You are entirely correct in saying that. The UK is one of the most mature wealth management markets in the world and there are hundreds of firms jostling for your business.
The sheer number and variety of wealth managers available to choose from was the prime reason findaWEALTHMANAGER.com was founded back in 2012. We wanted to give investors an effective way of navigating the market so that they could quickly filter it down to a shortlist of best-matched providers to then meet and see who they click with best. As you’ve probably found, it’s easy to do a lot of exhaustive research yourself only to end up feeling really none the wiser.
Wealth management is a broad term including everything from the smaller investment boutiques through to the largest firms covering every element of investing and planning; likewise, some are independent and privately owned, while others are part of international banking groups.
There are no absolute rules as to which wealth manager will suit you best, but there are some key questions that will help inform your choice.
The first is whether you are looking just for investment management or require financial planning advice too. If the latter, ask yourself if you prefer a one-stop shop or for planning advice to be provided by another party.
A second very important consideration is how much money you have to invest. Wealth managers can vary widely on their investment minimums and it is also good to feel you are among clients with broadly similar levels of wealth.
Alongside hard factors like location, you might also consider softer ones like brand and servicing style. Our expert team can give you invaluable guidance here, so please get in touch for an informal chat.
Finally, and of course most important, are questions around costs and investment performance, which is why it is vital to compare several firms side by side to see which offers the best value. Our smart online tool will objectively generate the best-matched wealth managers for your situation and needs to kick-start this beauty parade.
Read our Guide to finding your best wealth manager to ensure you make the best possible choice.
The level of investment performance you can expect to achieve with a wealth manager very much depends on your risk-profile, which is determined by your attitude to risk and how much you can reasonably afford to put at risk by investing (all investing involves some degree of risk). Naturally, bigger returns are earned by taking on a greater risk of losses.
The types of investment a wealth manager recommends for and the proportions that make up your investment portfolio are driven by your risk-profile and investment time-horizon.
Cash and bonds are at the safer end of the spectrum and equities at the riskier end, and your investment manager will be looking to deliver the optimal returns achievable within your timeframes. Those with a longer time-horizon, for example someone who is investing for retirement 20 years away, can afford to take on more investment risk as they have more time to recover from losses. Someone who will need their money in five years will have to be far more circumspect.
Wealth managers cater to all kinds of clients, including those who are able and willing to take on a high degree of risk. However, the bulk of our users wish to gain steady returns over the long term so that they can harness the power of compounding.
Middle of the road investors who are neither very cautious or very adventurous can reasonably expect to enjoy returns of 5-6% a year, which compares very favourably indeed to current bank savings rates. However, wealth managers are often able to deliver stronger returns.
Understanding benchmarks is very important when comparing wealth managers on performance, so reading our essential guide Ten key points on performance benchmarks should be your first port of call.
A good question to ask a potential provider what they have achieved for clients like you over the past one, three, five and ten years. This will give you a good idea of how they perform in different market conditions and whether they are consistent in achieving good results.
The main thing to remember that wealth management is generally about preserving and steadily growing wealth, rather than shooting the lights out. You may hear of stellar returns being made on certain investments, but question whether this is sustainable or involves a lot of risk.
You are certainly right to want to get a firm handle on all the fees and charges that might apply. Understanding them is an essential part of comparing providers properly and will enable you to see more clearly where the best value is on offer.
Wealth managers’ fees can seem somewhat complex, but this is simply because there are many moving parts within the services they provide and firms work in slightly different ways. But you should never feel bamboozled! Good wealth managers like the ones we work with are committed to being totally transparent on costs – and it is also a regulatory responsibility. If you don’t understand anything, ask for an explanation. If answers are unforthcoming: avoid!
Wealth managers usually charge an annual management fee for running your investment portfolio, which at better-value firms will be in the region of 1-1.5% of the assets in question. This is very much a “headline” fee, however, since there are several other costs involved in constructing and managing a portfolio. These are include: underlying investment costs, such as for buying third-party funds; taxes like VAT on the management charge; custody costs for keeping your assets safe; and brokerage and transaction fees.
The figure you really need to pay attention to, therefore, is the Total Expense Ratio – an estimate of what all costs will amount to annually. Compare this to the investment performance being held out as net gains should be your focus.
Most of our users also require at least some financial planning advice. This may be baked into an annual fee, charged for separately or just be a one-off cost if, for example, you are consolidating several pensions. A good wealth manager will seek to be competitive in every element of your service package.
Two things you need to be hyper-vigilant about are entry and exit fees. A few firms charge hefty upfront fees when entering their investment programmes and/or charges to take your money out, effectively locking it in for several years. These are just one element of the hidden fees we’ve been helping our users avoid.
Our guide, What to expect from wealth manager fees sets out in detail all the costs you should ask potential providers about so there are no surprises and you can ensure you get the best possible deal.
This is a question we encounter a lot, particularly from clients who have been used to working with an IFA close to their home.
The answer is that it really depends on the individual’s needs – and where they live. Some wealth managers are based solely in London, others have a handful of offices in key locations and others still have very extensive office networks covering every region of the UK.
Places like Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter (to name but a few) are well-known as wealth hotspots, meaning that most of the larger brands are represented there. Not only does this mean they are closer to their clients, but also that their advisers are well-plugged into the local business communities for the benefit of both sides.
That is not to say that our users always prefer to keep things local, however. For some, a London location is no barrier if they consider a firm to be the best for them. Once a relationship is progressing nicely, face-to-face meetings may be only once a year, with phone/online/mailed communications taking care of everything else. Many of our users in fact enjoy coming to the capital for initial meetings, or to the nearest big city branch of their wealth manager if they live out in the countryside.
If location is important to you, then our smart online toolwill make this a primary matching criterion, but it pays to keep an open mind on this. Many advisers are only too happy to travel to meet with their clients, for instance, and a city-based relationship might not entail as much travel as you think.
IFAs tend to emphasise their local presence, but you should question at what cost this comes. In our experience, IFAs can work out to be a more expensive option, since many are outsourcing managing investments to a larger firm and charging for advice on top of that.
Rather than “location, location, location”, it’s often better to think of our mantra: performance, costs and service.
We often encounter dissatisfied clients who have been staying put just because they think changing will be difficult, expensive or embarrassing – but it actually doesn’t have to be any of those things. Clients change wealth manager all the time and the process is likely to be far easier, quicker and stress-free than you might fear.
The trigger points for change vary from person to person, but generally boil down to questions of value, performance or service. If returns don’t stack up against the fees you are paying, or if you don’t feel you are getting the individual attention you deserve, then a change is in order.
The process of changing wealth manager is in fact pretty straightforward once you have decided where you wish to move to (you may have a firm idea, but we would always advise comparing providers through our smart online tool to make sure of your choice).
Once you have opened an account with your chosen new wealth manager, you will sign a letter of authorisation for the transfer of accounts and assets. Then, once the account closure is confirmed, the new provider liaises with the old one to start the transfer process, which is usually complete with 3-6 weeks, depending on the types of assets you hold.
It really is that simple, and you don’t even have to have any final good-byes with your old firm if you choose not to. They will certainly not be obstructive in any way. Financial situations, people and firms themselves change over time – this is just business and there won’t be any hard feelings.
If you feel that you could be getting a better deal or are stuck in a lacklustre management relationship, don’t let inertia hold you back from doing the best thing for you and your wealth. If you still have concerns, our myth-busting Guide to changing wealth manager will give you all the reassurance you need. A better deal and a more fulfilling relationship await!
Unfortunately, this has become quite a common situation in recent years. Regulatory, cost and competitive pressures are forcing firms to review their businesses and focus on areas where they have an edge and can be most profitable (this is why office closures have occurred too).
So, while it probably won’t have felt nice to hear you’re no longer wealthy enough for the firm to work with, you are far from alone. Some wealth managers (particularly the global ones) are now setting the bar very high indeed.
I sincerely hope the firm in question has handled the situation well. If you are wondering why they have not made a formal arrangement to have another firm take on your business, it is because regulatory rules prevent them from doing so. In any case, surely it’s far preferable to see which provider might now be best for yourself?
Rest assured that the wealth managers on our panel work with clients at all levels of wealth, so you are sure to find several appropriate ones to compare through our smart online tool. In fact, eradicating the “Have I got enough money?” question is one of the reasons users find our service so helpful; all the wealth managers you will match with will be ideal for your level of assets, as well as all the key facts of your financial situation – so that’s one awkward conversation you don’t have when asking friends and colleagues for recommendations.
If you’ve had a happy, productive relationship with a wealth manager then moving on will of course feel quite sad, particularly if this wasn’t your choice. However, this is an opportunity to have your financial situation and objectives looked at with fresh eyes, and it might very well turn out that your new provider and adviser are better than the last.
It’s great that you are thinking along these lines. Your financial situation and needs are evolving all the time so it’s good practice to review your affairs in the round regularly – and think about whether your wealth manager is really meeting your needs.
Wealth management is really wide-ranging and can cover a huge array of services. Therefore, I’d first advise you think about what we call the three pillars of managing wealth: protection, growth and tax mitigation. Namely, is your wealth sufficiently protected from investment and other risks; is it growing at the best rate your risk-profile allows for; and is your adviser taking all steps to keep your tax bill down?
Next, consider how your situation has changed, or is set to. While wealth managers are obligated to take account of changes in your circumstances, there may be nuances they have missed. The birth of children, divorce, moving house, inheritance, career changes and retirement are just a few of the life changes you need to have acknowledge in your financial plan.
On a related point, consider how well your family financial plans are aligned. You and a partner may have separate ISAs that are really considered collective wealth and should be managed as such, for instance. Elsewhere, you might be facing a hefty Inheritance Tax bill without evasive action or there could be proactive moves to be taken as regards private school fees.
You might be surprised as to just how much a wealth manager can provide. You may not know that private bank mortgages can be very attractive, or that Lombard loans can be taken out against your investment portfolio, for example.
For all these reasons it pays to carry out a thoroughgoing assessment of your finances at least once a year and to prepare a list of questions to take to your annual review meeting with your wealth manager. Certainly, it might be good to simply say “What else could you be doing for me?”
Wealth management advisers should be proactively seeking solutions for you, and if you get a sense they are not then it might be time to seek one that does. Our Guide to knowing when it’s time for a change will help you ask yourself the right questions.
Wealth management is a highly competitive industry when it comes to talent, so there can be quite a lot of movement of personnel. But while your situation is not uncommon, I do feel for you losing a trusted adviser after a long and productive relationship.
I hope that your wealth management institution has handled the change well by letting you know well in advance and introducing you to the person that is planned to take over. In my view, they should also make it clear that you can request another adviser if you find the fit isn’t quite right too.
Assuming that you get on well with the new adviser, that they understand your situation well and offer a similar level of expertise and experience then you should certainly give them a chance to prove themselves. Who knows, they may exceed your expectations so this could be a move up!
However, you should also be on your guard for any deterioration in the service standards you receive. While younger advisers can of course be fantastic, you shouldn’t feel like your business has been passed over to someone without the skillset you require. Nor should you accept being tagged onto the client book of an already over-stretched individual, and so not get the dedicated time and attention you deserve.
In short, keep a close eye on how things develop, and bear in mind that changing wealth manager is very much easier and quicker than many people believe if you aren’t absolutely happy as things progress.
It might be that on reflection you come to see your adviser leaving as a good opportunity to make a change anyway (many people do). There may be a much better deal out there for you and now that your adviser is no longer in picture make sure there is enough keeping you with your current provider.
People tend to think of wealth management as being mostly about making investments, but financial planning is just as important (if not more so). Many of our users begin thinking that investment management advice is all they need, but soon realise they need to form or revise their financial plan first.
The majority of the wealth managers on our panel offer financial planning services so if this sounds like you, you are certainly in the right place.
At heart, financial planning is about helping you achieve a range of financial – and therefore life – goals. These may be long term, like retirement saving, or shorter term, like education funding. Your financial plan underpins why you are investing, how long you invest for and what you invest into. Financial products are just end-results.
The planning process begins with a thorough assessment of your financial position (assets, income and liabilities) and objectives. Then, a route-map for achieving these in your desired time-frames is formulated and put (gradually) into place. The challenge of balancing near and longer-term needs, while also keeping risk and tax at reasonable levels, explains why financial planning really calls for expert advice.
Crucially, financial planning is an ongoing process. Your circumstances – and the financial landscape – will evolve dramatically over time, so you should review your plan at least yearly with someone who knows how to keep it fit for purpose.
Everyone needs a robust financial plan, and those with complex financial affairs even more so. Taking professional advice as early as possible is likely to be your wisest ever move. Ensuring your wealth is working as hard as it possibly can, and that all your savings and investments are pulling in the same direction, will make all the difference. With proper planning, you can look forward to enhanced returns for reduced risk premia, significant tax savings and – perhaps most important of all – true peace of mind.
You shouldn’t haphazardly buy assets without a proper investment strategy and that has to be built on a sound financial plan. We are all investing for specific things so maximise your chances of achieving these goals through proactive planning.