Looking for a High-Net-Worth Advisory Firm?

Published November 2nd, 2022

Reading Time: 6 minutes

high net worth

Written by:

Team Hewins
Zoe Financial Services Partner

Looking for a High-Net-Worth Advisory Firm?

Published November 2nd, 2022 
Reading Time: 6 minutes
high net worth

Written by:

Team Hewins
Zoe Financial Services Partner

If you have a high net worth, you want to protect your wealth and grow your assets to ensure you and your family can live the life you envision. To achieve that goal, most high net worth individuals look for a financial advisor who can serve as their trusted partner and experienced guide.  

If you have a high net worth, you want to protect your wealth and grow your assets to ensure you and your family can live the life you envision. To achieve that goal, most high net worth individuals look for a financial advisor who can serve as their trusted partner and experienced guide.  

Often, the first providers that come to mind are the very large banks and brokerage houses that are household names. Yet, size and name recognition aren’t the best criteria to use when choosing a high-net-worth advisory firm. And when the stakes are high, you can’t afford to make a decision you may regret.  

There are 7 reasons that the largest banks and brokerage houses may not be the best choice for your high-net-worth financial planning.

#1: Large high-net-worth advisory firms may not provide stability and consistency. 

When you partner with a financial advisor, you want to build a long-term relationship and have confidence it will endure. But in firms that employ thousands of people, it’s tough to create a culture where advisors feel devoted to the company and motivated to stay. If there’s more money to be had elsewhere, some will readily make the switch, creating high turnover.  Bigger does not always mean more stable. 

In small independent firms, the opposite is quite common: Many financial advisors have a strong vested interest to stay on board, grow with the company, and become owner-partners if they aren’t already. That often creates a stable, committed team of advisors who are dedicated to partnering with their clients for the long haul.

#2: They tend to focus on their short-term objectives, instead of your long-term goals. 

Large banks and brokerage firms can be highly transactional in their dealings with clients. Often, those transactions center around whatever financial products the advisor and their firm are promoting at that time. Instead of building a customized financial plan designed to help you achieve your long-term life goals, the advisor may end up recommending investment products based on their own short-term objectives. 

At an independent advisory firm, the focus is typically on designing tailored financial plans driven by each client’s unique situation and goals. What kind of lifestyle do you want to enjoy in retirement? Is charitable giving important to you? Do you want to leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren?  These and many other essential questions are the focus of the conversation when you work with a financial advisor who puts your goals first.

#3: Their compensation structure may be in their best interests. 

Many firms that provide financial services, including some large banks and brokerage houses, operate on a commission-based compensation model. Their advisors are financially incentivized to recommend the investment products their firm sells, which can cloud their objectivity. (See reason #4!) The larger your portfolio, the greater your capacity to invest in the financial products a bank or brokerage house recommends—and that makes their compensation structure even more of a risk for high-net-worth individuals.  

Most independent advisory firms are structured very differently. For example, firms such as Team Hewins is a fee-only advisor, which means their only source of revenue is the fees charged to clients based on their assets under management. Because fee-only advisory firms don’t earn commission or sales incentives on the investments they recommend, their only incentive is to help clients achieve their life goals and thrive financially.

#4: Their objectivity may be clouded by conflicts of interest. 

When a financial advisor recommends an investment, you want to feel confident they’re maintaining their objectivity. Yet, large banks and brokerage firms are involved in many other businesses besides financial planning and wealth management—like trading, investment banking, and underwriting new securities—and those lines of business have the potential to sway an advisor’s judgment. Even if the advisor is committed to aligning to your goals, they could be unconsciously influenced by their firm’s product offerings and overall direction.      

Because many independent firms are only involved in financial planning and wealth management, their advisors can make investment recommendations that are objective and based solely on their due diligence.

#5: They may not provide the personal attention you deserve. 

Each advisor at a big bank or brokerage firm typically works with many clients, which can make it tough to give each one the time and attention good financial planning requires. But the size of their client list isn’t the only potential problem. These advisors can also work with clients of varying degrees of wealth. If your advisor has clients with portfolios in the nine figure-range and your assets total in the seven-figure range, you may fall down their priority list because other clients represent a much bigger share of their total revenue.  

When you’re interviewing financial advisors, ask how many clients each advisor works with on average and what the firm’s typical client profile looks like. Beyond ensuring that advisors aren’t overloaded and have experience working with high-net-worth individuals, it helps to understand where you fall on the spectrum of their client base.

#6: They don’t always provide full transparency in their reporting. 

Clients who are thinking about moving their wealth management from a big bank or brokerage firm often tell us they’re frustrated with their financial statements. We commonly hear that these statements are hard to understand and don’t provide a clear picture of how the portfolio is performing. Without doing a lot of math on their own, clients are left feeling unsure.  This lack of transparency can also extend to fees.   

When you entrust your wealth management to an advisory firm, you should expect transparent, straightforward, easy-to-understand reports and statements. When evaluating advisors, ask if you’ll have access to a secure online portal where you can see, at a glance, how your investments have performed this year and historically, in relation to industry benchmarks. 

#7: They’re acting as both your advisor and the custodian of your assets.

If a big bank or brokerage firm manages your assets, those accounts will be held in their institutions—making the firm both your advisor and the custodian of your assets. At a minimum, that means if you decide to switch asset managers then you’ll need to move your accounts to a different institution. Besides the time-consuming mechanics involved, the reporting can become more complicated during the transition and there can even be tax implications. You’ll also lose the checks and balances that naturally occur when your assets are held somewhere other than the firm that’s advising you.  

When you choose an independent advisory firm instead, your assets are typically held at a third-party financial institution, separating the advisor and the custodian. Besides offering greater protection of your funds, this approach makes it more seamless if you decide to change advisory firms down the road. 

The fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professionals you will find with Zoe Financial, have extensive experience helping high net worth individuals live the life they envision by protecting their wealth and growing their assets. As an independent firm, we’re staffed with advisors who are committed to building long-term partnerships based on your unique goals—acting in your best interests and providing the objectivity and attention financial planning demands. 

Disclosure: This blog is not investment advice and should not be relied on for such advice or as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal or financial advisors. The observations of industry trends should not be read as recommendations for stocks or sectors.

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