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Updated on Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Boston Private Wealth is a fee-only advisory firm serving individuals, high net worth individuals, pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations and other businesses. The firm specializes in working with professionals in law, accounting and medicine, as well as executives and business owners. With headquarters in Boston, the firm has more than 70 investment advisors around the country overseeing the firm’s more than $12.8 billion in assets under management (AUM).
All information included in this profile is accurate as of December 9th, 2019. For more information, please consult Boston Private Wealth’s website.
|Assets under management: $12,827,947,779|
|Minimum investment: $1 million|
|Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, ranging from 0.70% to 1.25%, depending on account size; fixed fees; hourly fees|
|Headquarters:||One Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
Overview of Boston Private Wealth
Founded in 1986, Boston Private Wealth is headquartered in Boston, with a number of additional financial advisory offices throughout Florida, California and New York. Boston Private Wealth entered the Northern California market in 2001, the Southern California market in 2004 and the Florida market in 2014. In fall of 2019, the company announced the integration of KLS Professional Advisors Group in New York City.
The firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boston Private Financial Holdings, Inc., a public reporting company, and it is affiliated with Boston Private Bank & Trust Company, a full-service private banking company. Boston Private Wealth has more than 130 employees on staff, including 72 performing investment advisory functions. Fourteen employees are licensed agents of an insurance company, though the company is clear that it earns no commissions for product recommendations. The firm currently manages more than $12.8 billion.
What types of clients does Boston Private Wealth serve?
Boston Private Wealth serves a broad variety of clients, with its largest client group being high net worth individuals. The SEC defines a high net worth individual as someone with at least $750,000 managed by a firm or whose net worth exceeds $1.5 million.
The full range of clients the firm serves includes:
- High net worth individuals
- Trusts, estates and charitable organizations
- Family offices
- Corporations or other business entities
- Banking and trust companies
- Not-for-profit entities, including foundations
- Retirement and profit sharing plans, including IRAs and 401(k) accounts
- State or municipal government entities
- Other investment advisors
We reached out to Boston Private Wealth and the firm confirmed that its minimum account requirement is $1 million. However, the firm also notes that because it views clients’ financial pictures holistically, it works with some clients who may have less than the $1 million but who are building wealth. In addition, the filing also states that of the firm’s individual clients, about six out of 10 are high net worth, although that leaves about 40% who aren’t.
Among those clients are a large number of business owners who frequently have limited liquidity as they grow their businesses. The company also focuses on professionals in private practice, such as law firms, accounting firms and medical, dental or veterinary practices, as well as executives. It offers these clients help with business financing and the management of personal income.
Although the vast majority of the firm’s assets under management ($11.2 billion of $12.8 billion) are from high net worth individuals, Boston Private Wealth also serves corporations, charitable organizations and pension and profit-sharing plans.
Services offered by Boston Private Wealth
Boston Private Wealth provides a host of services to its clients, from wealth management to trust and estate services. The firm also recently added family office services designed to handle the needs of ultrahigh net worth investors, including helping with personal accounting and net worth reporting, tax and accounting services, bill pay and mail management, and budgeting and cash flow planning.
The firm’s full list of services includes:
- Wealth and financial planning
- Vision statement that may include a client’s financial, philanthropic, tax and wealth transfer objectives
- Income and retirement planning
- Protection planning
- Investment management planning
- Legacy planning
- Philanthropic planning
- Business succession planning
- Executive planning
- Education analysis
- Estate plan analysis and review
- Insurance and risk management review
- Cash flow and debt management
- Compensation and benefits
- Donor advised fund
- Portfolio management for individuals and/or small businesses
- Portfolio management for businesses (other than small businesses) or institutional clients
- Pension consulting
- Selection of other advisors (including private fund managers)
- Publication of periodicals or newsletters
- Educational seminars/workshops
- Planned giving
- Family office services
- Personal accounting and net worth reporting
- Tax and accounting services
- Budgeting and cash flow planning
- Bill pay and mail management
- Concentrated holdings services
- Proprietary separate account strategies
- Investment consulting
- Diagnostic review
- Investment policy and governance design
- Asset allocation services
- Portfolio construction and implementation
- Performance measurement, reporting and analysis
- Custom investment solutions
- Retirement plan advisory services
- Wrap-free programs
- Trust services
How Boston Private Wealth invests your money
Boston Private Wealth engages in active portfolio management, using a client’s goals, time horizon and risk tolerance to create a customized, diversified portfolio. The company prefers to use active strategies because it believes, over time, that it can outperform the market on a risk-adjusted basis.
Typical client portfolios include 40 to 60 carefully selected individual stocks, alongside a customized bond portfolio with investment-grade taxable or municipal bonds. The firm also offers access to as many as seven additional asset classes, from international large cap stocks to alternatives.
The firm uses both internally managed strategies as well as external money managers to complete clients’ financial plans.
Fees Boston Private Wealth charges for its services
For wealth management services, Boston Private Wealth charges clients a percentage of assets under management based on a tiered fee schedule, which starts at 1.25% for the first $1 million, 1.15% for the next $1.5 million and so on. For fixed-income portfolios — meaning individual fixed income securities, including investment-grade and municipal bonds — Boston Private Wealth negotiates a fee schedule not to exceed 0.75%.
For consulting services, the firm charges a flat rate per engagement, or a fee of $300 per hour, depending on the arrangement with the client, and those services include portfolio review, financial planning, asset allocation and performance reporting, monitoring and analysis. For investment advisory services to retirement plans, the firm charges a maximum fee of 0.50%, with a minimum annual fee of $5,000.
There may be additional fees and expenses beyond the firm’s set fees, including:
- External separate account manager fees (if Boston Private Wealth uses an external separate account manager as a sub-advisor to manage a client’s assets)
- Mutual fund and ETF management fees
- Mutual fund transaction fees
- Donor advised fund fees
- Brokerage fees
Boston Private Wealth doesn’t use a wrap fee program, which is when a firm offers a bundle of services for a flat fee, but it does participate in wrap fee accounts when it place investments with other investment managers. It charges a management fee of 0.15% to 0.50% for wrap accounts.
Boston Private Wealth notes that for accounts with a portfolio value of less than $1,000,000, the effective fee may be more than 1.25%.
|Boston Private Wealth Fees|
|Fixed Income-Only Portfolios||Negotiated fee schedule not to exceed 0.75%|
|Consulting Services||Negotiated flat rate per engagement or $300 per hour|
|Investment Advisory Services to Retirement Plans||Negotiated fee schedule not to exceed 0.50% (Minimum annual fee: $5,000)|
Boston Private Wealth’s highlights
- Services for high net worth individuals. The recent addition of KLS, which is a wealth management firm specializing in law firms, attorneys and other high net worth clients, makes this combined operation one of the more sizable firms focusing on the high net worth set. The firm now manages more than $11 billion in assets from high net worth individuals, and it recently opened a family office arm devoted to ultrahigh net worth families.
- Diverse leadership. In an industry that’s still fairly male-centric, half of Boston Private Wealth’s leadership team is female, as is 45% of its board members.
- Locally revered. In 2013, readers of the Boston Business Journal chose Boston Private Wealth as the Most Admired Financial Institution.
Boston Private Wealth’s downsides
- Fees are higher than average. For the non-high net worth investor, Boston Private Wealth’s rate of 1.25% on the first $1 million in assets is slightly higher than the RIA industry average of 1.17%. Asset-based fees do decrease as the amount of assets under management increases, but Boston Private Wealth notes that for accounts with a portfolio value of less than $1 million the effective fee may be more than 1.25%.
- Potential conflicts of interest. Boston Private Wealth receives client referrals and other benefits from the Fidelity Wealth Advisor Solutions Program, TD Ameritrade’s AdvisorDirect program and the Schwab Advisor Network. These relationships raise potential conflicts of interest, as Boston Private Wealth may be more likely to suggest client strategies that benefit those companies.
Boston Private Wealth disciplinary disclosures
The firm has only one disclosure listed in its Form ADV, paperwork that firms file with the SEC. The disclosure is in relation to an advisory affiliate who was involved in a rules violation. In 2017, FINRA suspended the individual, who was with Merrill Lynch at the time, for one year for false expense reports. Boston Private Wealth itself has never been the subject of any disciplinary action.
Boston Private Wealth onboarding process
To start a relationship with Boston Private Wealth clients must complete an online form with their contact information, the services they’re interested in and the amount they currently have invested. Prospective clients can also call advisors directly to learn more about working with Boston Private Wealth.
The bottom line: Is Boston Private Wealth right for you?
Boston Private Wealth could be a good match for you whether you’re a high net worth individual. The firm’s recent moves — the acquisition of KLS and the opening of a family office group — suggest that they’re doing some gunning for the high net worth space. Additionally, the firm’s tiered fees drop below average RIA rates for assets over $1 million, making it a more attractive option for investors with seven figures to invest. Boston Private Wealth also works specifically with professionals in the areas of law, accounting or medical work, and executives in general, potentially making this firm worthwhile for anyone in these fields.
If your investable nest egg is smaller, however, you’d likely be better served looking elsewhere since the firm has a $1 million minimum. Plus, you can find advisory services for less than the 1.25% — or more — that Boston Private Wealth is charging for portfolios of less than $1 million. That said, if you’re a business owner with a larger net worth but less liquidity, it might be worth a look.