Hiring the right wealth management firm can be critically important. With so many wealth management companies vying for your “wealth,” however, it can be daunting to drill down to uncover the details and information that can make your choice a difference-maker.

To help you find the right wealth manager, we suggest you look for a firm that focuses on the following attributes:

Comprehensive Financial Planning.

Look for a team that is professional, friendly, responsive, and places appropriate emphasis on financial planning and personal guidance. Your team should provide thoughtful advice focused on discovering and respecting what is important to you. All parties should want you to understand the specific details of your wealth and overall financial situation so you can be an active participant in the ongoing process.

Fiduciary-focused Structure.

Look for a wealth management team that makes a strong legal and ethical commitment to place your interests first (some are surprised to learn that not all financial advisors do this). That is called a ‘fiduciary relationship’ and – when agreed upon – is a legally binding commitment. After selecting a client-committed firm, you can confidently move forward, knowing that management of your assets and wealth are in good hands. It is also strongly recommended that you look for a fee-only financial advisor, which means your advisors receive compensation only from their clients, not from the sale of financial products or commissions from referrals.

Experience.

Arguably the most critical attribute to look for in hiring a wealth management firm is searching for one that has the expertise to confidently recognize what paths are available to you in varying circumstances (knowing the ropes). Make sure the combined personnel team has the multi-layered knowledge base required to most fully address your specific needs. Your ultimate choice should have been around long enough to have witnessed – and successfully navigated – multiple market occurrences.

Certification.

Advanced professional training and continuing education are essential attributes. Taking the time to review a professional’s certifications can provide meaningful insight into whether the company hires personnel that has the depth and breadth of experience and knowledge for your unique situation(s). What you want to see is a firm that has CFP® professionals.

Other credentials may be important to you as well. For example, depending upon your situation, you also may want professionals within the firm to have advanced investment knowledge such as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation; tax background such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA); divorce planning experience such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA®), etc.

What is a fiduciary relationship?

A fiduciary relationship is a good thing in the wealth management world. It works to the benefit of all parties.

A fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients’ interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary thus requires being bound legally and ethically to act in the other’s best interest.

Read more:  Fiduciary: What Does It  Mean?

A Personalized Approach.

Hopefully, your search will result in finding a firm that places a pronounced emphasis on YOU. Look for personal, client-focused service with professional resources from a local, accessible, experienced team. You will want to have robust integration of financial planning and investment managers and advisors who can – and do – coordinate with other advisors as needed (e.g., attorneys, CPAs).

A Proven Process.

A company that readily communicates a thoughtful, well-orchestrated, personalized plan is a firm that has developed a process over time that works.  The CFP® Board requires its certificants to apply Financial Planning Practice Standards which include a standard 7-step process:

  • Understanding the client’s personal and financial circumstances.

  • Gather data. Understand and prioritize personal goals. Identify risk/return requirements, time horizon, tax issues, estate planning issues along with the strategies to address them.

  • Analyze. Analyzing the client’s current course of action and potential alterative course(s) of action.

  • Developing the financial planning recommendations. Develop an investment policy statement for you. Merge financial planning and investment management—Balance investment strategy with personal, unique objectives.

  • Presenting the financial planning recommendations. Provide appropriate steps to work towards your goals. Coordinate with other advisors as needed.

  • Implementing the financial plan recommendations. Put your personalized financial plan and recommendations into action.

  • Monitoring progress and updating. Regularly monitor your plan and portfolio strategies. Report on and communicate changes.

A Concise, Well-stated Investment Philosophy.

It is essential to understand a firm’s investment philosophy. A philosophy statement should be readily available and adequately spell out how the company will manage your investment portfolio. A meaningful philosophy statement might include the following goals and objectives:

  • Manage risk. Base investment recommendations on your individual goals, your time horizon, and your risk tolerance.

  • Focus on diversification. Historically, diversification has lowered volatility over time. Construct globally diversified portfolios using research-based methodologies.

  • Minimize portfolio costs. Keeps client expenses to a minimum, if appropriate, while still focusing on maximizing growth/profit.

  • Optimize tax efficiency. Utilize asset location to implement portfolios in a tax-efficient manner.

  • Track and adapt. Monitor and rebalance portfolios as needed to manage risk.

  • Long-term approach. A structured, disciplined, strategic approach to the investment process.

Independence.

An independent firm allows them to think differently and maintain their own path in terms of a financial planning and investment philosophy as well as a standard for client service.  Being independent allows them to preserve certain beliefs without being pressured to change in the name of short-term results. They can look out over a longer timeframe and stay true to a financial planning process that they believe will benefit their clients over time.

Client Experience.

It is always comforting to know in advance how you can expect to be treated by a firm you might hire. And wealth management firms should be no exception. Proceed with confidence to the next step if the firm you are researching lets you know the following types of details upfront:

  • We offer an objective view of your financial life, not opinions.

  • We offer in-person and virtual meetings, based on your preference.

  • Your call(s) answered within 24 hours.

  • We pride ourselves on having ongoing awareness of your total financial picture.

  • We communicate clearly and regularly, so you know what to expect and when.

  • We offer a warm, caring atmosphere where you are treated like family.

Let the Search Begin.

Armed with the tips discussed in this article, you now know to conduct a consequential search, which should result in a thoughtful, fact-based decision on which wealth management firm to choose. Remember, it’s your wealth; conduct as much research and ask as many questions as you need to find the right firm for you.

To learn more about how Modera can support you, please contact us.

Joe Casper is the Senior Business Development Manager for Modera Wealth Management. Modera provides thoughtful financial counsel to discerning individuals and organizations. Overseeing $2.3 billion in regulatory assets under management as of December 31, 2018, we are employee-owned and operate on a fee-only/commission-free model that puts our clients’ needs ahead of our own.

Modera Wealth Management, LLC (“Modera”) is an SEC-registered investment advisor with places of business in Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Modera may only transact business in those states in which it is registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration requirements. SEC registration does not imply any level of skill or training.  For information pertaining to our registration status, fees and services, please contact us or refer to the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure web site (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov) to obtain a copy of our disclosure statement set forth in Form ADV Part 2A. Please read the disclosure statement carefully before you invest or send money.

This article is limited to the dissemination of general information about Modera’s investment advisory and financial planning services that is not suitable for everyone. Nothing herein should be interpreted or construed as investment advice nor as legal, tax or accounting advice nor as personalized financial planning, tax planning or wealth management advice. For legal, tax and accounting-related matters, we recommend you seek the advice of a qualified attorney or accountant. This article is not a substitute for personalized investment or financial planning from Modera. There is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass, and the information herein should not be considered a solicitation to engage in a particular investment or financial planning strategy. The statements, information and opinions expressed in this article are subject to change without notice.

Investing in the markets involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors and should not be considered a solicitation to buy or sell any security or to engage in a particular investment or financial planning strategy. Individual client asset allocations and investment strategies differ based on varying degrees of diversification and other factors. Diversification does not guarantee a profit or guarantee against a loss.