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Going beyond "Am I up?"

by Clark Evans, Vice President of Wealth Management

Hall Private Wealth Advisors


When your portfolio statements show up, how many pages are they?  20, 40, 100?  

Does it feel like forensic accounting to get your mind around the fees you’re paying your broker, the fees of the investments themselves, and the ‘big bank’ with the fancy logo? 

Probably most important, do you know how your portfolio is performing relative to a meaningful benchmark?   

It’s common that most investors don’t have these figures at their fingertips and it’s understandable these days when we’re pressed for time juggling working from home, kid’s schedules, the 24-hour news cycle and squeezing in some personal time.  That said, many of the old statements we see are riddled with distracting charts and graphs, pages of disclaimers in tiny font, and interesting, but not useful data.  

Ultimately, big banks have a vested financial interest in making their reporting hard to discern so that their clients just look to see ‘Am I up?’ without really getting clarity on what’s actually going on in their portfolios.  Case in point, two of the nation’s largest banks just booked record trading profits during Q2 of 2020.

At the end of the day, going beyond ‘Am I up?’ can mean asking tough questions and getting unpleasant answers.  Often people learn they have been trusting a golf buddy, a college friend, or a relative to be looking out for them and putting their interests first and come to find out that’s not the case and hasn’t been for decades.  

 When we are honest with ourselves and our family, most of us come back to seeking answers to 3 simple questions - what do I own, what am I paying, and how am I doing?   

Hall Private Wealth Advisors was founded on making those answers front-and-center in the relationship.   At a bare minimum, our advice is held to the fiduciary standard where your family and your legacy is put first today and every day.  

We have chosen to partner with Charles Schwab as our custodian because they are aligned with us, and that clients come first.  Whether it’s a few mouse clicks or quick log-in on a phone, our clients can see exactly what they own and how it’s doing anywhere in the world with an internet connection, 24 hours a day.

While it’s true that other firms can organize themselves as Registered Investment Advisors and also hold themselves out as advisors putting their clients first, a look ‘under the hood’ is important.  It is common that many of them will employ outside managers to develop their portfolio models and build in a dizzying array of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, alternative investments, and even proprietary products.  The argument here is that these professional managers have a pulse on the markets, fancy computers and algorithms, and armies of number crunchers.  

Let’s pause for a second for an old joke with a parallel, apologies in advance to all the rocket scientists…. A bunch of NASA engineers are out to lunch and notice that the salt and pepper shakers on the table have been filled up incorrectly.  (The salt is in the pepper and vice versa).  Pockets are emptied and soon the phones, calculators, theories, and basic sketches crowd the table for how to get the salt of out of the pepper shaker and the back in the saltshaker.  Soon their dishes arrive and they proudly announce their findings to the server with charts and graphs awaiting recognition of their solutions.  The server promptly apologizes, unscrews the caps on the shakers and puts the S back on the salt and P back on the pepper, sets them back on the table and asks who needs a refill.

The investing parallel here is to be wary of abandoning our common sense.  Instead of employing separate managers (at the client’s expense) at Hall Private Wealth we have our proprietary research metrics for developing portfolios. For example, we are not married to any single investing discipline (i.e. value, growth, momentum, etc.), but our ‘common sense’ metric means that we only invest in companies where we understand what they do, we have done diligence on their financials, and the companies have a place in our client’s portfolio’s for growth, income, or diversification.

Lastly, what am I paying?   Fees are important to understand as they do impact performance, and Wall Street is masterful at hiding them from investors.  Fees can show up as trading charges, internal charges to mutual funds, custodial fees, and of course manager fees.  It is a common and unfortunate reality that most of our new clients coming from ‘big banks’ are paying double if not triple the industry range for their portfolio management.  

Hall Private Wealth was founded on the premise of a single, fixed fee, and removal of all the intermediaries.  Because our fee is fixed to the value of the portfolio, our incentives are aligned.   We want to grow your portfolio as much as you do so we both make money, and if the market goes against us, we’re likewise paid less.  We have no incentive to transact, nor recommend one investment over another.   We keep our fees at industry lows because we believe in partnering with our clients to help grow their portfolios and that we all win in the end.

Instead of a working with a big bank that has a gimmicky name about a tall tree, big boulder, strong animal, or mashup of gentile last names, call us today at 858-263-1675 if you’d like to have a conversation with a real person about putting your interests first and finding a dedicated partner in your wealth management future.

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