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Choosing a Financial Advisor – Part 4

A Four-Part Series

  1. Follow the Money – The Importance of Understanding an Advisory Firm’s Structure
  2. Trust but Verify – Make Sure Your Interests are Coming First
  3. Hiring the A-Team – Evaluating Talent and Resources Available to Serve You
  4. It’s a Match – Comparing Teams and Choosing your Best Fit

In our four-part Choosing a Financial Advisor Series, we provide information and perspectives to clarify the distinctions within the financial industry, which will help you understand how to think about choosing the right advisor for your specific needs.

In Part 4 of the series, we explain why the “right” fit when it comes to choosing an advisor can only be found after gaining an understanding of exactly what you want and need from an advisory relationship.

It’s a Match:

Comparing Teams and Choosing your Best Fit

Throughout this series, we’ve explored the importance of “following the money” to determine how an advisor is compensated, the distinctions between suitability and the fiduciary standard – including why it matters, and the fact that advisory firms can vary widely in terms of the services provided for an advisory fee.

Now that we are concluding this series, you may expect that we’d wrap up by providing the single “right” answer to the question how to find a financial advisor. But we can’t. And not because some compliance-related restrictions are holding us back. In reality, we can’t answer that question because the “right” fit for each individual can only be found after exploring exactly what you want and need from an advisory relationship, and then finding a firm that provides a match based on those specific criteria.


If you are simply looking to place investment trades, with little input from an advisor, a discount brokerage would likely suffice.

If you need more detailed investment advice, but little else, then an investment advisor offering little in the way of additional services would likely be a fit, with the decision between an advisor subject to the suitability standard and one that operates according to the fiduciary standard being the more relevant question.

If you are looking for fully integrated wealth management, and a comprehensive strategy that links your investment assets to all other areas of your financial life, then a fiduciary firm is likely going to be the best fit. Special attention should be paid to the talent and experience of the staff to ensure that the capabilities match what you are seeking. Firms that strive to go further, by integrating your values and long-term goals throughout your strategy, will require even more resources and expertise.

On the surface, the process of evaluating different advisors and financial management firms can appear extremely daunting. But by using a few important defining characteristics as a guide, you can more easily make sense of the differences and find the right fit for your particular needs. Below we provide some resources for researching potential advisors that can help you to more quickly draw out these characteristics in order to make an effective evaluation.


Interested in learning more about a current or potential advisor? Federal and state securities laws require brokers, investment adviser representatives, and their firms to be licensed or registered and to make certain information available to the public.

Registered investment advisers are required to supply potential clients with their Form ADV Part 2A (Firm Brochure) and Form ADV Part 2B (Supplemental Brochure), and soon new Form CRS. Before hiring an advisor, always ask for and carefully read both parts. It will provide important information about business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary history. The brochures will also make available Firm and Individual CRD numbers which can be used to look them up on Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) program.

More information on Brokers and Brokerage Firms is found through FINRA’s BrokerCheck Program and SEC and state-registered investment advisers from the SEC’s IAPD Program (available at the same link used above to check RIA firms). Both systems allow the general public to get an overview of the firm, current ownership and registration status, as well as disciplinary history. Information on individuals include qualifications, employment history, and disciplinary information.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has published a list of tips for choosing a financial professional, including a checklist that covers expectations, experience and background, products, and payments and fees. Investor Bulletin: Top Tips for Selecting a Financial Professional

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