Review of Cerity Partners

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Reviewed By

Updated on Friday, August 7, 2020

Cerity Partners, LLC is a registered investment advisory firm with 210 employees across seven states. The firm serves individuals and high net worth individuals, as well as pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations and other businesses. In addition to investment management, the firm provides financial planning, estate planning, tax preparation, risk management and services for couples, family offices and business owners. The firm has nearly $25 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of August 7, 2020. For more information, please consult Cerity Partners’ website.

Assets under management: $24,682,540,139
Minimum investment: $2 million
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM; hourly fees; fixed fees, performance-based fees
Headquarters: 333 Madison Avenue
23rd Floor
New York NY 10017
www.ceritypartners.com
(212) 850-4260

Overview of Cerity Partners

Cerity Partners is a private-equity backed, full-service wealth management firm headquartered in New York City. Former Deutsche Bank managing director and current firm president Kurt Miscinski co-founded Cerity Partners — then called HPM Partners — in 2009, with backing from Emigrant Bank and its chairman Howard P. Milstein.

In 2018, the private equity firm Lightyear Capital purchased Emigrant Bank’s majority stake in the wealth management firm, and the following year HPM Partners changed its name to Cerity Partners. In recent years, the firm has grown quickly via acquisitions.

Cerity Partners now has 210 employees, more than 100 of whom serve in investment advisory roles. It has offices in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Texas.

What types of clients does Cerity Partners serve?

Cerity Partners offers services to individuals, business and nonprofits. It also has a large business working with pension and profit-sharing plans.

The firm typically requires a minimum portfolio balance of $2 million, but it counts both individuals and high net worth individuals as clients, with its current individual client base fairly evenly divided between the two groups. (For reference, the SEC defines high net worth individuals as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of more than $1.5 million.)

Cerity Partners offers a breadth of services to these individuals, including those tailored to corporate executives, family offices, business owners and couples.

Services offered by Cerity Partners

Cerity Partners is a full-service firm, offering investment advisory services, wealth planning, tax preparation and planning, executive financial counseling and retirement plan services. The firm takes a holistic approach to financial planning, examining a client’s entire financial picture and goals to create an individualized plan and a customized investment strategy that complements it.

Here is a full list of services the firm can provide:

  • Investment advisory services
  • Wealth planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Estate and wealth transfer planning
    • Philanthropy and charitable gift planning
    • Education planning
    • Tax planning and management
    • Insurance planning and risk management
    • Net worth analysis
    • Compensation and benefits analysis
    • Trust fiduciary and family office services
    • Bill payment service and client accounting
    • Liquidity and liability management
  • Tax services
    • Preparation of tax projections, tax returns and estimated tax payments
    • Tax planning
  • Marital financial planning
    • Pre- and post-nuptial agreements
    • Divorce financial consulting
    • Couples wealth management
  • Executive financial counseling
    • Company benefits coordination and planning
    • Retirement, cash flow and budget planning
    • Estate planning
    • Tax planning and preparation
    • Investment planning and consolidated reporting
    • Insurance and risk management
  • Retirement plan services

How Cerity Partners invests your money

Cerity Partners uses modern portfolio theory, which focuses more on asset allocation than on individual investments, to craft individualized portfolios for its clients. Portfolios are created based on an investment profile — ranging from conservative to aggressive — created for each client.

Client portfolios can contain a mix of six asset classes and 16 sub-asset classes, including:

  • Cash and cash equivalents
  • Global fixed income (domestic government agency, domestic tax exempt, emerging-market debt, investment-grade credit, high-yield credit and global bonds)
  • Global equities (large-cap, mid-cap and small-cap domestic, international equity and emerging equity)
  • Real return (real estate, commodities and treasury inflation-protected securities)
  • Hedge funds
  • Private equity

In addition, the firm offers a supplemental Special Opportunities strategy, which may include frequent trading to take advantage of time-sensitive, short-term opportunities, including macroeconomic opportunities, market technical opportunities and stock-specific opportunities.

Fees Cerity Partners charges for its services

Cerity Partner’s standard fee for its wealth management services is typically 1.25% of assets under management, with a minimum annual fee of $25,000. This fee includes all of the firm’s services, though occasionally the firm also charges a fixed retainer for financial planning, taxes or other services, depending on the extent of the services provided. Clients will also be separately responsible for third-party charges, such as transaction fees via custodians or brokers.

In some cases, the firm will charge performance-based fees as well. Those fees reflect individual negotiations with the clients who will pay them.

Cerity Partners’ highlights

  • Wide breadth of services: If you’re looking for executive financial counseling or couples-based financial advice, as well as traditional financial planning and wealth management, Cerity Partners can help. The firm offers a notably extensive list of services, with a number of options catering to particular groups.
  • Customized portfolios: In addition to specialized services for various types of clients, Cerity Partners also creates customized portfolios that reflect each client’s investor profile.
  • Industry recognition: The firm has received multiple industry accolades. It appeared on Financial Times’ list of the Top Financial Advisors 2019 and the National Association of Plan Advisors’ list of the Top DC Multi-Office Advisor Teams. The firm’s co-founder and partner Lorraine George-Harik appeared on Crain’s New York’s list of notable women in banking and finance.
  • No disclosures: Cerity Partners has a clean disciplinary record (see more below).

Cerity Partners’ downsides

  • Slightly above average fees: At 1.25% of assets under management, Cerity Partner’s fees are slightly above the industry average of 1.17%, according to a 2019 study by RIA in a Box. However, Cerity Partners’ fees may include additional services.
  • High minimum balance requirement: Individuals who don’t have at least $2 million to invest may not be able to open an account with the firm or access its services. Still, the firm does make exceptions to that rule. More than half of its individual investor client base do not meet the SEC’s definition of high net worth investors.
  • Limited geographic footprint: While the firm promises that it will come to clients no matter where they are, it only has offices in seven states, primarily in the Midwest and the West.

Cerity Partners disciplinary disclosures

Cerity Partners does not have any disciplinary disclosures on its record. All registered investment advisors must disclose any civil, regulatory or criminal events related to the firm, its employees or its affiliates in its Form ADV, paperwork filed with the SEC.

Cerity Partners onboarding process

Investors interested in working with Cerity Partners can reach out directly to its local office or  fill out this online form. The firm requests basic contact information and offers the option to include a message.

Cerity Partners takes a holistic, discussion-based approach to its services, with multiple advisors working together to assist clients with all facets of their finances. Advisors work with clients to create a comprehensive financial plan, and then monitor and adjust the plan as necessary. Advisors will also create a personal Investment Policy Statement, which is then used to build and manage the client’s portfolio.

While clients can reach out to Cerity Partners at any time to discuss their needs or objectives, the firm will contact all clients at least once per year to discuss the performance of their portfolio and talk about potential changes.

Is Cerity Partners right for you?

Cerity Partners may be a good choice for you if you have at least $2 million to invest and want additional services, such as estate and gift planning or tax preparation. Business owners, multi-generational family offices and couples in transition may also benefit from the expertise that Cerity Partners has working with clients like them.

Those with lower account balances, or who want a local advisor and don’t live in one of the seven states where the Cerity Partners has offices, may be better served by another firm. When selecting a financial advisor, it’s always important to ask questions about their services and to compare multiple options to make sure you find someone who is a good fit for you.

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