Best Investment Firms in January 2024 • Benzinga (2024)

Discount brokers have their place and many present great value, but for investors who want a professional wealth manager, a full-service investment firm could be the answer.

Depending on your comfort level with the stock market or the size of your investment portfolio, you can choose from these online investment firms to find growth stocks, make an options trade, seek out investing advice and much more. Find your match today with our review of the best investment firms.

Table of Contents

  • Best Wealth Management Investment Firms
  • Why Choose a Wealth Management Firm?
  • How to Understand Your Investment Goals
  • Who Needs an Investment Firm?
  • What to Look for in an Investment or Wealth Management Firm
  • Drawbacks of Using an Investment or Wealth Management Firm
  • Get the Best Financial Firm on Your Side
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Best Wealth Management Investment Firms

  • Best for Retirement Advice: Datalign
  • Best Robo Advisor: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
  • Best for All Skill Levels: Charles Schwab Asset Management
  • Best Youth Account: Fidelity Investments

The miscellaneous fees and commissions as well as account restrictions such as minimum required balances are a trade-off for service that can’t be found with the lowest cost providers.

From personalized account management to goal-driven investment strategies, the best full-service investment firms treat investors like more than just an account number. You can look for a margin account, unique investment fund opportunities, low account fees, perhaps an optional savings account with a competitive APY and much more. You might even get a signed birthday card from your advisor or management team.

1. Best for Retirement Advice: Datalign

  • Datalign

    securely through Datalign's website

    securely through Datalign's website

    Best For:

    Retirement Advice

    Rating:

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Datalign Advisory is a company that specializes in connecting individuals with personalized financial advisors tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Founded by a team of experienced professionals, Datalign Advisory has developed a platform that programmatically matches users with vetted fiduciaries from their extensive network of financial advisors. The company places a strong emphasis on transparency and partner-focused values, aiming to provide crystal clear information and eliminate obstacles to accelerate growth.

At the core of Datalign Advisory's approach is their belief in data-driven intuitive guidance, empowering users to make informed decisions with the support of comprehensive data. By fostering a collaborative environment and sharing information, Datalign Advisory ensures that both the consumers and the advisors benefit from their platform [1]. The company's dedicated team comprises professionals with diverse expertise in areas such as partnerships, optimization, product development, and marketing. They work together to create platforms and services that deliver results, focusing on action rather than mere words.

Pros

  • Tailored matches: Datalign Advisory uses a detailed questionnaire to match customers with pre-screened licensed professionals based on their unique needs and criteria. This personalized approach ensures that customers are connected with advisors who are best suited to help them achieve their financial goals.
  • Extensive advisor network: Datalign Advisory boasts a broad network of thousands of financial advisors nationwide, who have a long history of assisting clients with various financial services such as tax preparation, estate planning, retirement planning, and more.
  • No fee for matching: The platform is completely free to use. Customers can match with a verified financial advisor without paying any fees or charges.
  • Free consultation call: Upon matching with an advisor, customers are offered a free, no-obligation phone call to discuss their needs and determine if the advisor is a good fit for them.

Cons

  • Limited advisor research: There is no option to research potential advisors in the network ahead of time. Customers must rely on the matching process and the information provided by Datalign Advisory to determine the suitability of an advisor.
  • Lack of online resources: Datalign Advisory does not provide online calculators or educational resources on its platform. Customers may need to seek additional sources of information or tools elsewhere.
  • Customer service contact information: There is no dedicated or obvious customer service contact information available online, which may make it challenging for customers to seek assistance or address any concerns they may have.

2. Best Robo Advisor: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

With Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (VPAS), Vanguard once again changed the investment industry. VPAS came about a few years ago, offering a product that is almost a happy marriage between a robo-advisor and a traditional financial advisor.

A Vanguard Personal Advisor works directly with you to understand your goals and financial needs. From there they implement a financial plan to help you achieve whatever your goals are.

Vanguard brings the low investment fees they are known for with their index funds to VPAS. A human advisor will help manager your investment portfolio for as low as 0.3% of all your assets under management. Most other wealth managers will have fees above 1% anytime a human advisor is being used.

The account minimum needed for a VPAS account is about the same compared to other management firms. You will need $50,000 in investable assets to be able to open a VPAS account.

Pros

  • Low-cost funds and ETFs
  • Large mutual fund selection
  • Straight forward approach

Cons

  • Investment minimums are on the higher side
  • Website and app are lagging

3. Best for all Skill Levels: Charles Schwab Asset Management

  • Charles Schwab

    securely through Charles Schwab's website

    securely through Charles Schwab's website

    Best For:

    Fund Investing

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With 5 stars in nearly every categoryin a recentJD Power’s customer satisfaction surveywhich rated full-service brokerages,Schwabproves its value to investors seeking full-serviceportfolio managementby winning the survey’s top rating based on its average scores in all categories.

With a minimum investment amount of $1,000 for standard accounts and $5,000 minimum investment for managed accounts, Charles Schwab aims to be the investment firm that’s accessible to investors at nearly any level.

Investors with at least $25,000 in their account qualify for a one-on-one portfolio consultation.Most account interaction can be handledonline or by phone,but for investors who prefer to meet in person, Charles Schwab offers more than300 local branch offices throughout the U.S.Schwab boasts over 9 million customers, providing both no-fee professional portfolio management or self-directed investing.

Additional service-level tiers are available, including Schwab Managed Portfolios or Diversified Managed Accounts, bringing more personalized service for larger investment accounts.

Pros

  • Best option for ETFs
  • Large quantity of low-expense funds
  • High-quality research and screening tools

Cons

  • Schwab keeps a large percentage of interest on your uninvested cash
  • Limited fractional shares trading

4. Best Youth Account: Fidelity Investments

  • Fidelity Investments

    securely through Fidelity Investments's website

    securely through Fidelity Investments's website

    Best For:

    Stock Research

    Rating:

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Servicing a broad spectrum of investor profiles,Fidelity Investmentsoffers low-cost trades for self-directed accounts as well as portfolio management and more complex services offered by a wealth manager.

For investment accounts starting with $50,000, Fidelity can design a strategy to help you invest for retirement or other financial goals. Additional account tiers for accounts with a minimum $200,000 investment offer either tax-sensitive investment support or separately managed portfolios investing in specific equities or fixed income markets.

Fees for managed accounts vary widely with Fidelity, ranging from 0.20% up to 1.7% with the lowest fees available to Fidelity’s larger accounts.The ability for investors to maintain a separate trading account as well as a long-term managed account allows additional flexibility and a way to channel gains from individual investments to longer-term strategies or provide easy liquidity not often associated with managed accounts.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • High quality research tools
  • Powerful educational content

Cons

  • Funds can be pricey
  • Tools are scattered over multiple platforms

Why Choose a Wealth Management Firm?

Whether it’s time to rollover a 401k into an IRA, start an IRA or college fund or build an investment account simply to invest for your future, investors have a growing number of options. Online brokers have taken the market by storm, offering low cost trades, technical charts, webinars and online education centers to help investors learn the ropes, research and trade.

Robo-advisors promise to bridge the gap between DIY discount brokers and full-service firms by providing guidance or automated portfolio management based on predetermined criteria. Even with all the online options available, some investors prefer a more personal touch and the knowledge that someone they can trust will handle their portfolio and help guide decisions. Because there’s often some crossover in services, firms might offer a robust online platform for self-directed investing but also offer full-service investment advisors or account management.

How to Understand Your Investment Goals

Every investor has his or her own goals, balancing risk against safety or the chance to earn outpaced gains against dividend income and steady appreciation. A full-service investment company can point the way to the best solution or basket of options that can help you realize your investment goals.

A good firm’s investment advisors can help you to invest in a way that matches your long-term goals for safety and earnings — AND point out potentially problematic investments or likely underperformers. Utilizing a full-service investment company doesn’t guarantee you’ll never have losses, but many losses can be avoided or minimized.

Who Needs an Investment Firm?

It’s a good idea to find the right financial advisor in an investment company if you’re:

  • Dealing with complicated investments like inherited money and margin trading.
  • Undergoing a complicated life situation, like a remarriage or divorce.
  • Dealing with a large portfolio and multiple assets.
  • Looking for comprehensive wealth planning.
  • Unsure about your own ability to manage your money.

You may be able to think of other situations that warrant the need for a financial advisor at an brokerage house. Make sure you do your homework before you act!

What to Look for in an Investment or Wealth Management Firm

You don’t want to choose the wrong firm for your needs — and there’s a possibility that could happen. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re with a financial advisor that feels comfortable for you.

Overall Customer Satisfaction

No investment house can be a perfect fit for every investor, but the best firms focus their efforts on the areas most important to their clients, providing top-notch service at the acceptable expense of higher commissions or fees than discount brokers.

Dedicated Financial Advisors or Teams

Much of the attraction for a full-service firm is the availability of dedicated investment advisors or teams, people who understand your investment goals, listen to your concerns and who often know you by name.

Customer Service and Support Options

The availability of multiple support options for account questions anytime of day or night has become a must-have feature, with the understanding that advisors are only available during business hours.

Reasonable Commissions and Fees

Expect to pay more when investing with a full service investment firm as opposed to a discount broker. However, if fees or commissions are too high, investment returns can be adversely affected by the headwind created in trading or management costs.

Information Resources and Investor Research Tools

Investors with a healthy curiosity will want to do their own research or learn more about investments they’ve either made or are considering.

Variety of Products and Investment Vehicles

The number of investment vehicles has increased dramatically in recent years, and the best full-service brokers will provide options to round out your portfolio with investment options for nearly any type of asset class.

Investment Performance

For fully-managed accounts, investment performance becomes a big part of a firm’s report card for investors.

Additional Wealth Managing or Estate Planning Solutions

Sometimes investments are only part of the picture. The availability of trusts, life insurance and estate planning options can help turn gains into a legacy of lasting wealth. An investment advisor can help you build a much fuller portfolio that provides you with long-lasting security, meaning that you don’t need to go to several professionals to get what you need.

Quality Mobile App

Many investors need access to their accounts through a mobile device, and a quality mobile app can help anyone review the investment products available to them, check balances, connect with an investment advisor, uncover market insights and more. While an app may not be a dealbreaker for some, make sure you choose a trading platform that gives you the support you require.

Drawbacks of Using an Investment or Wealth Management Firm

When choosing a full-service investment company, you’re often trading autonomy for management. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is different than what you’ll get with most discount brokers. In exchange for the management or guidance provided by a full-service firm, fees or commissions will also be higher than with some lower-cost options.

You’ll have a new silent partner in your investment account, quietly taking a percentage — in good times and in bad. Warren Buffett is famous for his quote, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” This investment maxim can be applied to the notion of management costs as well. What’s often overlooked is the ability of a managed investment strategy to keep you out of trouble.

Many individual investors using a DIY brokerage account lose money. A management team’s or investment advisor’s ability to keep your account in the black — at least most of the time — is part of the value you get for the price you pay in higher commissions or fees. Be aware that some firms charge a transfer fee if transferring your account to another broker. You can probably expect transfer fees to be waived if transferring to another location within the same firm.

Account Funding for Investment Firms

A variety of methods to fund accounts is another must-have feature for an investment company. A particular interest is the ability to automatically invest on a weekly or monthly basis, taking advantage of dollar-cost averaging to build your account.

For most households, it’s easy to establish an amount that can be safely invested on a scheduled basis and that won’t be missed from the budget.

Additional amounts can be invested at your discretion or when you come into extra cash, such as selling an asset, earning a bonus or getting a large refund. Many investment firms require a minimum investment amount or offer lower management fees for larger investment accounts.

Investment Firm Trading Costs

With full-service firms, trading costs are often more accurately described as management fees. Certain types of trades or investments may have a set commission, typically ranging higher than the per-trade commission costs available from discount brokers.

Additionally, investment investors can expect a management fee ranging from below 1% up to over 3%. Management fees apply in good years and in bad, which means that in an investment year in which your account is essentially flat, you could show negative growth due to management costs.

Accounts with a higher dollar value are often rewarded with lower management fees and smaller accounts may have a minimum fixed annual fee as well.

Get the Best Financial Firm on Your Side

Over the past several decades, the broad market and wide indexes such as the S&P 500 have outperformed most managed funds and the same may apply to managed portfolios.

Avoiding costly investment mistakes is crucial to overall portfolio growth and capital preservation, providing an often-overlooked advantage to using a full-service firm as opposed to self-directed investing.

A dedicated financial advisor or team can focus your portfolio on growth goals while also defending against losses, helping you to keep more of what you’ve earned.

Before choosing an investment firm that's best for you, you should research heavily. Discuss various investment strategies and inquire more about how your wealth will be managed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

What is the role of an investment firm?

A

An investment firm offers professional advice in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement planning, insurance and managing wealth.

Q

What are the types of investments?

A

Several areas include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities, annuities, real estate, insurance and bank products.

Q

What strategy do investors use to protect themselves from risk?

A

Investors use portfolio diversification to help protect themselves against risk.

As an enthusiast with a deep understanding of investment and wealth management, I'd like to provide insights into the concepts discussed in the article about the best wealth management investment firms. My knowledge in this area stems from a combination of professional experience and comprehensive research.

The article outlines the benefits of choosing a full-service investment firm over discount brokers, emphasizing the personalized approach and comprehensive services offered by these firms. It then reviews four specific wealth management firms, highlighting their strengths and potential drawbacks. Let's delve into the key concepts presented in the article:

1. Best for Retirement Advice: Datalign

Conceptual Overview:

  • Datalign Advisory specializes in connecting individuals with personalized financial advisors.
  • Emphasis on transparency and partner-focused values.
  • Data-driven intuitive guidance for informed decision-making.
  • Extensive network of pre-screened licensed professionals.

Pros and Cons:

  • Tailored matches based on a detailed questionnaire.
  • Broad network of financial advisors.
  • Free consultation call for matched customers.
  • Potential drawbacks include limited advisor research and lack of online resources.

2. Best Robo Advisor: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

Conceptual Overview:

  • Vanguard Personal Advisor Services offers a hybrid model between robo-advisors and traditional financial advisors.
  • Human advisors work directly with clients to understand goals and implement financial plans.
  • Low-cost funds and ETFs with a focus on buy-and-hold investing.

Pros and Cons:

  • Low-cost funds and ETFs.
  • Large mutual fund selection.
  • One-on-one portfolio consultation for investors with at least $25,000.
  • Drawbacks include higher investment minimums and a lagging website and app.

3. Best for All Skill Levels: Charles Schwab Asset Management

Conceptual Overview:

  • Charles Schwab aims to provide accessible full-service portfolio management for investors at various levels.
  • Options for online or in-person account interaction.
  • Large customer base and multiple service-level tiers.

Pros and Cons:

  • Best option for ETFs with a large quantity of low-expense funds.
  • High-quality research and screening tools.
  • Various service-level tiers for personalized service.
  • Potential drawbacks include keeping a large percentage of interest on uninvested cash and limited fractional shares trading.

4. Best Youth Account: Fidelity Investments

Conceptual Overview:

  • Fidelity Investments caters to a broad spectrum of investors, offering low-cost trades and portfolio management.
  • Account tiers with varying levels of investment support.
  • Emphasis on stock research.

Pros and Cons:

  • Inexpensive with high-quality research tools.
  • Account tiers for different investment needs.
  • Flexibility with separate trading and managed accounts.
  • Potential drawbacks include pricey funds and scattered tools over multiple platforms.

Wealth Management Firm Selection Criteria

The article also provides guidelines on what to look for in an investment or wealth management firm. Key factors include:

  • Overall customer satisfaction.
  • Dedicated financial advisors or teams.
  • Customer service and support options.
  • Reasonable commissions and fees.
  • Information resources and investor research tools.
  • Variety of products and investment vehicles.
  • Investment performance.
  • Additional wealth managing or estate planning solutions.
  • Quality mobile app for convenient account access.

Drawbacks of Using an Investment or Wealth Management Firm

The article acknowledges the trade-off between autonomy and management, with higher fees associated with full-service firms. It emphasizes the importance of evaluating management costs in relation to the value provided in avoiding investment mistakes and preserving capital.

Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs touch upon the role of an investment firm, types of investments, and the strategy of portfolio diversification to protect against risk.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive guide for investors seeking wealth management services, offering insights into specific firms and crucial selection criteria.

Best Investment Firms in January 2024 • Benzinga (2024)
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