It's that time of year again.
You and your spouse are sitting at the kitchen table poring over your statements, preparing for tax time and wondering how to invest this year's RRSP contributions. The two of you might have half a dozen or more separate accounts, some registered, some taxable.
You sit back and reflect. You've been managing on your own, but demands on your time are growing. As your assets rise in value, so, too, does the burden of responsibility. Perhaps it's time to seek professional help, but where?
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Look again at those statements. Your savings are growing. You have nearly $600,000, including a locked-in retirement account from a previous employer. Your spouse has more than $400,000. Together – guess what – you're millionaires!
Maybe, just maybe, you're ready for an investment counsellor or portfolio manager – the top tier of the investment advisory business – known as discretionary portfolio managers because they buy and sell securities at their discretion on behalf of wealthy individuals.
Discretionary portfolio managers take a holistic approach that includes tax and estate planning as well as saving and investing. When stock prices soar, they trim your holdings to bring them back in line with your target asset mix; when prices tumble, they buy more. Their fees are transparent, their advice is objective and their performance reporting is top drawer.
While some managers have a lower threshold, "the average entry point continues to be a million dollars," says Keith Sjogren, a consultant and managing director at Investor Economics in Toronto. "Anyone who has $1-million or more is going to get their attention."
Having the money spread over several different accounts can be a challenge, industry participants say. They'd prefer if you and your spouse had $1-million each.
"Two million might sound like a juicy sum for a manager to bite into, but it's not a lot of money per account, so to get proper diversification, you're slicing it pretty thin," says Warren Baldwin, senior vice-president of T.E. Wealth, a national financial planning firm. (T.E. also offers discretionary money management through T.E. Investment Counsel Inc.)
Back to you and your spouse with your increasingly puny-looking savings.
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Perusing the Portfolio Management Association of Canada website, you will see managers whose names you might recognize – they are regular guests on BNN or featured in The Globe and Mail. Most will run model portfolios in which your money will be invested.
If you're unsure this model is for you, consider consulting a fee-for-service financial planning firm that also offers discretionary money management. You will pay an hourly rate to have your portfolio reviewed, an investment policy statement drawn up and an asset allocation strategy set out. Then you can decide what to do next.
The investment counsel arm of Macdonald, Shymko & Co. Ltd. in Vancouver, a fee-only financial planning firm, requires no set minimum for asset management, says Ngoc Day, a portfolio manager and financial planner.
"We're unique in that way," says Ms. Day. Consulting fees at Macdonald Shymko range from $240 to $320 an hour, while money management fees start at 1.15 per cent of a client's assets, falling as the value of the assets rises. The firm invests clients' money in exchange-traded funds, mortgage funds and guaranteed investment certificates.
Often, clients come in because they are dissatisfied with their existing adviser, who may well be a commission-based salesperson, Ms. Day says.
"When people come to us, a common thread is that they have a feeling their adviser is trying to sell them something but they're not sure whether they need it," Ms. Day says. "They have a nagging feeling it's possibly not in their best interest."
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Another reason is major life changes.
Another financial planning firm, T.E. Wealth, offers its clients active money management as well as ETFs and mortgage funds. T.E. Wealth's handful of carefully selected outside asset managers have a track record of beating their relevant benchmarks. In a recent report, Russell Investments Canada found that 65 per cent of Canadian large-capitalization managers outperformed their benchmarks in the fourth quarter of 2014.
T.E. Investment Counsel Inc. has two distinct offerings: a customized, multimanager investment program in which clients access recommended investment managers directly; or an in-house, multimanager pooled fund program. Investors benefit from investment management services that are typically reserved for pension plans and other institutional investors.
"People these days often manage their own portfolios, but as their portfolios get bigger, and they get busier with children and work, all of a sudden they can't keep their eye on the ball the way they used to," Mr. Baldwin says. The advantage of having a number of external managers is that clients "get adequate diversification without needing huge portfolios," he adds.
Management fees range from 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent, depending on the size of the portfolio and the asset mix, says Matthew Ardrey, T.E.'s manager of financial planning. Hourly fees at T.E. range from $250 to $350.
The firm's quarterly reports follow guidelines from the Association for Investment Management and Research in disclosing how each manager did against the relevant benchmark, "so you can see at a glance which sections of a portfolio may be lagging and why," Mr. Baldwin says.
HighView Financial Group raises the objectivity bar even higher by offering its well-heeled clients counselling only. The Toronto-based firm designs and oversees investment portfolios for people with $1-million or more in investable assets but does not actually manage money. The firm characterizes itself as an outsourced chief investment officer.
"We decided to use our expertise to help find the best managers," says Warren MacKenzie, a HighView principal. "We feel if you are passing judgment on your own performance, you'll always have a bit of a conflict."
HighView draws from among the top institutional money managers in each category, choosing outside managers who have a low correlation with the firm's other managers, Mr. MacKenzie says. Depending on the asset mix (it is lower for bonds), clients with $1-million will pay about 1.2 per cent of assets under management, he says.
As well as oversight, monitoring and disciplined rebalancing, "clients get diversification they couldn't afford otherwise," Mr. MacKenzie says. Altogether, these features take the emotion out of investing and force clients to stick to the asset allocation set out in their investment policy statement, he says.
Discretionary money management is not for everyone. Many investors prefer the kind of team approach they get working with fee-only investment advisers (formerly stockbrokers) at a full-service investment dealer.
"Only a quarter to a third of wealthy individuals are actually willing to give their money to a discretionary manager," says Mr. Sjogren. Many investors feel they would be giving away too much authority. "It depends on the degree you want to influence the selection of investments."
Older, wealthier people are more attracted to discretionary management, Mr. Sjogren says. "Younger people are less likely to delegate than older people."
The service also suits busy people – athletes, actors, scientists and entrepreneurs – who have neither the time nor the inclination to make investment decisions, industry participants say. Performance may not necessarily be any better than you could get from a fee-only financial adviser at an investment dealer, Mr. Sjogren says, although reporting likely will be.
"The media tend to portray brokers as bad and investment counsellors as good, but that's a simplistic way to look at the world."