When it comes to managing your finances, there are many options available. Some people choose to manage their finances on their own, while others prefer to work with a financial advisor. If you’re considering working with a financial advisor, you may want to consider working with a smaller firm, for a number of very important reasons.
One of the biggest benefits of working with a smaller financial advisor is that you’ll receive more personalized attention. With a smaller firm, you’ll be working with a smaller team of professionals who will be able to get to know you and your financial goals on a deeper level. They’ll be able to provide customized advice and strategies that are tailored to your specific needs. Perhaps even more important than that, though, is your relative importance to a smaller firm. At large companies with many billions of dollars under management, their attention is focused on keeping the biggest revenue-producing clients happy, always at the expense of the clients with smaller accounts (in our industry, we call that “segmentation”). Many larger firms won’t even give a smaller account a human advisor with which to build a relationship.
That is completely the opposite experience of working with a smaller firm. You aren’t just an account number at a smaller firm. You’re part of the family. At nVest Advisors, nearly 100% of our clients stay with us for many years and have even become our personal friends. It is very rare for us to have a client leave our firm once they join, and we never take that trust and faith for granted.
Another benefit of working with a smaller financial advisor is that you may be able to save money on fees. Larger firms often have higher fees, as they have more overhead costs to cover. Smaller firms may be able to offer lower fees, as they have lower overhead costs. This can be particularly beneficial if you have a smaller portfolio, as higher fees can eat into your returns. Way back in the early days of my own career, I worked for a large firm that took more than 60% of my production for “overhead expenses”. Just their contract with AT&T for two landlines (yeah, those were the days) was over $200 a month, and any long-distance calls (still a thing back in 2008) came out of my own pocket. As soon as I left and started my own practice in 2011, we were operating at a very small fraction of the costs that my former firm endured, I took home 90% of my production instead of 37%, and we were able to lower our clients’ fees.
Access to Top Talent
A big misunderstanding of many people who are comparing a large firm and a small one for advice is the perceived safety of the larger firm. While smaller firms may not have the same name recognition as larger firms, they may still be able to provide access to top talent, have access to the same large custodians and trading platforms, and use the same stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, etc. For example, here at nVest Advisors, we manage client accounts that are held at a major custodian for safety. Most of our clients have their investment accounts with Charles Schwab, but we also use a few other custodians for special purposes. Those custodians provide the same SIPC insurance protection to our accounts as they do to their own.
There is also no difference between the Tesla stock at Merill Lynch and nVest Advisors (except we don’t charge commissions for you to buy or sell it). And since most advisors at large firms are working under stringent production quotas, smaller firm advisors typically have more time to analyze an investment with respect to your personal situation to determine whether it’s proper and fairly priced to be part of your strategy.
Finally, most independent financial advisors who now work at smaller firms have worked at larger firms in the past, so the experience and connections at larger firms come with them. We all have access to the same analysis reports, the same research, the same third-party rating systems, and attend the same conferences. Because of that, smaller advisory firms may have developed strong relationships with other professionals in the industry. This can be particularly beneficial when it comes to accessing investment opportunities or other resources that may be harder to come by.
Do not assume the reason some advisors choose to venture out and join smaller firms (or start them from scratch) is that they “couldn’t cut it” at a major firm. Far from it – most of the best talent in the industry leaves the huge monolithic corporate machines as soon as they are able because they know they can do it better, cheaper, and more ethically once they can control things on their own. (As the CEO of nVest, I can tell you I work harder every day now than the toughest days I was an employee advisor at my first mega-firm.)
Agility and Flexibility
Smaller financial advisors tend to be more agile and flexible than larger firms. They are often able to respond more quickly to changes in the market or to your personal financial situation. This can be particularly beneficial if you need to make changes to your portfolio quickly or if you have a specific financial goal that you need to achieve in a short period of time. For instance, at nVest Advisors, our proprietary investment models and the way we manage money with a focus first on macroeconomics and risk management being a top priority means your money is being much more actively managed than at major firms as world conditions change. If you’ve ever worked with a major firm, ask yourself: how often did they actually ever modify your investments when the markets dropped significantly? Very few of you can say your advisor did anything at all, except tell you to “hold on, stay focused on your goals”, which we were all trained to say at larger firms. That’s not money management – that’s product sales.
That’s not the case here at nVest. Because we are small, we are also nimble; we can move quickly and respond in real-time to the world as it changes and begins impacting your investment returns.
Smaller financial advisors tend to be more transparent than larger firms. They may be more willing to provide detailed information about their fees, investment strategies, and performance. This can help you make more informed decisions about your finances and ensure that you’re getting the best possible advice. Our clients get straight talk from a trusted advisor and friend, not slick talk from a trained salesperson in a suit in Manhattan.
Smaller financial advisors tend to provide better communication than larger firms. They are often able to provide more frequent updates on your portfolio and are more accessible when you have questions or concerns. This can help you feel more confident in your investment decisions and ensure that you’re staying on track to achieve your financial goals.
In fact, if we’ve had one problem over the years at nVest, it’s been finding the right balance between enough communication and too much communication with our clients. And we communicate with you in a variety of ways. There are no call waiting queues with us – call, email, text, or even use Facebook Messenger or the messenger service on this website. Response time, when not immediate, is always less than 24 hours. You’ll get continuous access to your accounts online, as often as weekly updates on its progress, monthly client newsletters, detailed quarterly performance reports, and reguarly scheduled followup meetings with your advisor. We blog three times a week, share video messages, invite you to Client Town Halls and grant you learning opportunities at nVest Academy. No large firm even comes close to the level of communication smaller firms can provide.
If you’re working with a smaller financial advisor in your local community, they may have a better understanding of the local market and economy. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to invest in local businesses or real estate. Your financial advisor may be able to provide valuable insights and advice that you wouldn’t be able to get from a larger firm that is based in another part of the country.
We can’t stress this one enough. Smaller financial advisors tend to be more focused on building strong relationships with their clients. They may be more invested in your long-term success and may be more willing to go above and beyond to help you achieve your financial goals. This can help you build a stronger relationship with your financial advisor, which can lead to better outcomes over time.
Our clients are family to us here at nVest Advisors, and the more we get to know you, the better job we can do for you. It’s as simple as that. Building strong, lasting relationships with all of our clients, 401k plan sponsors and their employees is the absolute top priority here at nVest. And everyone, from our marketing interns to our CEO, is entirely committed to that cause.
Many smaller financial advisors take a more holistic approach to financial planning. They may take into account your entire financial picture, including your goals, lifestyle, and values, when developing a financial plan for you. This can help ensure that your financial plan is aligned with your overall life goals and can help you achieve a sense of financial well-being.
This is not always true in larger firms, particularly where their “advisors” are actually licensed sales agents who cannot legally receive pay to provide financial advice. What those agents provide sort of looks like financial planning but is often called a “Needs Analysis”, and the premise is simple: can we find a financial need for one of the products we are hoping to sell you? That’s what a “needs analysis” is all about – looking for gaps in your situation that a life insurance policy, annuity, or mutual fund can fill.
That’s not financial planning. Financial planning looks at your entire life, from debt and budgets to short-term savings, to long-term goals, all the way to retirement income, Medicare selection, long-term nursing care, and even wills, trusts, and other estate concerns. It must also adapt and adjust as your life circumstances change, so the right way to do financial planning is to partner with your advisor for a long-term relationship (otherwise, you have to start over every few years when life throws something unexpected your way).
nVest Advisors offers financial planning as a stand-alone service separate from investment management, or in combination with investment management services. And while most actual financial plans will cost you $2.000 or more, our program is – at most – $39 a month while we work with you to implement our recommendations over time (it’s even cheaper or even free if you use us to invest).
Finally, working with a smaller financial advisor can manage your investments independently of a parent firm grants the advisor the ability to be objective and focused on you, not what the parent company wants to be sold. In my early years at a major firm, we had what were called “preferred” mutual fund families that the firm strongly urged us to use in our client portfolios. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I learned why: those firms had signed revenue-sharing agreements with the parent company that gave them another 0.5% or so in what I can only call “kick-back money” if we used them. So, we only got training about those firms, only heard from those companies’ reps at our meetings, got wined and dined by only those companies, etc.
(And if you’re thinking that 0.5% isn’t a lot of money imagine Blackrock, which currently manages $10 Trillion, with something like this in place. That would mean $50 BILLION dollars – a year – in free money, just for putting you in one fund family over another. How can that not be a serious conflict of interest?)
That revenue-sharing agreement, by the way, was not shared with the advisors. The company just pocketed that money directly.
You don’t have those conflicts of interest at a smaller, fiduciary, fee-only firm like nVest. For instance, we only use investment options that do not have commissions or hidden marketing / “kickback” costs built into them. This eliminates a huge (but for my former firm, a wildly lucrative) conflict of interest in the way we manage your money.
Smaller RIA firms also have the freedom to manage money in ways advisors at larger firms simply are not trained to. For example, our firm maintains almost a dozen proprietary investment models that we can use in our client accounts when appropriate, that are continuously monitored and adjusted based on real-world economic conditions. That’s what we would call actual “money management”. Putting a client in a static investment strategy back in 2015, and then leaving it untouched through recent world events is not – it’s product sales. But that’s what the vast majority of clients with smaller accounts experience when they work with larger firms.
Advisors at larger firms may be handling a thousand accounts at one time – there is no way to manage each account through the ups and downs of the economy. Using our twelve models, which completely satisfy the investing needs of nearly all of our clients, means we only have to manage twelve strategies, no matter how many accounts we have. It also means that even small accounts will be properly managed on a regular basis because the model is being adjusted and in doing so, even our smallest accounts are given the same care and expertise as the larger ones.
(And if you’re wondering if you can still have a customized strategy here at nVest – yes, you can. We use our models when it makes sense to, but if we need to do a customized strategy, we will absolutely do so.),
The “safety” of a larger firm is only a perception since we all use the same large custodians to hold and insure your account. Smaller firms have the same trading costs as larger firms (almost none now in 2023), and the Apple Computer or BP Oil stock you own with us is exactly the same as at any other firm. We just have lower overhead costs, simpler systems, and more time to spend with our clients. Small firms are for people who want a genuine relationship with the people who manage their savings and lead them on the path to financial indepdenence.
If that sort of relationship appeals to you, don’t wait. As I write this, the economy in early 2023 is deteriorating rapidly, and I promise you: your large-firm advisor is not proactively reaching out with solutions to the recession immediately ahead. At nVest, our defensive Macroeconomic investment model is continuously adjusted for real events, and we have a path forward for our clients even as the economy crumbles.
nVest Advisors specializes in helping working-age, professional families and small businesses start their financial journey, grow every step of the way, anticipate and correct setbacks, and celebrate with you when we reach the top together. Your success is all we care about, and helping you overcome the perils along the journey to financial freedom, including the times when you may be your own worst enemy, is how we spend our day. It’s genuinely a privilege to help families and small businesses who want tomorrow to be better than today.
Reach out to us for a totally free, totally no-risk portfolio checkup today if you’re concerned about where your finances sit for the coming recession, particularly if you are at or approaching retirement age. We’re delighted to offer you our thoughts. You can schedule that time with us below: