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The Big Breakup: It's Not You, It's Me

Photo of author, Brian Gongaware, CFP®.
Brian Gongaware, CFP®
Director of Advisory Services and Chief Compliance Officer

For decades wealthy and mass affluent families have worked with major bank and brokerage institutions. With changes in the financial industry, such families would be better served exploring a superior relationship model.

Banks over recent years have quietly raised your fees and increased their minimum client size while cutting services and staff. Bank and brokerage clients should ask themselves:

  • Am I still a valued client?
  • Would they seek me as a client today?
  • Am I getting their best resources (advisors, tools, investment thinking)?
  • Are my personal financial plan and wealth management needs receiving the attention they, or I, deserve?

If you suspect the answer to even one of the above questions is “No”, likely the answer to all four questions is “No”.

Having started my career within the two largest Pittsburgh financial institutions, I’ve seen the service model from the inside. Since then and over the past 20 years, we have designed and refined a fiduciary service model for our clients.

This week reach out to your individual advisor and pose the following questions. If you don’t have an individual advisor but now have an (800) number, there are many other solutions to pursue right away.

  • Ask what their minimum client size is. Many organizations will keep “small clients” because they just keep paying.
  • Ask what their entire fee schedule is. The fee schedule is helpful to understand where you fit in their business model. With a tiered-fee structure, are you paying at the highest rate?
  • Ask if they are regulated under a Fiduciary Standard. Not all firms/advisors/brokers want to be subject to fiduciary standards (clients’ best interests). Many prefer to render guidance with a much lower Suitability Standard.

“So, I need to find a new financial advisor, what should I look for?” Let’s start with the basics: Experience, Credentials, Accomplishments in working with investors like you.

This may seem obvious as first-level requirements. Just as important are the human characteristics that should define your financial advisor.

  • Your advisors must be approachable. Your advisor should not talk “over you” or “down to you”.
  • You want them to see and explore all your potential. Have honest conversations about your financial goals and dreams to assess what may be truly possible.
  • Seek a firm that is client centric and dedicated to action. Simply talking about objectives and priorities is incomplete. “Words may inspire but only action creates change.” – Simon Sinek
While this may be critical of banks and brokerage firms, it is because every week we see their changing business model and the negative consequences for you the asset owners. We want to highlight some of the known issues and encourage you to take control. Most of our new clients come to us from bank institutions or brokerage firms.

Who to seek for help with understanding your options?

It’s your money and your future. Take back control of your financial situation.

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