Review of Johnson Investment Counsel 2021

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Updated on Monday, August 23, 2021

Johnson Investment Counsel is a fee-only, independent investment advisory firm headquartered in Cincinnati, with four additional locations in Ohio and one in the Detroit metro area. The firm primarily serves individuals, including high net worth individuals, as well as a range of institutional investors. Johnson Investment Counsel does not have a set minimum requirement for its portfolio management services aside from its robo-advisory program, which requires an investment of at least $5,000.

The bottom line: Johnson Investment Counsel is a Cincinnati-based firm with wealth management, asset management, family office, trust and mutual fund divisions.

  • Publishes a transparent fee schedule for asset management services
  • Provides a robo-advisor offering
  • Does not stress tax-minimization strategies when investing
Assets under management: $15,525,433,495
Minimum investment: None, with the exception of the robo-advisor offering
Individual investor to advisor ratio: 56:1
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, fixed fees
Headquarters: 3777 West Fork Road
Cincinnati, OH 45247
Website:www.johnsoninv.com
Phone: 513-661-3100

All information included in this profile is accurate as of August 17, 2021. For more information, please consult Johnson Investment Counsel’s website.

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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 stepped down from running the company in 2013 but remains chairman and shares ownership of the firm with other members.

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

Currently, Johnson Investment Counsel has approximately 140 employees on staff, close to 70 of whom work in an investment advisory capacity.

Johnson Investment Counsel’s pros

  • 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 the 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 ranked Johnson Investment Counsel as No. 33 on its list of the top 100 registered investment firms in the U.S. in 2020. In 2021, the firm ranked No. 7 on Columbus Business First’s list of the largest central Ohio fee-only financial planners.
  • Highly qualified team: Johnson Investment Counsel’s team is made up of advisors who have high-end certifications including the certified financial planner (CFP) and chartered financial analyst (CFA) designations. Just about every member of the team holds at least one certification.
  • No disclosures: The firm and all associated persons have a clean disciplinary record (see more on this below).

Johnson Investment Counsel’s cons

  • 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.
  • Limited geographic footprint: While Johnson Investment Counsel serves clients in 49 states, it only has six physical offices, and most of those are in Ohio. Clients who prefer face-to-face interaction will have to live near one of the six offices in order to get it.
  • Potential tax implications: The firm notes in its brochure that its strategies and investments may have significant tax implications and that tax efficiency is not a primary consideration for portfolio management. Thus, the firm may not be ideal for portfolio management clients who are focused on tax-minimization strategies.

What types of clients does Johnson Investment Counsel serve?

For the most part, Johnson Investment Counsel works with individual investors. The firm currently serves more non-high net worth individuals than high net worth individuals, who are defined by the SEC as those with at least $750,000 under management or a net worth believed to be at least $1.5 million. The majority of the firm’s assets under management, however, are from high net worth clients. It also works with a number of institutional investors of various types.

Johnson Investment Counsel does not require a minimum account size or fee for its portfolio management services. However, clients will need to invest at least $5,000 to open an account with Johnson Intelligent Portfolios Programs, an automated investment program (think robo-advisor) available to individuals, IRAs and revocable living trusts.

Services offered by Johnson Investment Counsel

As a firm that works with wealthy families and individuals, the services offered by Johnson Investment Counsel are tailored to meet the needs of this type of client — 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 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
  • 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
  • Robo-advisor program

How Johnson Investment Counsel invests your money

As a client of Johnson Investment Counsel, your portfolio will be customized according to your unique situation. 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.

Investments the firm may use in client portfolios or offer advice on include:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
  • Options contracts on securities and commodities
  • Futures contracts on securities and commodities
  • Interest in real estate, master limited partnerships and other partnerships

Johnson Mutual Funds, for which Johnson Investment counsel serves as advisor, also offers several fund choices.

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.)

Johnson Investment Counsel Portfolio Management Fees
Assets under managementAnnual rate
First $1 million1.00%
Next $ million0.80%
Next $2 million0.60%
All funds thereafter0.50%

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.

Johnson Intelligent Portfolio Program fees: There are no specific fees noted in the firm’s brochure for its Intelligent Portfolio offering.

Financial planning fees: Johnson Investment Counsel does not specify the nature of its fees for its financial planning services in its brochure. It only states that “[f]ees are due upon completion of services rendered.”

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 advisory 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.

For more information on Johnson Investment Counsel, see the firm’s IAPD page.

Johnson Investment Counsel onboarding process

To become a client of Johnson Investment Counsel, you can call the firm at any of its local offices or fill out a contact form provided on the firm’s website.

The next steps will depend on which services you receive:

  • For portfolio management services: If you are receiving advisory services from Johnson Investment Counsel, 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. All portfolios are assigned a primary manager, a secondary manager and support personnel. Clients can expect to receive confirmations and monthly or quarterly portfolio statements from their account custodian.
  • For Johnson Intelligent Portfolios Program: 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. In this program, you may receive less frequent communications from the firm’s portfolio managers.
  • For financial planning services: If you engage Johnson Investment Counsel for financial planning services, you’ll begin the process by discussing your financial goals and objectives with an advisor. That advisor will then develop targeted objectives and create a plan for you.

Where Johnson Investment Counsel is located

Primarily based in Ohio, Johnson Investment Counsel has office locations in the following cities:

  • Cincinnati (2)
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Brecksville, Ohio
  • Novi, Michigan

Is Johnson Investment Counsel right for you?

For high net worth individuals 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. Tax-minimization is also not a key aspect of the firm’s portfolio strategy, which may be an issue for some clients who prefer tax-optimized portfolios.

As always, before choosing an advisor to work with, make sure to research multiple firms to ensure you find the right advisor for your unique needs.

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.