How to choose the right wealth advisory services firm to meet your needs Featured

8:00pm EDT June 30, 2012
How to choose the right wealth advisory services firm to meet your needs

When choosing a wealth advisory services firm to partner with, it can be difficult to identify the one that will best meet your needs.

But there are more than two-dozen characteristics you should look for to make sure the firm is well equipped to address your needs on an individual basis, 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,” says Boone. “But you should expect a lot from your wealth advisory services firm, and knowing what to look for can help you make the right choice.”

Smart Business spoke with Boone — as Mosaic celebrates 25 successful years — about the 25 keys to look for when choosing a wealth advisory firm.

What are some key characteristics to look for 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 following through by doing what it says it’s going to do. A wealth advisory firm also should empower its clients by providing them with financial education to help them feel more comfortable with their financial environment and allow them to make better-informed financial decisions. In addition, the firm should act ethically and with integrity, putting the needs of its clients first.

How important is transparency between a firm and its clients?

Transparency with clients is critical, and the firm and its members should be willing to answer any and all questions posed by the client. The firm also should have a unique investment policy statement for every client that documents the individual investment agreements and procedures and not simply take a one-size-fits-all approach. In addition, objective, unbiased and personalized advice should be the foundation of every relationship with clients.

What else should a potential client look for in a wealth advisory services firm?

Look for a firm that you can trust and respect, and that trusts and respects you and your needs. A firm also should respect and value the confidentiality of its clients.

You should have a relationship with a team of people at the firm, who can offer a variety of expertise, and not just one person, as you can benefit more from that collective expertise. And that team should endeavor to establish and maintain the highest standards of excellence in everything that its members do.

How should a wealth advisory firm approach financial planning?

Financial planning should serve as the base of the pyramid of financial success and as the foundation for how the firm serves its clients. Financial planning should be a lifelong process that continues to evolve as life circumstances change, not something that is done once, then put on a shelf and never re-addressed.

Sometimes, financial planning is about helping you modify your behavior so that it is better aligned with allowing you to accomplish your goals. A firm that adds life coaching to the process can help you achieve those things that are important to you. Good advice must be given within the context of your total circumstances and not with isolation.

And when expertise beyond that of the firm is required, it is the firm’s responsibility to recommend the involvement of other professionals who are able to meet those needs.

What other things are important?

Your wealth advisory firm should stay in the forefront of technology development so that it is equipped to meet your needs. It also should be as committed to its employees as it is to its clients, providing a good place to work in a stimulating, supportive and enjoyable environment. And it should not only provide that environment, it should continue to build the professional capabilities of each and every staff member through ongoing education and training.

Should a wealth advisory firm’s actions go beyond financial planning?

Yes. The firm should not act in isolation and instead actively contribute to both the community and to the profession. For example, it ought to bring unique capabilities to help families and businesses improve communication, find shared visions and move toward a more harmonious whole, sometimes focusing on issues such as succession and other times simply helping to build a better team. Ideally, its approach will respect the importance and distinctiveness of each of the many pieces of your life, while also embracing how those pieces fit together to build a balanced and beautiful picture.

A firm’s 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 is important for a wealth advisory firm to stay ahead of the curve, choosing an independent course that reflects the best research and thinking of its members.

Look for a firm that is large enough to bring the necessary resources to bear to help it address your issues and your needs, yet is still small enough to remember that its members work for you. They should answer your calls and think about how they can serve you better, not how you can contribute to the business.

If you choose a firm that believes that all things are possible if you have the audacity and courage to determine what you really want in life, you can form a partnership that can help you successfully achieve your financial goals.

Norman M. Boone is founder and president of Mosaic Financial Partners Inc., which is celebrating, this year, its 25th anniversary. Reach him at (415) 788-1951 or norm@mosaicfp.com.

Insights Wealth Management & Family Business Consulting is brought to you by Mosaic Financial Partners