Top Wealth Management Firms
There are many investment advisors out there that offer varying levels of service for meeting your current and financial needs. If you are ready to have an investment professional help you manage your wealth, then you’re probably curious about how a wealth management firm works. This extensive resource explains the fundamentals of working with a wealth advisor, while also addressing common questions such as, what is a wealth management firm, and who are the top wealth management firms. After this, you’ll have a better grasp on how working with a wealth manager will benefit you and what to expect when you find the right wealth management company for your family.
What is a wealth management firm?
Whenever someone wants to invest their money, there are several ways they can do so. Some might choose to manage their own investments, while those who prefer to have someone else invest their wealth can turn to wealth management firms. There are various levels of investment management services performed by firms that help you invest your wealth. You can turn to a robo-advisor, find a financial advisor, or use a wealth management firm. The type of advisor that you turn to usually depends on how much, or how little, you would like to manage your investment portfolio.
So, what’s the difference between these firms, and when should you go with a wealth manager? Robo-advisors provide investment management services with minimum human assistance using algorithms that help you select investments. When you use a robo-advisor, you’ll rarely get input on how to invest from real people. But what are your options if you would prefer not to go with a computer-based investing account?
In that case, you still have a few options. Financial advisors help you make an investment plan. Although they’re good planners, not all financial advisors understand all your investment options. Likewise, many financial advisors cannot execute your investment plan and do not sell investments and securities. Instead, you’ll take the financial advisor’s plan and turn elsewhere to buy the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds you need.
Then, there are investment brokers. Investment brokers are the people and institutions that purchase securities, stocks, and bonds from exchanges for their clients. In return, they earn a commission on every sale. However, they don’t provide a range of financial management services like wealth management firms do.
Now you’re probably wondering “well, what is a wealth management firm then?” Wealth management firms are usually comprised of wealth managers that are Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs). These wealth managers provide a full range of financial and investment services so that you can grow your wealth. If you want a professional investor to advise you on all aspects of growing, maintaining, or managing wealth to meet your goals, or you want total hands-off management of your investment portfolio, then you’ll want to work with a wealth management company.
Why work with a Registered Investment Advisor instead of an Investment Broker?
Aside from the level of service you’ll achieve using different types of investment managers, there are several reasons why a wealth management company might be best for you. Let’s start with the difference between an RIA wealth manager and an investment broker.
You probably recognize companies like Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and Fidelity Investments. These companies employ investment brokers to purchase stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs on your behalf. Two significant differences between these investment brokers and wealth managers are:
1. Whether these advisors have a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest, and
2. How these advisors are compensated.
First, let’s cover fiduciary duty, and discuss what exactly this means. For a financial advisor to become an RIA, they register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In doing so, they agree to the US Investment Advisors Act of 1940 and thus must either act within your best interest when purchasing or advising you to purchase certain securities, or make a full disclosure on all material conflicts of interest before you make any changes to your holdings.
Investment brokers on the other hand do not have fiduciary duty. Although there’s a new rule called Regulation Best Interest being enforced June 30th, 2020, where brokers legally should do what’s in your best interest when suggesting certain investments, there’s a lot of room for interpretation on what it means to act in your best interest. Even after the rule passes, brokers can still make recommendations of securities which earn them a larger commission, if they disclose exactly how they’ll profit from your financial decisions.
This brings us to our second distinction between working with a wealth manager versus an investment broker. We’ll get into the nuance of wealth manager compensation shortly when we discuss the wealth management strategies that different firms use. But generally, you can estimate that a wealth manager earns somewhere around 1% of your investment portfolio’s value per year. As you can tell, with this compensation method it’s in your wealth manager’s best interest to ensure that you are growing or maintaining your level of wealth.
In contrast, broker dealers earn compensation differently. Investment brokers suggest securities based on your current needs at the time and will earn a commission depending on which investments you purchase. Let’s say that you decide to purchase an investment solution based on their input that results in less growth of your wealth. Although you might assume that the broker will be compensated less because your investments didn’t match the market returns, they might actually make more off commissions because of your decision to purchase one investment over another.
People usually decide whether to go with an investment broker or wealth manager when considering exactly what their financial needs and goals are. Wealth managers are better suited to offer a range of services, while investment brokers suggest securities by focusing on a small part of your financial life.
When you need to know how to invest for retirement for example, an investment broker can help with that. But, if you need assistance on wealth accumulation, retirement planning, and estate planning, you’re much better off working with one wealth advisor that can help you with all aspects at once.
What services do wealth managers offer?
Wealth managers are full-service financial planners that offer a wide range of services to their affluent customers. Here are some areas that your wealth manager can assist you with:
- Investment management for wealth accumulation.
- Retirement planning for the long-term or immediate future.
- General financial advice, like whether that car loan is really worth it.
- Tax planning to lower your tax liability this year and for future years.
- Estate planning and methods for transferring wealth to family.
- Insurance planning using insurance solutions that help protect your assets and income.
- And many other areas such as debt management, family education planning, legal assistance, and business planning.
Let’s say that you just have a simple financial question like whether it’s in your best interest to purchase a home or rent a property. The wonderful thing about your wealth advisor is that they’re available for a one-on-one conversation about any non-financial questions that you have. Using a financial advisor might be more costly than using a traditional investment brokerage, but you’ll end up getting better service from your wealth manager in return.
When is the best time to hire an investment firm?
Some of the most popular questions that wealth managers receive are when is the best time to hire an investment firm and when is the best time to transition to a wealth management firm. Like many questions when it comes to managing finances, that choice really depends on where you are in life, and whether you enjoy handling your own finances and investments.
As people transition throughout their careers, money management becomes more complex. When you land your first career, you’ll probably only need to max out your 401(k) and manage a simple financial plan. However, as you have children get closer to college age, you purchase your first home, and you start reaching retirement age, your finances will become more complex. Whenever you want to prepare for major life stages and ensure financial security for yourself and your family, it’ll be time to hire a wealth manager.
With a wealth manager, there’s no worring about where to place your assets for accumulation and growth. Instead, you can focus on a career you love, taking care of your family, and the other things that bring you happiness. Your wealth manager will help you create a plan to meet your upcoming life goals and ensure that you’re ready to tap into your investments when the time is right.
Here’s how wealth management firms differ while managing your investments.
Before discussing a question like who are the top wealth management firms, it’s important to grasp two significant differences between management firms. First, you’ll want to know if a specific management firm will work with you based on the amount of assets in your investment portfolio. Second, you’ll want to know the different strategies that wealth managers use to grow your investments.
Without understanding the distinctions between different firms, you risk selecting the wrong firm that employs a strategy that doesn’t meet your needs. Likewise, you might waste time researching wealth managers that don’t work with people in your current financial situation.
Do wealth management firms work with all investors?
You have two types of wealth management firms to select from. Although there are some hybrid firms that focus on both types of investors, generally every firm will focus on either retail investors or institutional investors.
High net worth investors have $5 million or more to invest. Such investors generally pay lower fees, have more say on who becomes their wealth manager, and can get other preferential treatment from their wealth management firm.
What are the different wealth management strategies?
There are two main ways that money management firms manage wealth. First, are the firms that actively manage your investments. Wealth advisors that take an active approach will buy and sell investments to flip securities. Active managers believe that by timing the market instead of buying and holding securities, they can achieve better returns.
The second type of wealth management strategy is a more passive approach. Instead of managing wealth for you, passive managers will create an investment plan for you to follow. After building a plan with your wealth manager that manages risk while taking your goals into consideration, you’ll be able to manage your own portfolio from there. Your wealth manager will mostly be available to make recommendations and educate you on new opportunities to meet your goals.
So, how does compensation compare between active and passive wealth managers? Active wealth management firms can be more costly especially when considering taxes incurred due to the trading. They’re actively buying and selling investments in an attempt to maximize your returns and therefore you’ll pay more service fees and transaction costs. Conversely, passive wealth managers on average charge 1% of the assets being managed per year.
If you’re a high net worth individual, you can negotiate a lower fee (in our case we lower the fee at $10 million).
Now that the question when is the best time to hire an investment firm has been answered and you’re aware of how wealth management companies work, it’s time to talk about specific firms in your area. Let’s discuss the top wealth management firms in the U.S. and finally explain how to find the best wealth manager near me.
Who are the top wealth management firms?
There are several wealth management firms in the world, but it’s the big banks that usually manage the most wealth of high net-worth individuals overall. Here are the top wealth management firms in the United States:
- Bank of America
After the 2008 financial crisis, Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch, which solidified its ranking of the top wealth management firm. Between Forbes, Barron’s, and Investopedia, there’s no disagreement of BoA taking the top spot. Their Global Wealth & Investment division manages over $1.3 trillion in assets and there are hundreds Bank of America branches around the U.S.
- Morgan Stanley
Morgan Stanley’s Private Wealth Management group has over $1.25 trillion in management assets and has steadily increased their revenue throughout the years. Like BoA, Morgan Stanley has branches and wealth managers throughout the U.S. while focusing on building, preserving, and managing wealth.
- J.P. Morgan Private Bank
While J.P. Morgan has fewer than one-tenth of the wealth managers as our number one and two picks, they’re still able to manage over $750 billion in assets. There are also less than 50 branches with J.P. Morgan Private Bank wealth managers, making it less accessible than other alternatives. Even with this being the case, it’s still an exception wealth management firm in terms of assets managed.
How to find the best wealth manager near me?
Finding a good wealth manager doesn’t need to be difficult. If you’re wondering how to find the best wealth manager near me, then consider starting with searching for intelligent articles like this one. Then start searching with your current network and determine which services each wealth management firm offers, how they’re compensated, and what credentials each manager has. Finally, decide based on who provides the top services that you currently need or expect to require in the future.
In conclusion, finding a wealth manager and the right wealth management firm is an important consideration. Selecting the right professionals can impact your retirement, estate planning, and more. Take enough time to consider the wealth management firms in your area, ask for recommendations, and conduct your own research. After determining your options and the services you need, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and find a firm that matches your current and future needs.
Pillar’s Private wealth management offers custom, sophisticated and trusted financial advice to high net worth and ultra-high net worth investors with between $5 million and $500 million of investable assets. Our expert founders understand the complex paradigm of investing and planning and can provide you with the advice you seek.