Review of Pinnacle Investments 2021

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Reviewed By

Updated on Monday, November 15, 2021

Pinnacle Investments is a dually registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. It’s headquartered in East Syracuse, N.Y., but also has locations spread primarily throughout the Northeast. The firm’s team of nearly 50 advisors provides portfolio management and financial planning. Clients also have the option of using an automated robo-advisor.

The bottom line: Pinnacle Investments is an investment advisor with numerous options for lower-level investors, including a range of investment accounts and financial planning.

  • Has low account minimums, including a robo-advisor with no required minimum
  • Creates customized portfolios with both in-house and third-party investments
  • Can charge a comparatively high asset under management fee
Assets under management (AUM): $814,708,990
Minimum investment: Varies by account type
Individual investor to advisor ratio: 44:1
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, hourly charges, other fees (12b-1 fees)
Headquarters: 5845 Widewaters Parkway, Suite 300
East Syracuse, NY 13057
Website: www.pinnacleinvestments.com
Phone: 315-251-1101

All information included in this profile is accurate as of October 27, 2021. For more information, please consult Pinnacle Investments’ website.

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Overview of Pinnacle Investments

Pinnacle Investments launched in 1995 when Gregg Kidd and Dan Raite co-founded the firm. Between the two of them, the founders have more than 50 years of combined experience in the brokerage industry; this includes 10 years spent working together at a wirehouse firm before deciding to launch their own independent practice.

Today, Pinnacle Investments is one of a family of Pinnacle companies, which specialize in other areas: These include employee services (such as payroll), property and casualty insurance and retirement plan management. Pinnacle Holding Company owns Pinnacle Investments, along with the other family companies. Kidd still works as CEO for Pinnacle Holding Company, while others manage Pinnacle Investments itself.

Pinnacle Investments pros

  • Low account minimums: Many of the Pinnacle Investments programs only require a five-figure account minimum, and the firm’s automated robo-advisor has no account minimum at all.
  • Customized portfolios and financial plans: The advisors at Pinnacle Investments create a unique portfolio for your objectives and goals instead of one-size-fits-all funds created by the firm.
  • Wide selection of investment programs: Pinnacle Investments’ advisors not only design their own portfolio recommendations, but you can also participate in third-party programs from partners like Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab.
  • Range of services available on top of investment management: Besides portfolio management, you can also receive from Pinnacle Investments tax planning, estate planning, life insurance, long-term care insurance and cash management, among other services.

Pinnacle Investments cons

  • Comparatively high asset-based fees: Pinnacle Investments’ asset-based fee can go up to 3.00%, depending on the program. This is notably high, considering the average asset-based fee on accounts of $100,000 is 1.12%, according to a 2021 report by AdvisoryHQ.
  • Potential conflict of interest from brokerage service: Since Pinnacle Investments also operates as a broker-dealer, it can earn money off trading and selling investments for your portfolio while also giving investment advice. This is a potential conflict of interest.
  • Earns incentives from third-party programs: Pinnacle Investments’ advisors can earn incentives and fees for referring clients to the Wells Fargo programs, creating a potential conflict of interest.
  • Limited client specialties: Pinnacle Investments doesn’t list any client specialties for areas like divorce or small business owners. In addition, the firm has very few clients in the high net worth space.

What types of clients does Pinnacle Investments serve?

Pinnacle Investments primarily works with individuals who are not high net worth, with high net worth being defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a client with at least $750,000 invested with the advisor or a total net worth of over $1.5 million. Non-high net worth individuals make up nearly all the firm’s clients and the majority of its assets under management, though Pinnacle Investments does also work with a couple dozen high net worth clients and a few corporations.

The firm’s brochure does note that it would be willing to work with other clients including retirement plans, trusts, estates, charitable organizations, government entities, banks and thrift organizations. However, its Form ADV shows that it does not have any of these types of clients as of its most recent release date.

Pinnacle Investments provides a wide range of different portfolios and investment options, with varying minimum investment requirements. Its Ascend robo-advisor program, for instance, doesn’t have a required minimum at all. Meanwhile, the firm’s highest portfolio minimums are for several portfolios from Wells Fargo, which require at least $250,000. Most of the others require a minimum investment in the five-figures.

Services offered by Pinnacle Investments

Pinnacle Investments offers portfolio management, investment advice and financial planning. The firm’s financial planning work covers retirement planning, estate and trust planning, tax planning and education planning. The firm can also advise on general banking and cash needs, including check writing, loans and CDs.

Once a Pinnacle Investments advisor gets to know a client’s financial goals, they can then design and manage investment portfolios to meet these goals. Since Pinnacle Investments also operates as a broker-dealer, the firm can sell and process the investments itself rather than working through an outside service. The firm also offers brokerage accounts, stocks, mutual funds, annuities, insurance and other financial products.

For investors who want to manage their portfolio on their own, Pinnacle Investments offers an automated robo-advisor with lower fees and no minimum.

For reference, here’s a full list of services offered by Pinnacle Investments:

  • Portfolio management
  • Robo-advisor investing
  • Financial planning
    • Tax planning
    • Education planning
    • Estate and trust planning
    • Wealth transfer planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Philanthropic advice
  • Life and long-term care insurance
  • Account reporting
  • Selection of other advisors
  • Broker-dealer services
  • Cash management and banking

How Pinnacle Investments invests your money

Pinnacle Investments advisors have a fair amount of leeway in designing your portfolio. There’s no overarching firm philosophy or predesigned funds — instead, the firm’s advisors get to know your personal financial planning goals, then design a portfolio that best meets these goals.

The investment advisors can put together the portfolios themselves, using a wide range of in-house investment products through their AdvisorPro and Capital Management programs. They can also participate in a number of partnership programs, including ones from Wells Fargo and Charles Schwab. The outside third-party designs the fund or portfolio and your Pinnacle Investments advisor picks the one that best suits your goal.

You also have the option of working with Pinnacle Investments’ automated advisor, called Ascend, which is based on Betterment‘s program. This tool also gets to know your goals, then builds a portfolio of low-cost ETFs to meet them. The tool automates the process by rebalancing your portfolio when necessary, scheduling automatic deposits and tax loss harvesting. If you need help, you can also request support from one of the Pinnacle Investments human advisors.

Fees Pinnacle Investments charges for its services

Pinnacle Investments primarily charges for its advisory services based on a percentage of their assets under management, and the amount the firm charges will ultimately come down to which platform and program you use. The rate can go up to 3% a year for the firm’s AdvisorPro and Pinnacle Capital Management program. The actual amount you owe will be negotiated with your advisor based on your account size, level of service required and the complexity of your investments.

For these programs, in addition to the asset-based fee, you could also owe fees for the trading and custodial work involved in operating your portfolio, with the minimum fee per year for these programs being at least $100 per year.

Pinnacle Investments also offers multiple wrap-fee programs, both in-house and through partnerships with other financial companies. In these programs, the asset-based fee also covers the other investment fees. The amount you owe will depend on which program you use and the size of your portfolio, but generally runs from 1.14% to 3.00% a year.

If you use the Ascend automated advisor, you’ll need to pay at least 0.25% per year if you run it yourself, and up to 1.50% per year if you get help from a human advisor. The 0.25% goes to Betterment for operating the platform and anything above that goes to Pinnacle Investments.

Pinnacle Investments disciplinary disclosures

Pinnacle Investments has only one disciplinary event to disclose. For reference, if a registered investment advisor has any past disciplinary disclosures, they need to report those on their official brochure and their SEC Form ADV filing. This includes any criminal charges, regulatory infractions or civil lawsuits taken against the firm and its representatives over the past 10 years.

In 2015, Pinnacle Investments paid a $12,500 fine, without admitting wrongdoing, because one of its advisors and their assistant were using outside email accounts for official business communication. Pinnacle Investments failed to preserve the records of this business communication, and thus faced a fine.

For more information on Pinnacle Investments and its disciplinary disclosure, visit the firm’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) page.

Pinnacle Investments onboarding process

If this Pinnacle Investments review has you considering an advisory relationship with them, here is an overview of the firm’s typical onboarding process:

  1. Contact your closest local branch: The Pinnacle Investments website lists all of its locations around the country, including each office’s contact information. If you know the name of the advisor you’d like to work with, you can also search for and contact them directly.
  2. Meet for an initial consultation: You and a Pinnacle Investment advisor will discuss your financial objectives, including your short- and long-term goals. They’ll use this information to put together a possible financial plan and investment recommendation.
  3. Review the investment recommendation: There are multiple different investment programs at Pinnacle Investments. After learning your goals, the advisor will suggest which one best fits you, and you can then decide if it’s something you want to move forward with.
  4. Negotiate the fees: If you’re happy with the portfolio recommendation, you’ll then need to negotiate the fee schedule with your advisor. The amount they would charge depends on the program as well as your account size, customer service needs and the complexity of your desired investment strategy. If you come to an agreement, you can sign on as a client.
  5. Receive your account statements and updates: As a client, you’ll receive statements showing the status of your account every quarter or every month, depending on the trading activity. The Pinnacle Investments financial team will also spot check accounts every quarter to make sure they’re performing properly. If you have any questions or changes to your goals in the future, you can schedule a follow-up meeting with your advisor.

Where Pinnacle Investments is located

Pinnacle Investments lists the following office locations in its Form ADV:

  • East Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Syracuse, N.Y.
  • Fayetteville, N.Y.
  • Auburn, N.Y.
  • Albany, N.Y.
  • Williamsville, N.Y.
  • Philadelphia
  • Mansfield, Mass.
  • New Bedford, Mass.
  • Miami

Is Pinnacle Investments right for you?

If you’ve got a smaller portfolio but still want personalized investment advice, Pinnacle Investments could be worth considering. You can enroll in most of the firm’s programs with a five-figure balance and receive customized portfolio recommendations. (Keep in mind, though, that the firm’s rates are quite high compared to average industry rates.)

On the other hand, if you have a larger portfolio, Pinnacle Investments may not be as good a fit — it works with very few high net worth individuals. The firm’s high asset-based fee would also take a bigger bite out of larger portfolios.

Before signing on with any financial advisor, make sure you’ve properly researched what’s out there. You can use the MagnifyMoney advisor tool to compare the information from this Pinnacle Investments review against other quality options from around the country to find an advisor who’s right 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.