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How to (and How Not To) Search for the Best Wealth Management Firm

Are you searching for answers to your wealth management questions? Do you find yourself sitting in front of Google typing in questions like these?

  • What is Private Wealth Management?
  • Best financial advisor near me
  • Best Wealth Management Firms

If you do, no doubt you are as frustrated with the actual search for answers as you are with the search results, and here’s why.

Because everyone says they have “the best”—the best firm, the best plans, the best portfolio strategy, the best client service. You know, it’s the same thing as “The Best Coffee in Town” …when everyone can say it, everyone does.

But here’s the problem – those search results merely highlight “points of parity” and probably result in a lot of sales jargon where one firm looks precisely like the others.

You are trying to solve a problem, and it has nothing to do with who’s the best. Your problem is causing you anxiety and stress. Your pain points are embedded in what is likely to be a lack of clarity surrounding your financial situation. 

Here’s a list of common pain points we hear when we meet new clients:

  • Poor communications with their current advisor
  • A lack of trust in the financial industry
  • An absence of perceived value relative to the fee paid for wealth management
  • Questionable confidence in the advice they are receiving or the choices their advisor is offering
  • A feeling of “flying blind”
  • Overcomplicated, jargon-riddled answers to simple questions

Sound familiar? 

I’ll bet – I didn’t come up with that list out of the blue.


Points of parity vs differentiation

When you attempt to differentiate one wealth advisor from another, the lack of clarity is in large part due to wealth management firms highlighting points of parity as “points of differentiation.”

For example, ever wonder about that sign hanging in the restroom of your favorite restaurant? You know the one…it says, “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.”

When wealth management firms try to differentiate themselves with points of parity, it’s like a restaurant saying, “We are the best restaurant because our employees wash their hands after using the restroom.”

I mean, when I see that sign, my first (and frankly only) thought is, “Jezzz, I’d hope so.”

Here are some of my favorite equivalents to that sign in the wealth management world. You will find these under something like the “What Makes Us Different” section of a firm’s website:

  • We embrace fiduciary obligation
  • Advice that is always in your best interest
  • A portfolio tailored to your needs
  • Comprehensive financial planning and wealth management
  • Communications to help you stay on track
  • Transparency on fees and portfolios 
  • We put clients first

When I go to my favorite restaurant, I don’t ask if the employees wash their hands and you don’t either, and here’s why…YOU EXPECT THEM TO.

Same thing with the website list above.

Key Point – It’s not that those things are unimportant. In fact, they are essential. We list some of those things on our website, too…but they are points of parity, not points of differentiation.  

They are “table stakes,” as they are commonly referred to.

There is no such thing as out-performance on points of parity, only non-performance.  

The points of parity MUST BE PRESENT. Period. As Yoda said in Star Wars, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

It is the points of differentiation that always seem to be lacking and they are the most important when searching for the best wealth management firm.


How to search for the best wealth management firm

My advice to anyone looking for the best wealth management firm is to start by using Google to search for answers to your pain points and then dig deep into a firm’s points of differentiation while glossing over the points of parity.

What you are hoping to find is a website that lets you know you have probably arrived in the right place, along with a well-thought-out value proposition that clearly tells you what makes them different.  

If you find those two things and they resonate with you, dig deeper: 

  • Look at the team members and their credentials – do you connect with the personas they portray in their bios? Are they relatable?
  • Look at their process – do you see more points of parity, or are they doing something interesting, different, or unique?
  • Get a feel for their culture – does it resonate with you?
  • Is their content “always-on”? – is it current, timely, informative, meaningful, and relevant? Do they even HAVE ANY?
  • Are they engaging across several different channels (website, social media, quotes in the press, video, etc.) with a specific client segment – and is that segment you?
  • Take a look at what they were saying in the past…in public, on their webpage, and in their content – is it even there?  
    • What were they publishing and saying in March and April of 2020, December of 2018, January/February of 2016, and the summer of 2015 when the market was struggling and people were panicking?  
    • Is it authentic and using a voice that matches the personas of the team members and the overall culture of the firm? 
  • Apply the commonsense test – does everything seem reasonable and straightforward, or is it riddled in complicated jargon?  

Stop searching for the “best”—the best firm, the best plans, the best portfolio strategy, the best client service. Those are simply points of parity and don’t help you find a solution to your pain points.

No sign in a bathroom is a reasonable indication of hygiene in your favorite restaurant. You will get a better assessment of that by paying more attention to how the meal is created, the cooks’ skill, the quality of service, and the ambiance of the experience. 

If those elements are five-star quality, they don’t need that sign in the restroom to reassure you of clean hands. 

Keep looking forward.

DBA Signature



David B. photo

David B. Armstrong, CFA

President & Co-Founder

Dave got into the industry when he discovered his passion for finance in his mid-20’s. He’s a combat veteran and served as an officer in the United States Marines Corps on both active duty and in the reserves, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While serving on active duty, Dave was unable to spend money on deployments, so he became a self-taught investor. Along with a few bucks cash as a bouncer, his investing performance grew to be good....

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