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Finding the best financial advisor in Birmingham, Ala., can feel daunting, since the right advisor for your friends or neighbors may not be a proper fit for you. To identify which advisor in the Magic City is best-suited for your specific circumstances, you’ll need to think through your financial needs and goals, as well as how much you’re willing to spend.
It may seem overwhelming to sort through all of your options and compare firms’ data points, so we did the digging for you and compiled the most pertinent information to help guide your decision. To determine the best advisors in B’ham, we solely considered firms that manage individual accounts and offer financial planning services. We then ranked these firms based on assets under management (AUM), which serves as a general metric for a firm’s size. Although not formally part of our ranking, we encourage readers to take note of each firm’s client-to-advisor ratio, as this indicates how much attention you may get as a client. All data used in our methodology is taken from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing with the SEC so as to ensure the accuracy and reliability of our rankings.
Our ranking can’t answer the question of which firm will be right for you, but it can help make the shopping experience easier. Take a look at our list below for the key highlights of the top firms in Alabama’s largest city:
How much would you like to invest?
|Firm||Minimum assets required||Fee structure|
|Arlington Partners LLC||No across-the-board minimum||A percentage of AUM
Other (a percentage of assets under advisement)
|Warren Averett Asset Management, LLC||$1 million||A percentage of AUM
|The Welch Group, LLC||None specified, but $6,000 minimum annual fee for management||A percentage of AUM
|Bridgeworth Wealth Management||$500,000 for an account, or minimum annual fee of $2,500 for a financial plan||A percentage of AUM
|Southern Financial Group, LLC||$50,000||A percentage of AUM
For our search, we looked at firms across the city of Birmingham. All of the firms considered are bound by fiduciary duty, registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and offer individual account management and financial planning services. Information used for our methodology criteria is taken directly from each firm’s most recent Form ADV filing and brochure, found on the IAPD database.
To localize our results for this list, we exclusively looked at firms that met the above criteria and had their headquarters in Birmingham, as per the address provided in the Form ADV. Of those firms, we only considered those that offer financial planning services and portfolio management to individual investors. To be considered for this list, firms also could have no more than one disciplinary disclosure in the past 10 years. From there, the remaining firms that met all of the above stipulations were ranked in order of highest to lowest AUM, as this is an indication of a firm’s size and how many assets it has been entrusted to manage.
In our reviews, we have also listed several other key features that will help you determine which financial advisor may be most fitting for your investing style and financial needs. While our ranking system and methodology is designed to help you compare firms, it does not indicate which firm may be best for you. All information here is accurate as of April 27, 2021, but we urge you to also evaluate these firms on https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/.
Most clients of Arlington Partners LLC are high net worth families and their related entities and foundations. (For reference, the SEC defines a high net worth individual as someone who has at least $750,000 under management or a net worth of at least $1.5 million.) The team also serves individuals who do not qualify as high net worth, as well as corporations and affiliated private investment funds.
Arlington Partners’ bread and butter services are investment management and financial planning, as well as family office services, such as paying bills, analyzing insurance needs and planning for successions, ownership and gifts. Families with a net worth of more than $20 million also qualify for additional services including financial, trust, tax and human capital assistance.
Based in Birmingham, Arlington Partners has an additional office in the Nashville metro area. The firm was founded over 20 years ago, and is owned primarily by founder and CEO Kenneth Polk, as well as by team members Peter Barber, Greg Logan, Elliot Robbins, Stephen Rowe and Emily Vanlandingham.
When investing client money, advisors at Arlington Partners are driven primarily by valuations, a strategy they believe will limit losses. The firm also believes that client portfolio returns will be more consistent and less volatile if they have exposure to both traditional and alternative investments. When structuring client portfolios, advisors typically create strategic asset allocations that focus on long-term objectives, as well as tactical shifts in which advisors focus on buying low and selling high.
Client money is generally invested in cash, fixed income, global equities, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), venture capital, hedge funds, private equity, real estate and commodities. When appropriate, the firm recommends clients invest in private placements, such as hedge funds — this includes the firm’s private funds that pool client money together to provide clients access to alternative investments. Advisors use outside managers in areas where they have less expertise.
Arlington Partners has a clean legal and disciplinary record. The firm discloses no criminal, civil or regulatory events over the prior 10 years against the firm, its employees or its affiliates that potential clients would find material to their view of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. All registered investment advisors are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to disclose this information on their public Form ADV filings.
Founded in 1999, Warren Averett Asset Management, LLC is based in Birmingham, with additional offices in the state (Montgomery and Huntsville, as well as another Birmingham office), as well as in Atlanta, Pensacola, Fla. and Tampa, Fla. The firm is owned by Warren Averett Companies LLC, an accounting firm.
The team at Warren Averett Asset Management offers investment management and financial planning services and consulting (which includes tax and estate planning), as well as family office services. The firm’s client list is made up of primarily high net worth investors, though it also works with some individuals and families with more modest incomes. The firm also serves pension and profit-sharing plans, charitable organizations and businesses. It generally requires an asset level of at least $1 million for investment advisory services.
Warren Averett Asset Management has numerous allocation models targeting different levels of risk tolerance, including aggressive, growth, moderate, moderately conservative and conservative. Client money is typically spread among an assortment of mutual funds, ETFs and independent managers. Investments may be bought and sold quickly, or held onto for the long term. As such, the firm’s above-average portfolio turnover could hurt the after-tax performance in a taxable account.
To identify attractive investments, the team at Warren Averett employs a mix of research genres. Fundamental analysis looks at a hodgepodge of data to make a financial forecast. The team also uses technical analysis, which looks at current and historical price and trade volume to forecast the direction of prices.
Warren Averett Asset Management discloses no legal or disciplinary actions against the firm, its employees or its affiliates in the prior 10 years that clients would deem material when assessing the firm and the integrity of its management team. Learn more by visiting the firm’s IAPD page.
The Welch Group became a registered investment advisor in 1999, and is principally owned by its founder, Stewart Welch, III. The team works from its single office in Birmingham.
The vast majority of The Welch Group’s clients are individual investors, and it includes both high net worth individuals and families as well as those with more modest account sizes. While the firm does not specify a minimum account balance, it does charge a $6,000 minimum annual fee for ongoing management. Thus, accounts with less than $500,000 will owe in fees a higher percentage of assets under management than larger accounts.
The team provides these clients with investment management, financial analysis and, if requested, financial planning or consulting. Advisors may also provide guidance on how to invest a client’s 401(k) plan.
The Welch Group also serves some pension and profit-sharing plans and charitable organizations, and it can also work with businesses.
The Welch Group’s investment process and philosophy is crafted by the firm’s investment committee, then put into practice by the firm’s advisors. Client money is typically allocated among stocks, bonds and various no-load mutual funds; variable annuities may also be included.
To identify attractive investments, The Welch Group employs a mix of research types:
Advisors may hold onto investments for the long term or buy with the intention of selling fairly quickly — perhaps in less than 30 days — when they expect prices to move quickly.
The Welch Group has a clean record. The firm discloses no legal or disciplinary events against the firm, its employees or its affiliates within the previous decade that potential clients would find material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Learn more by viewing the firm’s IAPD page.
Established in 2012, Bridgeworth Wealth Management is an independent firm owned by 11 of its employees. The firm is headquartered in Birmingham, with additional Alabama offices in Decatur and Huntsville.
Most of the firm’s clients are individuals and families, including those who are considered high net worth. Advisors provide these clients with investment management services as well as financial planning and consulting. The latter may encompass a myriad of areas, such as planning for retirement, estates, education, businesses and insurance. Advisors may also provide clients guidance on how to invest their 401(k) retirement plans.
For investors who do not meet the $500,000 minimum account size requirement, the firm offers a specific program called the Bridgeworth Access Program to help get clients on track to reach their financial goals and navigate financial decisions, such as paying for college or buying a house.
In addition to individual investors, Bridgeworth Wealth Management also serves charitable organizations, businesses and pension and profit-sharing plans.
The investment committee at Bridgeworth Wealth Management is responsible for developing the firm’s investment strategies and analysis. Client money may be invested in a series of model portfolios developed by the committee that offer varying degrees of risk tolerance, ranging from aggressive to conservative. Client money may also be invested with third-party managers. In general, the team primarily recommends mutual funds and ETFs; other recommendations may include stocks, bonds, options, money market funds, and insurance or variable annuities.
To identify attractive investments, Bridgeworth Wealth Management uses a combination of different types of investment research. Quantitative analysis is used to create initial investment allocation decisions, including factors such as management expertise and the company’s financials. To determine when to rebalance, invest cash or make tactical moves in a portfolio’s strategic allocation, the firm uses technical analysis to chart trends, and quantitative analysis to examine market and larger economic trends. The team also takes a global macro view of economies and political situations in various countries to further guide its decisions.
The firm’s brochure notes that tax efficiency is not the primary consideration when managing client money.
Bridgeworth Wealth Management discloses no legal or disciplinary events against the firm, its employees or its affiliates in the prior 10 years that a client would find material when evaluating the firm or the integrity of its leaders. This includes any civil, regulatory or criminal events.
Southern Financial Group, LLC opened its doors in 2006, and is owned by the firm’s two principals: Christopher T. Holder, who also serves as chief financial officer, and David F. Painter, who is the firm’s chief compliance officer. The firm works out of a single Birmingham office.
The team at Southern Financial Group caters largely to individuals who both are and are not considered high net worth, and generally requires a minimum account size of $50,000. The firm also serves a selection of institutions, such as businesses and charitable organizations. Advisors offer these clients portfolio management, as well as financial planning and consulting. The latter features a written financial plan and can address topics such as retirement planning, estate planning, cash flow, education planning and insurance needs. The firm also offers income tax preparation and estate settlement services.
Separately, Holder and Painter are registered representatives of a broker-dealer, and thus can buy and sell investments and earn a commission.
Rather than attempt to pick individual stocks that will beat the market, Southern Financial Group instead focuses on creating an appropriate asset allocation for each client’s personal circumstances. The team makes long-term purchases for asset classes to which it wants exposure for an extended period of time. Short-term purchases, even buying and selling within a month, may be used when a price change is expected in the near term. Margin transactions are also done occasionally as requested — with these transactions, clients purchase securities with borrowed money from their brokerage accounts.
Typical investments used in client portfolios include exchange-listed securities, debt securities, certificates of deposit (CDs), mutual funds and variable life insurance and annuities.
Southern Financial Group has a clean record, disclosing no legal or disciplinary marks against the firm, its employees or its affiliates over the prior 10 years that would be material to a client’s view of the firm or the integrity of its leaders. Learn more by viewing the firm’s IAPD page.
Alabama is a fairly tax-friendly state, charging a maximum income tax rate of 5%. The state does not levy an inheritance tax or an estate tax, although the federal estate tax still applies on certain large estates.
You’ll want to look for a potential advisor who works with clients with the amount of money you plan to invest, since many advisors require clients to meet minimum investments. You’ll also want an advisor who offers the specific services you’re looking for, such as retirement planning or buying life insurance. Finally, ask the advisor how they get paid. Make sure you’re comfortable with how much they charge, as well as who else they receive payments from, such as investment companies in exchange for selling their products. Beyond these points, here are more questions to ask potential advisors.
Independent financial advisors may have fewer conflicts of interest, since advisors may not be selling or pushing firm products when suitable options exist elsewhere. Some independent advisors also may give clients access to a larger number of investment choices, rather than be limited by what’s available at their firm.
That said, some independent advisors may lack the resources of a large firm, including deep internal research and expertise on a specific industry, sector or company.
Whichever firm you choose, be sure you understand and are comfortable with how the advisor is paid, and are aware of any potential conflicts of interest as well as what’s behind specific product recommendations.
No, not all advisors specialize in retirement planning. Some focus solely on managing your investments, known as asset management. Others take a more holistic approach and offer advice on everything from saving for retirement or college to paying off debt or buying insurance.
Thus, it’s important to ask potential advisors what services they offer around retirement if that’s a priority for you. For example, will they create a written financial plan for saving for retirement? Can they help you determine how much money you’ll need to live each year in retirement, and how much money is safe to withdraw from your retirement accounts without risking running out of money?
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.