Review of Cerity Partners 2021

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Updated on Monday, August 23, 2021

Cerity Partners, LLC is a registered investment advisory firm that provides investment management, financial planning, tax preparation and planning and other services for couples, family offices and business owners. It caters largely to high net worth investors, although it does count non-high net worth individuals and various institutional investors as clients.

The bottom line: Cerity Partners is a New York-based wealth management firm that offers services targeted towards high net worth individuals.

  • Provides comprehensive family office services
  • Generally requires a high minimum investment and annual fee
  • Offers services specifically for marital planning
Assets under management: $26,709,486,918
Minimum investment: Typically $2 million
Individual investor to advisor ratio: 29:1
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, fixed fees, hourly charges, performance-based fees
Headquarters: 335 Madison Avenue, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10017
Website:www.ceritypartners.com
Phone: 212-850-4260

All information included in this profile is accurate as of August 17, 2021. For more information, please consult Cerity Partners’ website.

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Overview of Cerity Partners

Cerity Partners is a private-equity backed, full-service wealth management firm headquartered in New York City. 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 close to 250 employees, over 120 of whom serve in investment advisory roles.

A look at the founders of Cerity Partners

Co-founder Howard Milstein has impressive roots: He is the grandson of Morris Milstein, who founded the Circle Floor Company, and the son of luxury real estate magnate Paul Milstein. Howard now heads up Milstein Properties, as well as New York’s oldest savings bank, Emigrant. He is a leading figure in finance and economics, and is chairman of multiple philanthropic ventures.

Kurt Miscinski was a managing director and executive committee member at Deutsche Bank before co-founding Cerity Partners. Prior to his time at Deutsche Bank, he was the chief operating officer for Scudder Private Investment Counsel, an asset management division that served family offices, wealthy individuals and nonprofits.

Cerity Partners’ pros

  • 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 has appeared on Financial Times’ list of the Top Financial Advisors from 2015 to 2020, and the National Association of Plan Advisors’ list of the Top DC Multi-Office Advisor Teams in 2019 and 2020. The firm also made PlanAdviser’s list of Top 100 Retirement Plan Advisors for 2020, and was picked as one of InvestmentNews’ Best Places to Work for 2019 and 2020.

Cerity Partners’ cons

  • Wealth management fees a bit above industry average: The firm notes in its brochure that fees may begin at 1.50% of assets under management for high net worth clients. That potential starting fee is also higher than average, as industry average fees generally range from 0.50% to 1.25%. That said, Cerity Partners’ rate for high net worth investors typically also includes financial, estate or tax planning services. The firm also states that its typical minimum annual fee is $20,000, which would only be 1.00% of the firm’s $20 million minimum investment typically required. Additionally, all of the firm’s fees are negotiable, which may explain why the firm has so many non-high net worth clients.
  • 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 and actually currently has more individual clients who are not in the high net worth category than those who are.
  • Potential conflict of interest related to private market investments program: There is a potential conflict of interest related to the firm’s private market investments program because when Cerity Partners recommends the program to clients, it may earn compensation that could exceed the fee earned under its standard investment management services. However, the firm mitigates this issue by ensuring that clients who participate in the program are accredited investors and that such clients have no obligation to participate in the program.

What types of clients does Cerity Partners serve?

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 a high net worth individual as someone with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth believed to be at least $1.5 million).

That said, Cerity Partners’ website and brochure also focus on high net worth individuals when outlining its services, and the firm’s $20,000 minimum annual fee may also generally leave out those with less to invest. Still, the firm does also note that it may waive its minimums at its discretion.

Cerity Partners offers a breadth of services to the individuals investors it serves, who include 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
    • Current portfolio evaluation
    • Assessment of investment objectives and financial goals
    • Strategic asset allocation planning
    • Manager search and evaluation
    • Investment program implementation and rebalancing
    • Portfolio monitoring and risk management
    • Performance measurement and attribution analysis
  • 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 asset classes and 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 in stocks, business development companies and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), including macroeconomic opportunities, market technical opportunities and stock-specific opportunities.

Fees Cerity Partners charges for its services

Cerity Partner’s fee for its wealth management services for high net worth clients generally begins at 1.50% of assets under management, with a minimum annual fee of $20,000 typically required. This fee includes all of the Cerity Partners’ 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 be separately responsible for third-party charges, such as transaction fees via custodians or brokers. Those who participate in other programs offered by the firm may also be subject to additional fees.

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

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.

For more information on the firm, you can go to its IAPD page.

Cerity Partners onboarding process

  1. Contact the firm: Investors interested in working with Cerity Partners can reach out directly to a local office or fill out this online form. The firm requests basic contact information and offers the option to include a message.
  2. Get a financial plan and an Investment Policy Statement: 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.
  3. Receive regular updates: 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.

Where Cerity Partners is located

Cerity Partners has offices in the following locations:

  • New York (2)
  • Los Angeles
  • Costa Mesa, California
  • Los Altos, California
  • Denver
  • Louisville, Colorado
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Chicago
  • Boston
  • Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
  • Cleveland
  • Colleyville, Texas
  • Fort Worth, Texas

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 may be better served by another firm, although the firm does currently have a roster that includes slightly more non-high net worth investors than high net worth individuals. That said, the firm’s typical $20,000 minimum annual fee may mean you are paying relatively high fees for a balance under $2 million.

Before you make your decision, be sure to research multiple firms to ensure you find the right advisor for you.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.