Review of Johnson Investment Counsel

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Reviewed By

Updated on Friday, June 12, 2020

Johnson Investment Counsel is a fee-only, independent investment advisory firm that’s headquartered in Cincinnati, with four additional locations in Ohio and one in the Detroit metro area. The firm has 136 employees in total, 68 of whom work in an investment advisory function. Johnson Investment Counsel currently oversees more than $13 billion in assets under management (AUM) and primarily serves individuals, high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors.

All information included in this profile is accurate as of June 12, 2020. For more information, please consult Johnson Investment Counsel’s website.

Assets under management: $13,117,965,833
Minimum investment: $1,000,000
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM; fixed fees; hourly charges
Headquarters: 3777 West Fork Road
Cincinnati, OH 45247
(513) 661-3100

Overview of Johnson Investment Counsel

Founded in 1965 by Timothy E. Johnson, an MBA student and eventual university professor, Johnson Investment Counsel is now an employee-owned registered investment advisor. Johnson is the chairman and principal executive leadership of the company, and shares ownership of the firm with other members.

Johnson Investment Counsel divides itself into four divisions: wealth management, family office services, trust company and asset management. The company owns Johnson Trust Company and is the sponsor and investment advisor in Johnson Mutual Funds Trust, a family of no-load mutual funds.

What types of clients does Johnson Investment Counsel serve?

For the most part, Johnson Investment Counsel’s investment advisory clients must have at least $1 million to open and maintain an advisory account, though the account minimum may be waived at Johnson Investment Counsel’s discretion. These accounts also are subject to a minimum fee of $5,000 per year.

The firm offers its services to individuals, investment companies, pension and profit-sharing plans, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, corporations and other business or governmental entities. Currently, Johnson Investment Counsel works with 2,044 individuals and 1,495 high net worth individuals (defined by the SEC as individuals with at least $750,000 under management or a $1.5 million net worth).

The firm also offers Johnson Intelligent Portfolios Programs, an automated investment program (think robo-advisor), to individuals, IRAs and revocable living trusts. This account option requires a minimum investment of $5,000.

Services offered by Johnson Investment Counsel

As a firm that works primarily with wealthy families and individuals, the services offered are tailored to meet the needs of this type of client — services such as family office services, including asset and liability management, cash flow management and family mission statement development. At Johnson Investment Counsel, a separate team is assigned to each of the four divisions: wealth management, family office services, trust company and asset management.

The firm offers discretionary portfolio management (meaning the advisor can make decisions on behalf of the client) and institutional portfolio management, as well as pension consulting services. Johnson Investment Counsel also is affiliated with Johnson Mutual Funds, a family of no-load mutual funds.

For clients below the investment minimum, the company offers Johnson Intelligent Portfolios, which provides automated investment management services for those with at least $5,000.

The following is a full list of services offered by Johnson Investment Counsel:

  • Portfolio management (for individuals and institutions; mainly discretionary)
  • Financial planning
  • Wealth management
    • Goal-based planning
    • Investment management
    • Retirement planning
    • Cash flow planning
    • Estate planning
    • Asset protection planning
    • Income tax planning
    • Charitable planning
  • Family office services
    • Asset and liability management
    • Advise on insurance and asset protection
    • Cash flow management
    • Income tax planning
    • Family mission statement development
    • Estate and wealth transfer planning
    • Philanthropic planning
    • Business succession planning
    • Relationship management
    • Asset protection planning
  • Estate and trust services
    • Trust for individuals
    • Trustee and co-trustee
    • Agent for individual trustee
    • Executor and estate settlement services
    • Reducing gift and estate taxes
    • Managing the transfer of wealth to the next generation or to a charity
    • Philanthropic planning
    • Special needs planning
    • Charitable gift planning
    • Asset protection planning
  • Selection of other advisors
  • Pension consulting services
  • Advisory services to retirement plans and plan participants
  • Mutual fund services

How Johnson Investment Counsel invests your money

As a client of Johnson Investment Counsel, your portfolio will be customized. The firm will allocate and invest your assets depending on a number of factors, including your financial objectives and information, risk tolerance, time horizon, liquidity needs and other factors.

Investment strategies and portfolio management are maintained in a team setting at Johnson Investment Counsel, not dependent on a single advisor. Advisors follow a bottom-up oriented approach for equity strategies, and take a quantitative approach to company analysis. For fixed-income strategies, a combination of macro and micro strategies that focuses on quality yield and appropriate maturities will be used. Tax efficiency is not a primary consideration for your portfolio.

Clients of the Johnson Intelligent Portfolios Program, the robo-advisory arm of Johnson Investment Counsel, will have their assets invested in a variety of investment strategies depending on their investment objectives and goals. These portfolio strategies primarily consist of mutual funds and ETFs, though clients can instruct their advisor to exclude up to three funds from their portfolio. Your portfolio will be automated and include automatic rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting (if you’re eligible and the option is elected).

Fees Johnson Investment Counsel charges for its services

Portfolio management fees: Clients who engage Johnson Investment Counsel for portfolio management services are charged based on a percentage of assets under management. (See the table below for details of the firm’s fee schedule.)

All accounts are subject to a minimum fee of $5,000 per year, except for clients invested in the Johnson Intelligent Portfolio Program. Clients using this program are subject to the same fee schedule but do not have the same asset minimum requirement ($5,000 instead of $1 million).

Portfolio Management Fees
Assets under management Annual rate
First $1,000,000 1.00%
Next $2,000,000 0.80%
Next $2,000,000 0.60%
All funds thereafter 0.50%

In addition to portfolio management fees, clients are responsible for transaction charges and brokerage fees imposed by the broker-dealer. Some brokers offer wrap fee programs, which charge a single fee that includes money management fees, certain transaction costs, custodial and other administrative costs.

Financial planning fees: For financial planning, Johnson Investment Counsel does charge clients a fee, though it states that if you do choose to implement the plan using the company’s investment advisory services, the firm may offset or waive the cost of the financial planning services. Johnson Investment Counsel does not include whether there is a minimum fee for financial planning services in their firm brochure.

Pension consulting fees: Rates and fees for pension consulting services are determined on a case-by-case basis and are negotiated between the firm and the client. Costs will depend on the scope and complexity of the plan and the requested services.

Johnson Investment Counsel’s highlights

  • Fee-only compensation: Johnson Investment Counsel does not earn money through commissions or performance-based fees, two compensation methods that can create a conflict of interest between client and advisor. With a fee-only model, advisors solely earn money from assets under management or financial planning services, and are not financially incentivized to recommend certain products or make referrals.
  • Award-winning firm: Barron’s has ranked Johnson Investment Counsel as a top registered investment firm in the U.S. In 2019, the firm ranked No. 19, up from its 2018 spot, when it clocked in at No. 20.
  • No disclosures: The firm has operated since 1965 and maintains a clean record as a firm and for each of its advisors.

Johnson Investment Counsel’s downsides

  • High account minimum: If you want access to an advisor, not Johnson Intelligent Portfolio robo-investing, you’ll need at least $1 million to invest, a higher minimum requirement than many other comparable firms.
  • Potential conflicts of interest with affiliated companies: Johnson Investment Counsel owns Johnson Trust Company, and it is the sponsor and advisor to Johnson Mutual Funds Trust (a family of no-load mutual funds). The company has referral arrangements with its affiliated entities that may pose a conflict of interest as the firm may be incentivized to recommend these services. While the company believes the compensation charged by its affiliates is competitive, it may be higher than other firms. Potential clients should research comparable services as they are not obligated to use Johnson Investment Counsel’s recommended affiliates.

Johnson Investment Counsel disciplinary disclosures

Johnson Investment Counsel does not have any civil, regulatory or criminal events to disclose, meaning it has a clean disciplinary record. As per SEC requirements for all registered investment firms, Johnson Investment Counsel must outline any events that meet the definition of a disclosure in its Form ADV and firm brochure for prospective clients to evaluate before engaging the firm’s business.

Johnson Investment Counsel onboarding process

To become a client of Johnson Investment Counsel, you can call the firm or fill out a contact form provided on the firm’s website. For advisory services, you’ll work with a representative to determine your investment objectives, risk tolerance and other relevant information, known as suitability information. Your advisor will then use your suitability information to select a predefined strategy or create one specific to your portfolio. Intelligent Portfolios Program clients will have their assets invested in a range of investment strategies; clients can ask their advisor to exclude up to three funds from their portfolio.

If you engage Johnson Investment Counsel for financial planning services, you’ll discuss your financial goals and objectives with an advisor who will develop targeted objectives and create a plan for you.

Is Johnson Investment Counsel right for you?

For high net worth individuals located in Ohio or near Detroit who want to work with a company that offers a wide range of wealth management, financial planning and family office services alongside portfolio management, Johnson Investment Counsel may be a good choice. The firm offers a team-based approach to meeting client needs and adheres to a fee-only model.

That said, for clients who prefer to keep all of their financial business under one roof, Johnson Investment Counsel does not offer tax preparation or accounting, two services often offered by firms catering to high net worth clients. Before moving forward with choosing a financial advisor, it’s always important to ask questions to make sure you’re getting the services you need and fully understand the costs involved.

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.