When choosing a wealth advisory firm to partner with, there are a number of characteristics you should look for to ensure the firm is well equipped to address your unique needs, says Norman M. Boone, founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc.
“With so many firms out there, it can be difficult to identify the right one for you,” Boone says. “You should expect a lot from your wealth advisory firm, and knowing what to look for can help you make the right choice.”
Smart Business spoke with Boone about the keys to choosing a wealth advisory firm.
What are some key characteristics when seeking a wealth advisory firm?
Professional success is based on a firm caring about its clients, being sensitive to their needs and concerns, providing a high level of expertise and doing what it says it’s going to do. A wealth advisory firm should empower clients by providing them with financial education to help them feel more comfortable and allow them to make better-informed financial decisions.
You want a firm that is willing to commit to being a fiduciary — always putting the needs of its clients first. Independent firms are beholden only to their clients and have no other loyalties. How the firm is compensated is important. Fee-only firms are paid only for their advice and service. They avoid the potential conflicts of interest of receiving commissions, referral fees and the like.
Look for a firm that you trust and respect, and that trusts and respects you and your needs. The firm should aggressively honor the confidentiality of its clients. You should have a relationship with a team of people at the firm, not just one person, so you can benefit more from their collective expertise. Look for a firm that is large enough to bring the necessary resources to bear, yet is still small enough to remember that its members work for you.
Your wealth advisory firm should stay in the forefront of technology development to be equipped to meet your needs. It also should be committed to its employees, providing a good work environment and building the professional capabilities of staff with ongoing education and training.
How important is transparency?
Transparency creates the basis for trust. The firm and its members should be willing to answer any and all of your questions. In addition, objective, unbiased and personalized advice should be the foundation of every client relationship.
The firm also should offer a fully customized investment policy statement for every client providing a unique ‘road map’ for how that client’s money is to be managed. An investment process works best when it is disciplined, thoughtful, strategic, tax- and cost-sensitive, and well diversified. The investment world is constantly changing, and it’s important for a firm to stay ahead of the curve, choosing an independent course that reflects the best research and thinking of its members.
How should a firm tackle financial planning?
Financial advice shouldn’t just be about investments. Financial planning should be the underpinning of how the firm serves its clients. Financial planning is a lifelong process — as your circumstances change, plans should be updated. Good advice must be given within the context of your total circumstances and specific needs. When other expertise is required, it is the firm’s responsibility to recommend other professionals who are able to meet those needs.
Should a wealth advisory firm’s actions go beyond financial planning?
Your advisory firm should respect the importance and distinctiveness of the many pieces of your life, while embracing how those pieces fit together. The firm should answer your calls promptly and always be thinking about how they can serve you better.
Your financial adviser can and should be your partner — always sensitive to your particular needs and concerns while giving you the best advice for your circumstances in the framework of the current laws and world context. If you don’t trust them and look forward to receiving their advice, you may want to look for a different adviser.
Norman M. Boone is founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc. Reach him at (415) 788-1952 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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