Published On: October 15, 2019

Written by: Ben Atwater and Matt Malick

As advice evolves, we are always looking for opportunities to evaluate how we can bring maximum value to you.  The Vanguard Center for Investor Research (VCIR) has done considerable work in this area, first with their ongoing Advisor Alpha studies and most recently with a new examination called “Assessing the Value of Advice”.

Advisor Alpha found that advisors can add substantially to client results over multiple market cycles using seven factors which include asset allocation, cost effective implementation, rebalancing, behavioral coaching, asset location, withdrawal order and total return investing.  All seven areas are important areas of focus for us.  For more information about Advisor Alpha please see our essay from September 29, 2016

With Assessing the value of advice, VCIR went directly to clients to find out what is most important to them.  In surveying over 500 people here are the five most important areas to investors: 

  • Trust that my financial advisor will put my needs first and foremost – Not only is this our promise to you, but it’s our legal responsibility.  As a registered investment advisory firm, the law requires us to meet a fiduciary standard, which means acting in your best interest.  This is very different from advisors who work at firms that accept commissions and who accept commissions themselves.  Such advisors are not legally required to act in your best interest.  The most egregious example of this is advisors selling commissioned annuities.  These advisors have an overwhelming conflict of interest given the substantial commissions these products tend to pay. 
  • I know that my financial plan is continuously monitored and updated – We are committed to being holistic advisors.  For our clients, we have a comfortable understanding of their financial situation and we strive to capture client situations in formal financial and retirement plans.  We are constantly working to improve our holistic approach.  If you ever feel like you need a total financial “check-up,” reach out to us and we will make an appointment to get together. 
  • I need to feel that I am on track to meet my financial goals – We give clients a complete and honest evaluation of their situations including coaching clients on spending, saving, debt, retirement income, insurance, estate planning, etc.  Furthermore, we work to remind clients when these areas need attention.  We are even prepared to give unpopular advice when we believe it’s in your best interest.  Although we accept that clients are ultimately responsible for their financial decisions, we are here to offer our most direct and honest recommendations. 
  • I need to feel a personal connection with my advisor – The relationship between client and advisor entails extraordinary trust.  We give clients our best thinking and, therefore, our best results when clients have the confidence to allow us to implement our processes.  In an environment where there is so little follow-through, we’ve always taken enormous pride in doing what we promise, promptly responding to client inquiries, following-up on client projects and working hard to never “drop the ball.”  Although often a cliché, we deliver true personalized service to each client. 
  • I need an expert perspective to guide all my investment decisions – We’ve been managing investment portfolios for nearly twenty years, including for one of the world’s largest custodian / managers and independently for more than a decade.  Our investment approach is genuinely unique is its space.  We invest with absolute transparency using individual stocks and bonds wherever possible.  We further created a straightforward and repeatable investment discipline that we continuously refine.  Investing within the context of an established framework is the key to long-term investment success and it’s exactly what we implement for you. 

Are these the areas of maximum importance to you?  Do you have other thoughts or ideas about important client values?  Please feel free to respond to this note with any comments.  Although we believe we have the mechanisms in place to provide you maximum value, we also recognize that you are our best resource, so please don’t hesitate to respond.  Thank you for your trust.  We truly appreciate working with you. 

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