FAQ

Find answers to common questions.

We appreciate your interest in Strategic Wealth Partners! Below are the answers to many common questions we get from prospective clients. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these topics further with you.

Background

What type of clients does Strategic Wealth Partners (“SWP”) work with?

SWP works with high-net-worth individuals & families, as well as institutions.

Our private clients include business owners, corporate executives, multi-generational families, professional service providers, retirees, newly independent, and the LGBTQ+ community. Our institutional clients are primarily retirement plan sponsors who manage 401(k) Profit Sharing Plans and Cash Balance Defined Benefit Pension Plans. Both our private and institutional clients have worked hard to accumulate their assets, and they turn to us for advice and guidance surrounding key financial decisions. Many of our clients are referred to us by other clients or trusted business partners.

Are you a fiduciary, and what does that mean?

Yes, we are a fiduciary. This means that we are legally and ethically obligated to always put your interests ahead of our own. In doing so, we strive to eliminate conflicts of interest, separate financial advice from the custody of assets, and provide transparency in the fees that we charge. As it relates to fees, we are a fee-only firm, meaning that we are paid directly by our clients and don’t receive commissions or other financial incentives for our work.

I haven’t heard of Strategic Wealth Partners; how can you compete with larger firms?

We have the resources and access of many large firms, with the service and flexibility of a small firm.

One of the primary reasons our founders started the firm was to reduce the inherent conflicts of interest that are prevalent at many large firms.  As an independent firm, we make our own investment decisions.

Many larger firms restrict the level of customization their advisors can implement for client portfolios; SWP does not, and we customize each portfolio based on our clients’ risk tolerance, objectives, preferences, and many other considerations. Of course, this customization is still guided by a thoughtful research process and key structural processes that we have built over the years.

This independence also extends to the technology and service providers that we leverage to serve our clients. Over the years, we’ve built an operational platform that includes many names you are probably already familiar with: Charles Schwab, Fidelity, eMoney, and Morningstar, to name a few. As an independent firm, we have the power to pick and choose the platforms and custodians that we leverage, helping us remain at the cutting edge when it comes to research, financial planning, and investment management.

Significantly, our relationship with Focus Financial Partners allows us to compete with any wealth management firm – large or small. Focus is a leading partnership of independent, fiduciary wealth management firms that provides superior access to best practices, resources, and continuity planning for partner firms. As a Focus partner firm, we maintain our independence while benefiting from the synergies, scale, economics, and best practices available through this leading network of independent wealth managers.

For these reasons and more, we’ve grown to manage $3.7 billion* in assets for individuals, families, and institutions. So, while it’s possible you have not heard of us, we certainly have the scale, technology, and human capital to support the most sophisticated wealth management objectives, and we would welcome the opportunity to learn about yours.

Does SWP take discretion over my account?

One of our core objectives is to “manage complexity and deliver simplicity” for our clients. For this reason, most of our accounts have a Discretionary Management Agreement in place, which allows us to make investment decisions without having to get approval each time. This discretionary authority allows us to proactively manage our clients’ wealth in a way that greatly simplifies the experience for the individuals and families that we serve.

That said, we engage with clients on decisions related to portfolio exposure and taxes. We will not use our discretion to substantially change a portfolio’s risk exposure, nor will we realize significant capital gains without first discussing the situation with our clients.

Investment Philosophy

How are investment decisions made at SWP?

We have an internal Investment Committee (“IC”) that reviews and selects managers and strategies that we offer to our clients. The IC is comprised of a group of firm principals and wealth advisors. The IC also maintains general guidelines for asset allocation within various asset classes (such as equities, fixed income, and “alternative” investments), though unique client situations are always factored into our recommendations.

Does SWP pick individual stocks & bonds?

We do not recommend individual stocks, and typically do not recommend individual bonds either. Instead, we build portfolios using vehicles such as:

  • Mutual funds
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Separately managed accounts (SMAs)
  • Interval funds
  • Hedge funds
  • Limited partnerships

Hedge funds and limited partnerships typically create additional complexity from a tax, reporting, and cost perspective, but can provide appealing risk/return characteristics that some of our clients seek. There is no requirement that a client invest in any strategy and/or vehicle; everything is customized.

What is SWP’s position on market-timing?

We do not believe in market timing. Over our decades of collective investment experience, we have seen very few instances of someone successfully “timing” the market by both 1) knowing when to sell and 2) knowing when to repurchase. Most of the time, this strategy leads to sub-par performance over the long run, and academic research supports this observation.

One recent study looked at how various investments performed between 2001 and 2020. During this period, a portfolio comprised of 60% stocks 40% bonds saw a 6.4% annualized return. This compared to the “average investor” that saw just a 2.9% annualized return. This gap in performance was due largely to emotional decision-making, which encouraged attempts at timing the market.1

This is just one study, and there are numerous other studies that show how market timing is not a reliable way to outperform (or even match) the performance of the broader market. For these reasons, market timing is not a part of our approach to investment management, and we work best with clients who share this viewpoint.

1 JP Morgan Asset Management, Diversification and the average investor

How liquid are my investments?

Understanding our clients’ liquidity needs and preferences is a key factor when building portfolios. The investment vehicles we use offer the following liquidity provisions:

Daily Liquidity

  • Mutual funds
  • ETFs
  • Separately Managed Accounts (SMAs)

Quarterly Liquidity

  • Interval funds
  • Some hedge funds & limited partnerships

No liquidity (i.e. the manager controls liquidity, subject to certain pre-determined guidelines)

  • Certain limited partnerships (real estate, private debt, etc.)

SWP will consider client goals and objectives as we form our relationship, including liquidity needs.

Does SWP use alternative investments?

A key reason our founders wanted to start the firm was to have the freedom to invest in and offer “alternative” investments to clients. As a firm, we have spent significant time and energy on this area. SWP utilizes alternative strategies to provide our clients with a different return stream than a strategic mix of traditional asset classes.

Frequently, alternatives are private investments that result in liquidity constraints as opposed to traditional long-only investments that can be bought or sold daily. Examples of these constraints include the underlying investment being illiquid, like real estate, or because the investment is not actively traded on an exchange, such as private loans. Sometimes investment managers prefer a private investment structure to control inflows and outflows of capital to avoid interrupting their investment strategy.

Risk control is typically one of the key factors we use in our selection of alternative strategies. Because of the risk control component, alternatives can help investors feel more comfortable with the construction of their portfolio.

Financial Planning

What is financial planning?

Financial planning is a process of creating a financial roadmap that will help you achieve your goals, through prudent management of your personal finances. A thorough financial plan often includes, but is not limited to, an analysis of your cash flow, savings, debt, retirement, income taxes, estate plan, and insurance coverage.

We believe that a financial plan is not just a single document; it’s an ongoing and evolving process. It will help guide your decision-making and give you confidence about your finances, your future, and your long-term goals.

Does SWP do financial planning in addition to advising on investment portfolios?

Yes. In fact, we believe that financial planning should drive investment decisions. Our job is to understand your objectives, tolerance for risk, and myriad other factors, then pair that information with an appropriate investment portfolio. This commitment to monitoring our client’s wealth trajectory is never complete and occurs on an ongoing basis.

What financial planning services does SWP offer?

SWP can assist with:

  • Cash flow
  • Retirement Planning
  • Education Funding
  • Charitable Giving
  • Income Tax*
  • Estate Planning*
  • Insurance Planning*

*Please note: We do not prepare tax returns, draft estate documents, or sell insurance, but we can partner with your professionals to make a plan.

We structured our firm so that we could advise on key financial planning matters while partnering with experts in specialized areas. Our clients can think of us as their advocate in these areas, rather than as a salesperson.

What is a CFP®?

A Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional is different from other financial advisors because CFPs® are specifically trained in financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning, retirement, and investments. The designation requires a bachelor’s degree as well as extensive coursework in each area of financial planning. CFP® candidates must have three years of work experience and pass the CFP® exam before they can use the designation. Lastly, and most importantly, CFP® holders must follow the CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct which includes a commitment to act as a fiduciary when providing financial advice.2

Financial planning is central to our work and that’s why all our financial planners, and the majority of our wealth advisors, hold a CFP® designation.

2 CFP Board, The Standard of Excellence

Communication

Will I have one primary point of contact, or do you work on teams?

At SWP, we work on teams. While each team member has different roles, we all work together in an effort to create a great client experience. That said, we recognize that some of our clients like having one person to go to that can coordinate requests internally and “lead” the relationship. Another reason we use a team structure is to ensure that, even if a “lead” team member is unavailable, requests from a client can still be handled in a timely manner by someone familiar with their situation.

How often will I interact with SWP?

We are always available to talk to our clients and strive to be incredibly responsive to calls and emails.  In terms of meetings, some clients find it sufficient to meet “formally” once or twice a year while knowing that we are ready to assist with anything they need in between meetings. In addition to formal meetings, there are typically several proactive, direct touchpoints throughout the year on a more informal basis. Our clients are free to reach out whenever something is on their mind that they feel we can assist with.

What reporting will I receive on my portfolio?

All our clients receive monthly statements from the custodian of their brokerage accounts. To the extent clients have private investments, statements are typically distributed monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the investment.

Additionally, SWP provides each client with access to a client portal that features best-in-class performance reporting software. This portal is available 24/7 (though market data generally updates once per day), and is also available on a mobile app.

On a quarterly basis, SWP will produce detailed performance reports that are posted to the client portal.

Administration

Where is my money held?

We use two primary custodians to hold client assets – Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. If you have funds that you would like us to manage but cannot be transferred to Fidelity or Schwab, there are ways to still work together.

Does SWP require that existing assets be sold prior to becoming a client?

No, we do not require that you sell existing assets. Sometimes it is appropriate to keep an existing holding (or several), even if it is not something we would purchase with our discretion. One example might be a holding with a large, unrealized gain that would trigger capital gain taxes upon the sale. Every situation is different, and part of our responsibility is to make sure that a client’s portfolio reflects their risk tolerance and financial objectives, while being mindful of minimizing taxes.

Can I track assets that are not managed by SWP on the client portal?

The short answer is… it depends. Our client portal can get direct data feeds from several major financial institutions, but not all. When financial institutions do not offer a direct feed, there is an option whereby we can set clients up with credentials to a third-party aggregator, and clients can add external accounts through this system.

Expenses

How is SWP compensated?

SWP is a fee-only advisor. This means that we are paid by clients directly and do not receive commissions or other financial incentives for our work. This compensation model is critical to providing our clients with unbiased and objective financial advice.

The fee that we charge is generally expressed as a percentage of assets under management. Financial planning and investment management services are generally both included in this fee. Fees are debited quarterly and will appear on both your custodial statements as well as a report generated by SWP that is posted to our client portal. Our fiduciary duty requires absolute transparency in the fees we charge. Accordingly, we encourage clients to reach out if they have any questions about the fees we charge or how those fees are calculated.

Does SWP receive commissions or any additional compensation from investment providers or referral partners?

No, 100% of SWP’s revenue is derived from fees paid directly from its clients.

Are there any additional expenses?

Yes, but none collected by SWP. The investments within our clients’ portfolios have their own cost of management. These costs are as little as 0.015% (less than 2/100 of 1%) but are substantially higher for certain alternative strategies. Part of our job is to evaluate whether a given manager’s fee structure is competitive and justified based on their investment philosophy and performance.

Additionally, custodians will charge a transaction fee to buy or sell certain mutual funds or other securities. While transaction charges are frequently zero, there is a charge between $13 and $25 (depending on the institution) for certain securities. All told, these custodial transaction fees typically represent a nominal fee relative to the size of a client portfolio.

Your Privacy

Is everything that I discuss with SWP confidential?

Yes, everything that you share with your SWP team is strictly confidential. To serve you best, we need to really understand your life – financial and otherwise. We take this responsibility very seriously, and all of our work is confidential.

How does SWP protect my personal information?

Data and privacy protection are an important part of our daily lives at SWP. As part of this commitment, we partner with industry leading firms to maintain effective and up-to-date tools and policies for data security.

When you partner with SWP, your records are retained as needed to comply with applicable retention laws, regulations, and SWP record retention policies.

To protect access to our network and software tools we utilize two-factor authentication. This includes client access to our reporting portal.

While processes and technology are critical, studies show that nearly 9 in 10 data breaches are the result of human error.3 For this reason, our privacy policy is emphasized during the onboarding of new team members and reiterated during regular meetings. Additionally, we complete an annual compliance review where these standards are reviewed by the entire SWP team. For more information, please see our privacy policy.

3 CISO Magazine, “Psychology of Human Error” Could Help Business Prevent Security Breaches

How does SWP handle cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a growing part of our IT and compliance programs, and we have partnered with security and IT specialists to maintain and improve our tools and policies. Our partnership with Focus Financial Partners also provides us with resources in this area and allows us to share best practices with other independent advisory firms.

We conduct regular tests of our equipment and network to identify threats and vulnerabilities, including annual tabletop exercises to test various scenarios. Additionally, we have specific employee policies and controls in place that limit access to our networks and help defend against online threats. This commitment extends to our clients as well, and we strive to help protect our clients in the event they have been exposed to a cyberattack or threat.

In addition to our internal controls, we have procedures in place to help protect you, a few examples of these are:

  • We require call-backs to verify third-party fund transfers; including calling the title company for home closing wires to verify wire instructions.
  • We have procedures to protect nonpublic personal information that is electronically stored or transmitted.
  • We have procedures in place if your data has been breached elsewhere. Our procedures include a notification to the entire team to be on heightened alert for any fraudulent activity.

Finally, we strive to work with partners that also have strong cybersecurity and data protection programs in place. Our Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), or other designated person(s), oversees the selection and retention of third-party service providers. In all cases, reasonable steps are taken to select vendors capable of maintaining appropriate safeguards against cyber threats.

We invite you to connect with our team if you’d like to learn more about our approach to cybersecurity and data protection.

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