If you are searching for the best wealth manager, understanding how they earn their income and what professional designations they have is important, as I explained here and here. Beyond that, though, fit is extremely important. Fit is tough to define, but after working with hundreds of clients over nearly 15 years, here are a few questions to ask to assess whether a wealth manager is a good fit for you:
Do They Work with Clients at Your Stage in Life – The needs of a couple in their 30s expecting their first child are quite different than empty nesters planning for retirement. Some advisors may explicitly state that they work with clients at a particular stage in life, but even if they don’t, you can ask them how your situation compares to that of their typical client.
Do They Focus on Issues You Need to Address – While certain issues often align with specific stages of life, that isn’t always the case. Inheritances or liquidity events for business owners or employees are examples of events that can happen at any time. If there is a specific issue that is leading you to look for advice, ask the prospective advisor if they have experience with the issue, and if so, how they typically address the issue.
Have They Worked with Your Coworkers – This isn’t always critical, but if your employer offers equity grants or if they have particularly complex benefits, working with an advisor that is familiar with your employer can be beneficial. We’ve worked with two employers in particular – the Federal Government and Emory University and Emory Clinic – that have complex benefits, and our knowledge of those benefits is helpful in providing clients with more informed financial advice.
Are You Comfortable with the Advisor’s Approach and Communication Style – Some wealth managers focus primarily on investments while others take a more holistic approach and treat the investments as part of the overall picture. We take the latter approach, so although we spend a great deal of time and energy in managing client portfolios, we’re not a good fit for clients interested solely in an investment manager. Further, our style of communication aims to simplify, not complicate, financial issues and investment decisions, and to help clients understand how those issues and decisions impact their ability to meet their financial goals.
Finding the best wealth manager is a process that takes time, but it is worth the effort because in our experience, it will be a relationship that spans years. Taking the time to understand how the wealth manager earns income, what financial designations they have and whether they are a good fit will pay off in the long run.