First-hand tips for finding a wealth manager

Peter Boggis is Chartered Accountant who worked as a corporate strategy consultant for over 30 years, and so was able to bring an uncommon level of insight to his search for a wealth manager.

Aware how difficult it can be to compare providers, he has generously decided to share his experiences with fellow users of findaWEALTHMANAGER.com to assist them in their choice.

The range of wealth managers to choose from has never been wider and I know that making an informed choice can be a real challenge – even when one brings extensive business and financial experience to the process.

The industry is a very broad church, encompassing many different types of institution and offerings at every level of wealth. This is why filtering the market to a shortlist of suitable firms through findaWEALTHMANAGER.com is so helpful.

There are number of key considerations which will help you surface exactly the right provider from your search

But the fact that these will all be sound factual matches can make the final mile seem hard. It needn’t be, and nor should you simply go with your “gut feeling”. There are number of key considerations which will help you surface exactly the right provider from your search.

Having put the sector under the microscope and interviewed a wide range of firms, here are my top tips for alighting on “the one”.

1. Really understand the fees you will pay

According to EY, only 56% of clients understand the fees they pay. You must make it your business to know exactly what you will pay, however, as any excess will prove a significant drag on portfolio performance over time.

Ask all prospective wealth managers to present their fees and charges for comparison side by side, and ensure that every element of the costs are broken out (including where VAT will apply). Also ask whether percentage fees will be charged at the beginning or end of the year, or on an average asset value, as this can make a huge difference.

2. Distinguish between costs and value

Understanding the detail of costs is important, but value is much more so. Wealth management is a relationship business, rather than a transactional one, and the all-round value you will receive is a function of both hard and softer factors.

Things like research, niche services, brand cachet and (in the fullness of time) hospitality and networking events may be important to you, or perhaps not at all. Decide what is and isn’t of value, and thus what you are willing to pay for.

3. Think about future needs

Your current needs may be fairly straightforward; but ask if you can foresee a future need for more complex work to be done (such as around a business sale or estate planning). Ensure your chosen wealth manager can provide (or can bring in) the expert advice you will need.

Unless your situation is complex enough to warrant paying for ongoing planning advice, I would advise looking for unbundled offerings that you can “pick and mix” services from when you require them

Unless your situation is complex enough to warrant paying for ongoing planning advice, I would advise looking for unbundled offerings that you can “pick and mix” services from when you require them.

4. Go in at the right level for you

Consolidation and other forces mean minimum investment levels are changing all the time (another reason why this matching service slashes the time you need to spend on research). Other firms are simultaneously moving up the value chain. This means you may very well be a candidate for a firm that you perhaps hadn’t considered an option before.

You must consider whether you’d rather be a “big fish in a small pond” or vice-versa, however. The more personal attention of a boutique may be outweighed by the broader capabilities of a behemoth. Ask prospective firms what a typical client looks like to determine where you would sit.

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Top Tip

Making your final choice of wealth manager when several have great appeal can feel difficult, but don’t let that slide into inertia because the sooner you get your wealth working harder, the better off you’ll be. Consult our Knowledge Centre for guidance on key differences or speak to our friendly expert team to get the inside track.

Lee Goggin - Co-Founder

Lee Goggin

Co-Founder

5. Find the right balance of tech and the human touch

Leading wealth managers have been investing heavily in their technology platforms, and have fared well during the disruption of normal service brought by the crisis. Ensure that prospective firms offer top-notch tools for communicating with your adviser, reviewing your portfolio and accessing thought-leadership material. Don’t be afraid to ask for demonstrations or even trials with dummy portfolios.

Ensure that prospective firms offer top-notch tools for communicating with your adviser, reviewing your portfolio and accessing thought-leadership material

Yet don’t forget the human touch, since discussing needs and scenarios with an expert (who can challenge your views and vice versa) is where much of the value in wealth management is derived. It is also where you will get comfort and confidence in times like these.

6. Ensure you’ll get the attention you need

Technology developments should have taken the administrative burden off of advisers’ shoulders, but you must ensure that efficiency is geared towards them giving extra attention to clients, rather than simply adding more and more to their client load.

Ask all the firms you are considering about their client-to-advisor ratios and what level of individual attention you can expect – both during normal times and when disruption makes us all cleave to the experts

Ask all the firms you are considering about their client-to-advisor ratios and what level of individual attention you can expect – both during normal times and when disruption makes us all cleave to the experts. This is a key determinant of value (and emotional comfort).

7. Consider corporate direction and “dis-economies” of scale

Industry consolidation is set to continue, and this can be both a good and a bad thing for clients. Corporate marriages can bring economies of scale that can be passed on to you, as well as boosted capabilities, particularly in technology and investment expertise. On the flipside, other firms are actively resisting the temptation to become larger for fear of damaging the client experience.

This is a personal choice. You just need to make sure you are comfortable with the plans and strategies of the organisation around growth. I interviewed several CEOs to form my views (and you could certainly look to do the same), but any prospective adviser you meet should be able to answer all your questions.

Remember, you are in charge

The wealth management sector can deliver great value for its clients through its sophisticated services and includes many admirable institutions. But you should never feel intimidated, nor “blinded by science”. Any worthy provider will be only too happy to explain anything unclear and spend all the time necessary for you to feel you are making the correct choice.

Any worthy provider will be only too happy to explain anything unclear and spend all the time necessary for you to feel you are making the correct choice

Take as much time as you need to make your decision – yet not so long that indecision begins to impact on the growth of your wealth, or you lose momentum altogether. Set timeframes for yourself, and the wealth managers under consideration; be consistent in your assessment of them; and don’t hesitate to go back to findaWEALTHMANAGER.com’s expert team if you get stuck anywhere in the process.