What Does this RIA Do? ‘Serve as the Family CFO’
When I walked into Smith & Howard Wealth Management in Atlanta, I realized a “family office” looks like any other office. But in my conversation with Partner Mike DeWitt, I learned that what happens in a family office is distinctly different from many other registered investment advisor (RIA) firms – and it’s definitely different from a broker-dealer like Schwab.
“We serve as the family CFO for our clients, and in that capacity we handle really every aspect of their financial lives,” Mike said. “One of the things that differentiates us from a lot of other firms is we are part of a full service accounting firm, so we have a strong emphasis on coordinating tax, the legal, financial, investments – everything all together for our clients.”
Smith & Howard Wealth Management’s clients are likely to fall into the “high net worth” category. In a Schwab survey of these investors, we discovered some interesting facts.
- Their financial advisor is the second most trusted professional after their doctor.
- Women are the sole or joint decision-makers in 6 of 10 advisor relationships.
- “Knowledge” and “Advice” are cited as the top benefits of working with a financial advisor – even more than investment performance.
- Nearly half of high-net-worth investors would recommend their advisor to their children.
“With many of our clients, we involve the children as soon as they are, say, teenagers – old enough to start thinking about money, old enough to start thinking about buying a car or using a credit card,” Mike said. Another Schwab survey of independent advisors reveals that two-thirds of advisors have met with their clients’ children in the past six months to review the family’s financial situation.
“And we do that as well with spouses,” he added. “A lot of times one spouse tends to spend more time with the family’s finances, and when something happens to that spouse then there is a big void there and a lot of uncertainty.”
It’s no wonder that Smith & Howard Wealth Management puts a premium on relationships, family values and trust.
“Our clients need to have complete trust in their advisors and the custodian that is holding their assets,” Mike said. “So, trust is extremely important, and that trust is forged over years of personal interactions and functions outside the office. Many of those functions have either been Schwab functions with our clients or vice versa, where our clients get to know the people who serve us.”
The relationship between Schwab and Smith & Howard Wealth Management is a natural fit, Mike added. “We are a smaller firm. We don’t have any corporate red tape. We don’t have to run much up the flagpole at headquarters. When we want to make a decision, we just make a decision and we make it happen. Schwab very much gives us that kind of feeling.”
Brokerage Products: Not FDIC-Insured • No Bank Guarantee • May Lose Value
Mike DeWitt and Smith & Howard Wealth Management are not employed by or affiliated with Schwab. Schwab provides custody, trading, and operational support services for independent Registered Investment Advisors (“RIAs”) through Schwab Advisor Services™. The RIA and its representative profiled here use some or all of those services. The information provided and views expressed by the RIA and its representative are their own, without endorsement or verification by Schwab, and some statements have been edited. An RIA is a registered professional advisory firm that offers personalized financial advice to its clients. The representatives associated with the RIA may not be required to be registered.
The Charles Schwab Corporation (“Schwab”) provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management, and financial advisory services through its operating subsidiaries. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (Member SIPC), offers investment services and products. Deposit and lending products and services are offered by Charles Schwab Bank, Member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.
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