performance.
7. Financial Services You Need Now and in the Future
The best financial advisory firms offer an array of services that different investors need at different points in their lives. What you need from your advisor at 35 will be different from what you need at 55 and 75.
Look for an advisor that offers a wide variety of services. Below are some of the services you might expect to see from the best advisors.
Financial Services Offered by the Best Financial Advisory Firms
Because most firms require minimum investment amounts, most of the best financial advisors will at least offer a wealth management service. This is true even if they serve a wider variety of clients, unlike Pillar, which exclusively serves high and ultra high net worth investors, families, and business owners.
The best firms should offer this service because as their clients build wealth, their needs will change, and the firm should anticipate those changes and have a plan for how to continually address them.
If an advisor is still treating clients with millions of dollars the same as their clients who have just a couple hundred thousand, something isn’t right.
Wealth management is about whole-life financial planning, wealth protection, long term financial security, estate planning, retirement planning, philanthropy, and customized investment portfolio development.
Insurance as a component of financial planning can include life insurance, retirement plan insurance, saving for future needs such as education and health costs, and many more.
Most advisors who don’t directly provide insurance will have relationships with other independent professionals who specialize in these areas.
Sometimes you face difficult financial decisions and need specific advice. This is often separate from your investments.
The best financial advisors will be there to guide you on things like choosing the right retirement plan, how to minimize taxes, whether to opt in to a particular investment, how to manage your real estate, insurance, or a recent life event like a health issue in your family, a business opportunity, and many other scenarios that arise.
This is an area where private, independent financial advisors tend to outperform their peers at the big companies. Private advisors tend to have more experience and be more accessible, and you won’t get shifted around to different people every year because of turnover.
The best investment management firms and advisors provide a private service to manage your investment planning. Every single decision can have far-reaching impacts. And when you are talking millions of dollars, the stakes are that much higher.
You may have investment accounts, an IRA, Roth IRA, 401k, life insurance, health savings accounts, college savings plans, and much more. You may also own a business and be thinking about succession planning. And everyone has to think about retirement planning.
You may also own assets like real estate and stocks. You have multiple sources of personal income, and tax planning becomes very important as you get older.
Estate Planning and Tax Minimization
These are separate services but they often go hand in hand, because one of the biggest areas of tax minimization for affluent families is the estate tax.
It is shocking how many people who have ultra high net worth have not even done the basics of estate planning. Famous celebrities and business moguls such as Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, who died tragically in his 40s, have passed away without an estate plan, leaving a complicated mess for what must be done with their wealth and assets.
The best financial advisors make estate planning and tax minimization central to their services, especially for high net worth investors.
If you have more than $5 million, probably the best thing you can do right now with regard to taxes and your estate is to get our signature guide, 7 Secrets to High Net Worth Investment Management, Estate, Tax and Financial Planning.
Searching for the Right Advisor for You
Searching for the right advisor involves conducting some preliminary research from the comfort of your home. You can start by searching for reputable financial advisors in your area.
If you have between $5 million and $500 million in liquid assets, then you are invited to start a discussion with Hutch Ashoo at Pillar Wealth Management to explore what we can offer you.
We possess all seven of the qualities of the best financial advisors listed earlier.
One more way to search for a top-notch financial advisory firm is to speak with your family, friends, and work colleagues. Chances are that they may also be wealthy and working with a financial advisor who specializes in handling issues that wealthy individuals face.
Large Financial Advisor Companies
If you prefer a large company instead of a private independent financial advisor like Pillar Wealth Management, here are a few of the biggest financial advisor firms in the United States.
Wells Fargo & Co.
Founded in 1852, this firm provides insurance, mortgage, banking provision, investment management, wealth management, and consumer and commercial finance. This bank owns assets under management (AUM) of $2 trillion.
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (rights reserved) company was founded in 1935. This financial advisor firm provides services for investment management banking. Morgan Stanley also works in several segments of the business. For instance, the investment management segment offers investment, fixed income, retirement planning, real estate, and equity. This firm owned assets under management (AUM) of $896.8 billion.
Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
This firm is a part of Bank of America (private bank). This wealth management firm offers its clients personal advice related to investments, private equity, fixed income, asset management, and tax. The assets under management (AUM) owned by this firm are about $2.75 trillion.
The top firms for wealthy individuals are the ones that have the experience of handling large deals. They have experience in not just wealth management, retirement planning, investments, and portfolio management, but also in taxation, philanthropy, succession planning, and other issues faced by wealthy individuals.
What Makes Pillar Wealth Management a Good Financial Firm for High Net Worth Investors?
Now that you know the attributes of the best financial advisor firms, take a few moments to learn about PillarWM’s unique approach to customized financial planning and investment management.
If you have $5 million or more in liquid assets, we recommend you explore this guide and discover the 5 non-negotiables you should expect from any financial advisor. These form the basis of our financial advisory philosophy.
Here’s a snapshot of how we serve high and ultra high net worth families, investors, and business owners.
White Glove Service
Pillar Wealth Management is a registered investment advisor (RIA) firm with many financial planning services. It uses third party custodians for holding your investments. This protective approach means that we do not directly hold your money and the control remains with you.
In addition, we provide white glove financial service that encompasses all aspects of your financial needs – at no extra charge.
Included within our simple fee-only structure, you receive tax planning, estate planning, insurance planning, life event and retirement planning and advice, attentive, personal service that pays close attention to your portfolio, and so much more.
As a fiduciary investment management firm, we provide double-layer protection for your wealth. We take the fiduciary oath very seriously. We apply it to our entire investment planning process, which is 100% customized to each client.
If you want to find out how to get started in establishing a new system to achieve your financial goals and desires, then get in touch for your free consultation with Hutch Ashoo.
PillarWM also has a combined experience of 60+ years in managing high net worth portfolios ranging from $5 million to $500 million.
Proprietary Planning Process
Our proprietary planning process uses 100 years of market data to simulate “what-if” scenarios and conduct stress tests on client portfolios on a quarterly basis. Our system removes emotion from investment decisions, and produces the highest possible level of what we call financial serenity.
Giving us a call just to hear about how this unique and innovative process works would be well worth your time.
Pillar Wealth Management also gets to know each client personally. When you call us, we will know your name. This is one reason we take only 17 new clients per year. We want to know you, what matters to you, what worries you, and what motivates you, so we can create a plan that helps you live and achieve everything you want out of life.
When our clients call us, there is always a real human to speak with, something that the large “well-known” firms cannot promise.
Pillar Wealth Management has Assets Under Management (AUM) of over $131 million, which shows how much our customers trust us in handling their portfolios.
Hutch Ashoo and Christopher Snyder are the expert founders of this independent, fee-only, and fiduciary investment management firm.
If you want to see how customized and trusted financial advice gets applied to your situation as a high net worth individual with $5 million to $500 million in investible assets, then feel free to start a conversation.
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