How to Choose a Wealth Manager

Two prominent wealth management companies offer their professional insight
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Planning for your future and the future of your family is a big responsibility, and financial security doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. Time to analyze your financial picture, research multiple avenues of investment, and then strategically manage and maintain those investments. Whether you're saving for a home, retirement, your children's education, or are looking to capitalize on your current assets, you can never be too prepared.

Sound overwhelming? It can be, which is why hiring a financial advisor might be a smart move for you, your family and your assets. Their expertise can be invaluable in navigating risk management, developing new financial skills and capitalizing on your investments.

So, how do you decide which financial advisor is the right fit for you? To help get the ball rolling, two prominent wealth management companies offer their professional insight.

Michael Nielsen, Senior Managing Director - Complex Director of RBC Wealth Management, a national investment firm with offices in downtown Seattle, provides some solid recommendations for jump-starting your search for a reliable advisor.

  1. Determine your financial picture. Ask yourself important questions before meeting with a potential financial advisor. Determine how much you have to invest, what kind of investments you want and how much help you need. Be armed with knowledge of your situation before you begin your search.
  2. Get references. Networking makes the world go round. Ask people you trust – family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors – whom they work with and what their experience has been with their financial advisor. Follow those leads to set up informational sessions with people they trust with their financial assets.
  3. Check a broker’s background. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest independent regulator of securities firms doing business in the United States and has introduced a free online tool called “BrokerCheck” to help investors research the professional backgrounds of current and former FINRA-registered brokerage firms and brokers. Check here to support your search.
  4. Interview multiple brokers. We all have unique investment needs and, regardless of references, not all financial advisors’ strategies line up with our needs and wants. By talking with at least two different people and measuring their responses to your situation, you will ultimately make the most appropriate choice for your situation.
  5. Be comfortable with your choice

Ivo Schilbach, president of Seattle-based independent financial firm Schilbach Capital Strategies, views advisor selection in a different light--with a focus on fostering multigenerational relationships while successfully meeting financial goals. 

“Family relationships can be challenging and require different things from an advisor," explains Schilbach. "Untraditional lifestyles or occupational choices may be difficult for parents to accept. Ever been in a family meeting where dissention seemed just under the next breath? These clients need much more than a financial plan, as important as that may be.”

Based on five out-of-the-box criteria, Schilbach says advisors who truly fit a family’s needs should:

  1. Integrate insightful questions with active listening to mine underlying family dynamics and biases. A recent Bank of America/Merrill Lynch study shows how generational views impact wealth management through the framing bias of behavioral finance. The different forms of a family’s wealth must also be considered in a “360” style of wealth planning.
  2. Be a collaborator—both with the client and the family’s other advisors.
  3. Help clients articulate why they are hiring an advisor, what they expect them to do for them, the role they should play in their family, and how well that advisor will function with the family’s existing advisors.
  4. Be a resource for client needs that lie outside their expertise to which clients currently may not have access.
  5. Understand the difference in what family wealth consultant Lisa Niemeier calls “Real Wealth” and its financial and material byproducts (money, houses, other assets). Niemeier, founder of graymatter Strategies LLC, specializes in generational biases, family dynamics, and family governance. She works with advisors and their family clients to develop discovery skills and in utilizing families’ “Real Wealth℠” as a primary form of risk management. “Cultivating a family’s Real Wealth can have a tremendous impact on a family’s future,” she notes.

These criteria foster deeper, multi-generational relationships and enhance multi-level achievement of client goals.

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